If last week’s Viktor was Preacher spinning on its wheels, then Dallas is the show not only applying the brakes but then barrelling backwards in reverse – both in terms of narrative and its newfound verve. The Saint of Killers makes but a brief appearance, and there’s not even a glimpse of Eugene, Hell or Starr. It’s all Jesse, Tulip, Viktor and... ugh, Dallas.
After the shock revelation that mobster Viktor is in fact Tulip’s estranged husband, Jesse is furious, hanging the guy up in his own torture basement, seriously contemplating murder. Tulip is propelled back home to Cassidy via the Word, and the episode slips into flashback mode. What happened after Carlos’s (ugh) betrayal of the pair back in Dallas? How did Jesse come to be a Preacher in Annville? And why did Tulip marry a mobster? All, for better and worse, will be answered.
Rarely is the show’s Jesse Custer as passionate about anything as he is being steadfast in things he doesn’t want to do. In this case, all flashback Jesse wants is to sulk on the sofa, sink beers and try for another baby. On the one hand, it’s a sad, plausible depiction of grief and depression. On the other, it’s just Jesse being an asshole and Tulip a liar again. And, at this point, we’ve had more than enough of both. The show wheels out their “until the end of the world” at every opportunity, but we’ve yet to see one of them sound like they mean it. Partly, this is due to the unfortunate lack of chemistry between Cooper and Negga, but mostly it’s because the writers are committing – hard – to Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy to being utter sociopaths.
Sure, the characters’ comic book counterparts were the worst too, but there was a sincerity to every single one of them that the show struggles to replicate. This isn’t so noticeable when Preacher is in action, comedy or Tarantino mode, but as soon as the characters are required to be emotionally honest, it’s abysmal. To date, the only time our Jesse Custer looks even remotely alive is when he’s beating the hell out of someone or Tulip and Cassidy are nowhere to be seen. The rest of it is just a half-decent Rick Grimes impression and his naturally Steve Dillon-esque looks. Unlike Cooper, Negga is a good actor, but the writing does her few favours (thus far, two modes: liar or nag) and that lack of chemistry with Cooper is a serious problem.
Trapped in the middle is Joseph Gilgun’s misfit Cassidy. Like the other two, he struggles for chemistry, leaving Jesse and Cassidy’s friendship feeling sorely lacking. This is a problem as we see Cassidy attempt to turn Jesse and Tulip against each other: it doesn’t feel like much of a betrayal because none of them seem to like each other all that much anyway.
Which isn’t to say that Dallas is without merit. It’s a Season 1 episode with purpose and resolution. In a second series which has prioritised plot and mythology thus far, Dallas is an episode dedicated to character development. Granted, that’s spent developing asshole characters into even bigger assholes (although Jesse does spare Viktor’s life by the end) but at least it gets the interminable Dallas stuff out of the way. And we also see Jesse’s love of John Wayne movies for the first time.
Cassidy’s machinations against Jesse and Tulip give Gilgun more to do than he has been recently; his sneakily trying to get Jesse to murder Viktor is the episode’s stand-out moment. Again, it would hit harder if the friendship felt closer or more plausible, but Gilgun sells the scene. Even better is his thinly-veiled disappointment when Jesse stops short of killing Viktor, a jealousy and resentment that spells serious trouble for our ‘friends’ later down the road. Dallas may not have been a strong episode, or a likeable one, but it is essential in moving the characters both closer together and further apart.
With Dallas in the rear-view mirror, what next? Jesse and Tulip are reconciled, and, as expected, the Saint of Killers shows up at the end, hot on the trio’s trail. On the basis of the despicable behaviour we’ve seen from the three of them this week, we don’t fancy his chances much.
PREACHER SEASON 2, EPISODE 5: "DALLAS" / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL MORRIS / WRITER: PHILIP BUISER / STARRING: DOMINIC COOPER, RUTH NEGGA, JOSEPH GILGUN / AIR DATE: 17TH JULY (USA ON AMC); 18TH JULY (UK ON AMAZON PRIME)