We’re officially halfway through the final season of Preacher and I’m starting to get a little worried. Sure, I haven’t been particularly kind to the first few episodes of the season, but I’d been holding out hope. The show has always been a little uneven so I thought maybe the back half of the season would pull things together. But then we got “Bleak City.” It’s not a bad episode, per se, but it’s certainly a crystalizing one.
“Bleak City” picks up with Jesse, alone in Australia, still being hunted by Eugene and the Saint of Killers. It also features what felt like the longest opening ever put to television, as Preacher drives slowly out of a parking garage. It was a moment that was clearly meant to feel tense, as we know that the Saint and Eugene are on his tail, but it went on so long it felt like an “overplay-the-joke-so-it-becomes-absurd” deal. But it never did; it went on too long for it to remain tense and ended too quickly for it to be funny.
But that’s not important, just annoying. What is important is that Jesse sees Eugene, escapes, feels bad, and returns to rescue Eugene from the Saint. What follows isn’t half bad. Eugene struggling to accept Preacher’s apology feels like the quintessential questions of morality Preacher sets out to ask. The trap Jesse set up for the Saint is just gruesome enough to be fun but still understated and enjoyable. It doesn’t fall into the “we did it because we could” trap that the fight scene from “Deviant” did. Plus, seeing Eugene betray Preacher for the Saint is a solid ending and the final shot lingers quite nicely.
Unfortunately, though, we do need to return to the Middle East and Masada as Cassidy, Tulip, and Jesus Christ have yet to leave. The last episode finally had the prison break saga conclude and I had hoped that it would be the end of our time at Masada. Preacher has spent five episodes faffing around in the Middle East, accomplishing almost nothing, and when you only have 10 episodes, blowing five on a storyline that should have taken maybe two is a lot of time wasted. And yet, in “Bleak City,” here we are again: one more episode in the Middle East.
Tulip and Jesus reunite with Cassidy and his angel friend. Tulip and Cassidy share some stories and drinks while Jesus and the angel spare a quick but confused glance. Cassidy, attempting to redeem himself, decides that it’s time to go save Jesse. Tulip is still not on board with this idea and still rather pissed that Jesse up and abandoned her. She wants to take Jesus and go do whatever the hell they want. After some debating, the group once again splits and Tulip and Jesus take off on their own. Thankfully, before the party splits completely again, Jesus gets cold feet and has Tulip return him to Masada.
Meanwhile, Cassidy attempts to drink himself into oblivion while his angel buddy reunites with the love he’d been talking about—it’s just unfortunate that his love turns out to be a demon. Our angel and demon lovers get back together in the most carnal way possible before devolving into carnage as they repeatedly kill each other. Cassidy eventually gets fed up with trying to drink around all this murder and leaves the bar to find Tulip waiting to whisk him away to Jesse. And so, once again, my hopes are up that we may finally be leaving the Middle East. Let’s see how next week decides to crush them.
Finally, we have The Grail, with Featherstone beating a hasty retreat after Two-ver tries to kill her (she wants only to be killed by Herr Starr, naturally) and Starr meeting with Jesus and Hitler to plan the apocalypse.
And with that, let’s dive into the bigger implications of “Bleak City,” and there may be none bigger than the possible reveal of the parents of Genesis. If you remember way back to Season 1, angels Fiore and DeBlanc mentioned that Genesis was a baby created by the consummation of an angel and a devil. While we can’t assume that an angel and demon have paired off only once, this is the first time we saw this unholy union firsthand so there’s a pretty good chance Cassidy’s angel buddy and his lover are Genesis’s folks.
Beyond the creators of an ultimate power, we get a couple of smaller tidbits of plot as well. People keep talking about how everyone has free will in a way that makes it seem like everyone does not, in fact, have free will. Tulip does her utmost to make sure Jesus knows his dad, God, is an asshole. She also pulls out the letter that Jesse left her when he took off and it looks pretty unopened. And lastly, Cassidy is called the “unredeemed one,” which sounds ominous in the best way. Cassidy deserves more than he’s been getting so hopefully things will start to turn around for him.
Of course, this all sounds like a pretty standard episode of Preacher, so it doesn’t really get at the heart of why I’m starting to lose hope that we’re going to see a satisfying conclusion. For that, we must return to the season premiere.
One of my big takeaways from the premiere was that Cassidy had developed a fear of the sun, something that I was hoping would be expanded upon throughout the season. Instead, it seems that it’s been forgotten. When he flew out of Masada last episode, I could excuse it as a side effect of adrenaline. However, when he bundles up and walks out of the bar at the end of “Bleak City” with nary a concern for the sun, it’s clear that we’ve forgone worrying about silly things like character arcs and development and instead just want to get to the conclusion.
This is weird because, as I said, we spent a good five episodes in the Middle East accomplishing next to nothing. Now, if that had been nothing in favor of setting up character beats, I’d be fully behind it. Instead we saw Tulip getting a psych-eval for nothing, Jesse killing all those people for no clear reason (sure, there’s an argument to be made that it’s for The Grail’s propaganda, but they could have used almost anything else from the show for that so c’mon) and Cassidy developing and getting over a phobia so quickly we don’t even see it happen.
Preacher has set up a lot of interesting ideas, character beats, and story moments over its three and a half seasons. At this point, if it all comes crashing down in the final half of Season 4 because they’re out of time and just skipping development, I won’t be surprised—absolutely disappointed, but not surprised.