“We’ve gotta get you out of here. Road trip! You’ve got to know that’s where this is headed.”
Not just yet, Cassidy. Four episodes in, and neither Preacher the TV series nor Preacher the character show much sign of leaving Annville, Texas. With that in mind, it’s time to give Jesse and friends something to properly push back against. Move over Bunny in a Trap Donny – it’s Odin Quincannon’s time to shine.
An ingenious move by Rogen and the showrunners there, realising that it’s a tad early to unleash any of the books’ A-list antagonists, and instead easing us in with the most memorable of the also-rans. Also ingeniously, netting the fantastic Jackie Earle Haley for the part. The one-time Rorschach and Freddy Krueger has only been glimpsed and teased up until now, allowing him to quietly fester in the background while we get to know Jesse, Cass and Tulip.
Well now he’s front and centre, and the man is as beautifully slimy as you’d expect, oozing menace and cruelty in his every scene. The Mister Burns of Annville, witness as he urinates all over an earnest businessman’s briefcase and sneers at Jesse’s suggestion he pay the Church a visit on Sunday. Will he change his tune when the Preacher man asks him if he’s ready to serve the Lord? If Genesis/the Word of God (still not referred to as such) have anything to do with it, he sure will, but one can’t help but think this is in no way a good idea. Odin Quincannon, bible basher: Jesse is surely in for far more than he had bargained. And does that make Bunny in a Trap Donny his Smithers? It could well do.
As the shepherd busies himself with his flock, Cassidy and Tulip are once again left to their own devices. Cassidy has plenty to keep him amused, striking a deal with Angels/government workers DeBlanc and Fiore. They want whatever’s in Jesse, and are prepared to stop at nothing short of chainsawing the man open in order to get it. Cass, of course, swindles them for all they’re worth and spends the lot on drugs and hookers.
This brings him directly into the path of one Tulip O’ Hare (still underutilised and not given a great deal to do), who accidentally throws him out of a window, slicing his neck open in the process. Sucking on a hospital blood bag like an old-fashioned 5p ice lolly, so Cassidy’s vampirism is revealed for the first time. Sure, he’s been telling Jesse all along, but the Preacher has had a lot on his mind, probably assuming it all to be about the craic anyway. Also a good bit of craic: a kiss, shared by Tulip and Cass en route to the hospital. Played for laughs, but could this signal cause for tension in the burgeoning bromance between Jesse and Cassidy? However it turns out, it can only mean extra Ruth Negga, and that is in no way a bad thing.
While the show is moving at a snail’s pace so far, there’s no denying that it is moving. All the right big things are being teased and winked at, characters gradually moving into recognisable, promising places. By the time Preacher gets its momentum, we’ve no doubt that it could be up there with the best of modern genre TV. In the meantime, it keeps you hooked with some fantastic performances (Haley, Negga and – of course – Gilgun) and an unpredictable narrative approach. Western flashbacks one week, a shooting Star(r) the next, and now kinky underwear paintball games and Jesse’s dad flashbacks.
It’s the latter which will prove cause for controversy among fans of the book, Jesse’s dad being revealed as a man of the cloth himself. This has been hinted at in previous episodes, but Monster Swamp goes in depth, as Jesse prepares the communion wine for his dad’s service and takes a belt to the arse for his sins later on. How this will line up with larger Preacher history remains to be seen, but – like Jesse’s professional badass past – it feels a tad on the nose to us for now.
Still, these divergences are all part of the fun and games of TV Preacher. Like the previous three episodes, Monster Swamp is never anything less than entertaining. Sure, Jesse’s in danger of becoming the least interesting character in his own show (Rick Grimes syndrome), but when his friends and enemies are so great, there’s a bit of leeway there. Four episodes in, we’re officially hooked. Hands clasped, Mister Burns voice: excellent.