Aaaaand breathe. After three episodes of almost sheer momentum, Preacher takes the time to stop and spin on its wheels for a bit. Jesse and Cassidy continue the search for God, Tulip is confronted by mob boss and estranged husband (!) Viktor, and Arseface is in Hell. For any other TV series, that might be weeks’ worth of material, but this is Preacher.
As such, the newly-introduced Herr Starr and his men take a back seat, save for the brief appearance of Hoover, keeping tabs on the pair. Neither he nor colleague Featherstone have been mentioned by name yet, but, c’mon, we know it’s them. And once again, it’s an advert on TV which informs the next step of Jesse’s plan, as Cassidy spots ‘God’ playing a homeless guy in an old Hurricane Katrina charity commercial (alongside Frankie Muniz!). Not the real God, of course, but the fake who tried to throw Annville off the scent back in Season One.
Jesse and Cass track the actor down to his agent in New Orleans and, after pretending to represent Game of Thrones (which gives the episode its biggest laughs) get their hands on God’s audition tape. It’s all very Trevor Slattery, right up until the poor actor is shot dead (on camera, conveniently). Which would explain how a jobbing actor could get up into Heaven to play God in the first place. It’s a fairly incremental lead, and one which probably won’t get Jesse too far in the long run, but it gives the pair something to do while the Saint of Killer slowly walks from Texas to New Orleans at them (how very It Follows).
Meanwhile, Tulip is in the hands of the sinister Viktor at his mansion; snubbed by her old friends and left to think up a proper apology while the crime lord tortures a guy in the room next door. She beats one poor chap up, but there’s disappointingly little Tulip action this week. She’s far from a damsel in distress (even less so than the O’ Hare of the comic books in fact), but the episode still ends with Jesse busting into the joint to save the day. And there’s the big action set-piece; after using The Word to pacify Viktor’s henchmen, Jesse is confronted by Viktor’s staff torturer. Immune to The Word thanks to his headphones and love of Billy Joel, Viktor’s man lays into Jesse in one of the series’ most fun fight sequences to date. One of the strongest advantages TV has over print media is its ability to soundtrack, and Preacher hasn’t wasted an opportunity yet.
With this, the revelation that Viktor is, in fact, Tulip’s husband. It’s a slightly odd, anti-climactic cliffhanger upon which to end the episode, but we’re still in the position where Jesse and Tulip’s relationship is one of the show’s weakest links, so any development there will be welcome. Once this is out of the way, maybe we’ll eventually get a lead couple who actually seem to like each other. Cooper is, at least, growing into the role, especially when he is able to get proactive and do more than just wandering around from bar to bar asking if y’all seen God lately.
Finally, there’s the C-plot which, while the least connected to the ongoing narrative, proves to be the most engaging. Arseface is in Hell, which apparently functions a lot like high school, when the equipment breaks down. Eugene’s, ahem, distinctive features almost immediately get him noticed by Hell’s resident bullies (not demons, but an actual popped-collar jock) and one Adolph Hitler (played by Noah Taylor, ‘reprising’ the role after 2002’s Max). Revealing Hitler to be a bit of a nerd is an amusing touch, even if it (and the accompanying flashback) isn’t quite as edgy or clever as the show probably thinks it is. They’re skating on thin ice (we’ve had about enough of people trying to humanise Nazis lately) but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s Rogen, Goldberg and Catlin. One suspects, however, that there may be more to Hitler’s game than meets the eye. It’s Hitler, after all. Worry not though: he does get a good kicking, and by cuddly Eugene, no less.
While there isn’t a great deal of compelling development going on with Viktor, the episode is nevertheless filled with fun moments and neat little touches. Eagle-eyed fans should look out for a photo cameo from Bill Hicks (not his first appearance in the show either), recalling one of Garth Ennis’s most self-indulgent scenes in the comic’s run. The name ‘Arseface’ is uttered properly for the first time (even if it is bastardised into the Americanism ‘Assface’) in a vulgar dialogue sequence Mister Ennis himself would surely be proud of.
Even during its first real filler episode, Preacher Season Two proves to be entertainingly busy. Its characters still leave something to be desired, but they’re more than capable of holding an episode by themselves.
PREACHER SERIES 2, EPISODE 4: “VIKTOR” / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL SLOVIS / WRITER: CRAIG ROSENBERG / STARRING: DOMINIC COOPER, RUTH NEGGA, JOSEPH GILGUN / AIR DATE: 10TH JULY (USA ON AMC); 11TH JULY (UK ON AMAZON PRIME)