With the Saint of Killers currently submerged in his New Orleans swamp, the pressure is off the Preacher and his pals. While there’s still the search for God to be getting on with, the three friends (plus Denis) take some time off for a little rest and recuperation. Ripping off a local bar and its tough guy patrons, Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy (plus Denis) get to kick back and have some fun for once. Best relish it while they can though, as the series’ real Big Bad finally beckons…
Yes, here’s Herr Helmut Starr, stepping straight from the comic book page like a Glenn Fabry Preacher cover come to life. Most of the episode’s big developments are dedicated to its Starr, giving the character a full-blown origins tale in a hilarious and beautifully succinct manner. As Starr investigates a false prophet in Vietnam, accompanying flashbacks detail his rise through the ranks of the Grail and its rigorous recruitment process.
Pip Torrens (Colonel Kaplan in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is perfectly cast as Starr, at once imposing, terrifying and ridiculous. Starr’s trials serve as an excellent introduction to the character, showcasing his efficiency, ruthlessness, bedroom kinks (yep, that nipple chain we’ve been seeing in the credits is his) and, above all, complete humourlessness. Starr’s casual murder of a competitor and his immediate superior are both obvious and telegraphed, but that lack of subtlety is a hallmark of the character too. That Torrens manages to deliver the lot with a straight face bodes well for his future on the show; a villainous straight man in a world of clowns and imbeciles.
If we thought they’d been handling the Saint of Killers well so far, then their Herr Starr is even more admirable – visually, it’s the most comic-book accurate depiction of a character in a TV show since Abraham and Eugene on The Walking Dead. His temperament may have to be dialled back somewhat for AMC’s aversion to swearing, but the rest of it seems on point so far. Bonus points, by the way, for the ten-inch dick simile.
Talking of big dicks. This all only serves to make the show’s continued mishandling of Jesse Custer feel more infuriating. Pig starts off promisingly, with the trio (plus Denis) having fun and getting drunk in a bar together, but soon regresses into Jesse lying and being awful to Tulip again. So far, she’d be better off with Cassidy, who actually seems to care about and for her. One hates to harp on about the source material again, but there’s nothing more un-Jesse than a Jesse Custer who, after putting Tulip in mortal danger, flounces off in a sulk when confronted about it.
Of the three, Tulip gets the more interesting character moments this week, haunted by her close call with The Saint. It’s worth establishing that these are people dealing with supernatural, even biblical forces, and Tulip’s smattering of PTSD is a neat touch, reminding us of the humanity which is often lost as events get sillier and darker. Cassidy, meanwhile, learns that Denis is dying, and desperately wants his absent father to give him immortality. Jesse gets his moment too but, as usual, it happens while separated from his ‘friend’ and his ‘lover’ as he seeks the guidance of a street preacher.
But all of this is a distraction from the Starr of the show, ensuring that Preacher loses none of its vitality or immediacy while the Saint of Killers remains on his unwilling sabbatical. Even when Starr isn’t around, it’s very funny and the episode contains some of the best group bonding scenes to date, too. Pig is another strong episode of a revitalised, confident show that’s having great fun bringing the comic’s most iconic figures to life. All of them, that is, except for the most important one…
PREACHER SEASON TWO, EPISODE SEVEN: “PIG” / DIRECTOR: WAYNE YIP / WRITER: OLIVIA DUFAULT / STARRING: DOMINIC COOPER, RUTH NEGGA, JOSEPH GILGUN / AIR DATE: 31ST JULY (USA ON AMC); 1ST AUGUST (UK ON AMAZON PRIME)