Five episodes in, and with the impressive conversion of meat mogul Odin Quincannon behind him, Annville’s Preacher Man is riding on a high. And with him, the show too. With each preceding episode, there’s been a sense of an impressive show finding its feet, clearly impatient to get to the good stuff but wise enough to know that the balls-to-the-wall Garth Ennis approach won’t quite cut it here. Here, we see it start to pay off.
Now we’re settled into the groove, we’re unfazed by the lengthy pre-credits western, used to spending so much time with Sheriff and Arseface Root, and beginning to appreciate Lucy Griffiths’ Emily Woodrow. Even Jesse being not-quite (if at all) the Jesse of the comic books is okay, assured as we are that he might be headed in that direction at some point in the future. Unlike Tulip and Cassidy, who seem to already be there. All the way there.
If you thought last week’s kiss felt ahead of schedule, South Will Rise Again sees the pair hit fourth base – hard, and in the back of a car. Although that’s not quite what I meant when I said I wanted to see Tulip given something more to do, her story so far being disappointingly weak compared to the bombast with which she entered the show. In all fairness, Cass too seems to be running on fumes, as though everyone who isn’t Jesse is waiting for Jesse to hurry up and see the light. No, sorry, the other thing – the realisation that God’s not home right now.
At least the man’s finally having some fun though. Having made a believer of Quincannon, Jesse puts the Word to ‘good’ use, healing ailing minds and being treated like a local celebrity by the townsfolk of Annville. Most notable miracle of Episode Five being the redemption of Arseface, ‘forgiven’ for his part in a girl’s coma (probably shotgun related, and connected to his own puckered condition). All things considered, a good day for the town Preacher.
For now. As predicted, Quincannon’s newfound piety doesn’t quite lend itself to the altruism Jesse might have hoped for. This is Christianity on Quincannon’s own terms, which happens to involve murdering several men in cold blood, in front of the town Mayor (not a salesman, then, as I may have suggested last week. Although, in fairness, he does have something of the Ol’ Gil about him). If Quincannon is Annville’s Mister Burns, then that makes this the equivalent of that episode of The Simpsons in which Burns turned environmentalist, only to be as evil about it as he is everything else. In addition to Jackie Earle Haley’s eeexcellent portrayal of the character, this adaptation has also taught us that it’s pronounced ‘Kin-cannon’, which is really enjoyable, for some reason.
The main events of South Will Rise Again, however, pale in comparison to its opening, which returns us to the cowboy of Episode Two. Needless to say, his trip to a neighbouring town for medicine doesn’t go so well, leaving his horse shot in the head, himself brutally beaten, and his family dead, pecked to bits by crows. The cinematography of Preacher has been wonderful so far, but never more so than in this sequence (which recalls the recent Bone Tomahawk), liberal with the Western Gothic imagery and ending with a certain Saint strapping on his gun belt.
Even Bunny in a Trap Donny isn’t too irritating this week (his interactions with his wife are particularly fun to watch) – beyond his whimpering, we’re left with a sense that Jesse’s set for a comeuppance of his own. Can’t just go about using the Word willy-nilly, no matter how good one’s intentions might be. And, at the rate of escalation this week, that rude awakening might be coming sooner rather than later.