PREACHER Season 1, Episode 9 'Finish the Song'

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The big guns.

In the home stretch now, and with a slew of fast-paced, revelatory episodes in its rear view mirror, Preacher takes a moment to breathe and up the ante at the same time. Following his trigger-happy cock-shooting Alamo behaviour in the previous episode – not to mention his involvement in the disappearance of the Sheriff’s son - town Preacher Jesse Custer is not a popular man. He may have bought himself a breather with Quincannon (the Church is yours… after I’ve brought God to task) but he’s still on the wrong side of the law. First up, an escape.

Tulip, meanwhile, finally gets to go after the famous Carlos in Albuquerque. I have little to no interest in this element of TV Jesse and Tulip’s past, but it is good to see Miss O’ Hare get to the thing she’s been harping on about since her introduction. Expect to see more of this in the finale, Carlos relegated to one scene, bound and gagged, as Tulip is about to do terrible things to him.

Talking of terrible things. Finish the Song is all about decent people doing terrible things, carrying on from the theme of Tulip feeding a dog to Cassidy last week. Animal lovers are scarcely any better off here, as yet more fluffy little innocents are presented to and gobbled up by the vampire in the hope of getting him healed. Surprisingly, it’s meek little Emily (Lucy Griffiths, garnering her first real character moment worthy of mention here) who takes it to the next level, offering up wimpy Mayor Miles as Cassidy’s blood sacrifice. R.I.P Mister Mayor, the show’s first major(ish) casualty (not counting Arseface of course, who will almost certainly be back).

This does the job, at least, getting our man Cass back on his feet. He may have been burned by the Preacher, but this week rekindles their friendship, as Jesse begins to make amends by helping to cover up the Mayor’s death. That everyone involved seems more or less okay with the murder of the nice-but-dim Mayor (complicity in Quincannon’s Quimes - sorry, crimes - notwithstanding) leaves a slight taste in the mouth, the Jesse of the books usually tending to frown upon the murder and brutalisation of the innocent, particularly where Cassidy is concerned. If there’s a weak link in the adaptation’s characterisation, it remains Jesse himself. Here’s hoping that, wherever the finale is heading, it heralds the introduction of the real Jesse Custer, man of strong moral fibre.

Jesse, Cassidy and Tulip feel like bit-players this week, however, compared to the episode’s real story. That’s DeBlanc and Fiore, and their descent into Hell. In a TV series packed to the brim with great performances, Anatol Yusef and Tom Brooke have been quietly brilliant, and Finish the Song might just be their best work yet. Surprisingly touching too, especially in DeBlanc’s ‘leave it, darling’ to Fiore just as they are set to board their bus to Hell. This is not to forget their deep sadness at the thought of being separated by Heaven. Aw. In a series in which the lead couple seem to have little to no chemistry together, we find them effortlessly upstaged by two of the more tertiary characters. Get on it, Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga.

Now, about those big guns. It’s been teased since the second episode, and Graham McTavish has had his name in the credits every week, but now The Saint of Killers gets his big introduction (not yet mentioned by name, but presumably, like Genesis, on its way). These weekly episodes feel too short as it is, so it’s initially disappointing to see Finish the Song replay a whole five minute flashback again… but bear with it. It’s both worth it and justified, a powerful introduction to one of the book’s most memorable characters and a clever depiction of this universe’s Hell. Fairly accurate to the books, too. That bodycount is right out of the Saint of Killers playbook, too.

Finish the Song has a feel of winding up and down to it, setting things up for the finale and (confirmed!) second series. It’s a relatively low-key episode, livened up by small but important character beats (making us care more for poor Sheriff Root than readers ever would have imagined), typically strong performances and an introduction to the Saint of Killers that’s better than even Garth Ennis managed in Gone to Texas. No, seriously.

The song may be finishing, but we’re not nearly ready for it to be over yet.

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