Following another fairly tedious rest week for the show and its characters, Preacher goes on the offensive again. Leave it to Herr Starr and The Grail to liven things up, wrestling Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy from their miserable rut. The search for God isn’t going too well, the episode opening with Jesse literally looking on YouTube for answers now. Cassidy and Tulip aren’t much help either; the former having succumbed to son Denis’s dying wish, and the latter a sleep-deprived, Hurt Locker-addicted PTSD wreck.
New neighbours Featherstone and Hoover bring the fight straight to the trinity, Herr Starr ordering dismissing the notion of Jesse’s powers and ordering their execution. Of course, the armed men they send into Denis’s grubby little apartment get far more than they bargained for – ripped to shreds by Cassidy, a Word-happy Jesse, and the bloodthirsty newborn vampire Denis. Still, Starr is unconvinced. It’s not until an accidental gang rape brings a certain detail to his attention does Herr Starr cease hostilities and demand an audience with the Preacher…
If Holes and Puzzle Piece make anything obvious, it’s that the current quality of Preacher depends almost entirely on whether Herr Starr or the Saint of Killers make a sizeable appearance in any given episode. As they are, the three leads are simply incapable of holding an episode by themselves. Puzzle Piece opens with another argument between Cassidy and jerkass Jesse, and him using the Word on Tulip to put her to sleep. That’s twice now Jesse has used the word on Tulip in Season Two – something the Jesse Custer of the comic books would never do to his beloved Tulip O’ Hare, and not something she would stand for either. But this isn’t that iteration of Garth Ennis’s characters, and the sooner we come to terms with that, the better.
The other trinity of the show, however, continues to go from strength to strength. Puzzle Piece brings Starr, Featherstone and Hoover together in full for the first time, in a series of sequences pulled straight from the comic book. From the hyper-competent Featherstone to the lovestruck, nice-but-dim Hoover, the characterisation of the three is nailed, the underlings perfectly complimenting their cheerless sneering leader. Once again, Starr gets the most shocking moments of the episode two – most notably in the farcical subversion of his prostitute rape fantasy. While this adaptation has been surprisingly faithful in certain places, few could have expected it to go, uh, there. With a resigned, stoic “oh, shit,” Starr accepts his fate more quietly than his comic book counterpart did, suggesting a slightly more subtle approach to the forthcoming atrocities. That’s probably for the best though, eh.
Starr catches up with Jesse later, the Preacher drowning his sorrows after yet another lead seemingly comes to a dead end. We’ve still four episodes left to go in Series Two and, while it has ultimately failed to live up to its riotous opening episodes (Tulip buys a fridge, which doesn’t bode well for the guys leaving Denis’s crappy apartment anytime soon) this early pow-wow between Custer and Starr bodes well for a strong finish.
While not quite up to the standard of On the Road, Sokosha or Pig, Puzzle Piece is a fun episode, with some very funny sequences, a couple of great action beats and excellent character work. Already, The Grail have become the show-stealers that the Saint of Killers was (a role that should rightfully be Cassidy’s, if only they’d give Gilgun the material!), elevating every episode in which they appear.
Thankfully, given recent real-life events, Semi-Sympathetic Hitler takes some time out, not appearing this week. After all, the show is so set on positioning Jesse as a morally grey character (at best) that it’s already overrun with villains as it is. Preacher is at its best when it’s being anarchic and more than a little bit offensive, but it’s about time they started paying attention to that “be one of the good guys… because there’s too many of the bad” line they keep repeating. With Herr Starr here good and proper, it’s about time our Jesse stepped up to the plate.
PREACHER SEASON 2, EPISODE 9: “PUZZLE PIECE” / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL DOWSE / WRITER: CRAIG ROSENBERG / STARRING: DOMINIC COOPER, RUTH NEGGA, JOSEPH GILGUN / AIR DATE: 14TH AUGUST (USA ON AMC); 15TH AUGUST (UK ON AMAZON PRIME)