In which Jesse Custer goes Alamo.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t call it that, due to the ninth – and final - book in the comic book series already having called dibs on that name. So El Valero it is, being what could well be Preacher the TV series’ climactic gunfight (one imagines they’ll want to go tighter and more personal in the last couple of episodes).
Picking up where we left off last week, Jesse is trying to rescue Eugene from Hell – to limited success – as Quincannon’s Meat Men converge upon the Church. Without so much as uttering a word, Jesse sees Odin’s goons off, arming himself with their guns. We already knew that Jesse is handy with his fists, but El Valero reveals that he’s quite the crack shot too. As sleazy prostitute abuser Clive (see earlier this season) finds out, to his gory trauma.
Even the gory trauma of a man’s dick literally being shot off (Garth Ennis would approve), however, is nothing compared to the episode’s big pre-credits revelation: the explanation as to why Odin Quincannon is such an awful bastard. Preacher tends to go off the wall with its flashback sequences, and El Valero is no different – so tonally different to anything else we’ve seen so far that I found myself questioning whether I’d put the right programme on, at first. Here we see the full story of John Custer’s late night visit to Quincannon, as the meat mogul stands surrounded by the bodies of his entire family – tragically killed in a cable car accident. Stood with the intestines of either his daughter or a cow in his hands, here we get an inkling as to why Mister Quincannon might be so anti-God.
Or at least, anti that God. Next, we find out why Jesse’s command didn’t work on the old git – because Odin follows the God of Meat; that is, all which is tangible and ‘real’. Given everything we’ve seen of Quincannon so far, this makes utter sense, and winds up being an actual improvement on the one-note beef porking character from the comic books. In an episode in which Cassidy is entirely absent and Tulip given even less to do than usual (these things are related), Jackie Earle Haley absolutely steals the show – particularly during the opening moments, where he gets to play Quincannon as a bit more emotional and raw than usual. He also gets the episode’s funniest moments, particularly in his interactions with the surprisingly worry-stricken Sheriff Root.
And that’s no mean feat, with DeBlanc and Fiore showing up with their coffee tin and an attempt to ‘sing’ Genesis out of Jesse. It even works, briefly, but with the angels reneging on their promise to assist Jesse with freeing Eugene from Hell, it’s not long before the hybrid and its host are reunited. The other option then? Looks like it, and it can’t be long before that lingering promise of Graham McTavish in the credits is fulfilled.
After the past few weeks’ worth of Jesse being an arrogant jerk to people, it seems we’re back on track and just about ready to converge with the comic books - especially as it ends with Jesse promising to take God to task for his recent indifference. Following his recent behaviour, it’s good to actually like the Preacher man again (his time spent with Eugene is particularly sweet), although I did baulk at his depiction as an expert marksman. The Preacher we’ve always known and loved is more of a brawler and a thug than a slick assassin type (and this isn’t the first time the TV series has suggested the latter), so to see him sniping hats off heads, machetes out of hands and bells off’ve ends, tends to leave a funny taste in the mouth. But as long as they don’t rely on it too much going forward, we should be fine.
Tulip, meanwhile, buys a dog. And that’s pretty much all you’re getting out of her or Cassidy this week. After all, Jesse is a bit too competent by himself - Quincannon and his men wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with the hitwoman and the vampire against them also. On the other hand, it was just starting to feel like we were getting somewhere with O’Hare, so to see her sidelined again is a little disappointing. Still, by doing away with its show stealers, Preacher finally gets us to care a little bit about Donny (looking a lot like Andrew Lincoln here) who manages to beat his old nemesis in about the dumbest way possible (what, no noise-cancelling headphones in Annville?)
Following this spate of strong episodes, El Valero isn’t quite as exciting or illuminating as previous weeks, even if it does give both Quincannon and Jesse plenty of much-needed character development. With only two episodes left to go, we’re approaching series one’s endgame. Knowing this iteration of Preacher as we don’t, it could go anywhere. Either that, or I’m bloody well watching the wrong thing again.