Previously on Preacher, “End of the Road”
Last we saw our troublesome trio, their little slice of bacchanalian joy turned into a F5 shitstorm faster than you could say “Beaucoup Crasseux”. Jessie was lured by the power and influence of Grail Industries by the head honcho himself, Herr Starr; Tulip was obsessed in testing her mortality after her run-in with The Saint of Killers; Cassidy had his regrets in turning his dying son Denis, Arseface made a friend in Hell (!) named Adolf Hitler (!!!), and Harry Connick Jr. was blown off the face of the earth via Patriot missile. In short, season two was very busy, highly frenetic, and a super revealing installment for AMC’s summer series.
For all the fire and fury that erupted between the Jesse, Tulip, and Proinsias – let alone what they inflicted upon others – nothing amounted to the distressing breakdown that occurred in the final moments of season two. The Grail had successfully reft the bonds between friends to exploit Custer’s baser nature, resulting in our resident Preacher and the guilt-ridden Cassidy not realizing the danger surrounding them until Tulip bled out on the kitchen floor.
Which brings us to the latest foolhardy plan Jessie concocted: return to his ancestral home and pray that his sadistic, fanatical, demented, wicked demon matriarch of a grandmother is willing to save his love after he abandoned his crazy family so many years ago. Surely, nothing can go wrong with this unholy arrangement, right? Right?
From what we already witnessed in flashbacks throughout the series, Angelville is a dark blight veiled in layers of Southern charm and Chantilly lace. As mentioned in the opening minutes of the premiere, Angelville was a retreat for some of America’s more powerful figures like Thomas Jefferson, who allegedly declared Angelville was a “place which burrows into your heart and will not seem to leave.” While some may find this Presidential aphorism enamoring, discerning ears and penetrative eyes would understand with blinding clarity how murky and ominous the plantation truly is. Granted, it is a plantation yet it’s somehow far more ill-boding than its already contentious past.
The darkness that has permeated the compound was due in part to Jesse’s grandmother, Madame Marie L’Angell (Betty Buckley), who as we saw had a very successful business in providing various spells to people from all walks of life. While she ran a profitable tourist destination with some witchcraft on the side, the true history of the L’Angell family was a dark and torturous one, as attested by the open captivity of Marie’s daughter – and Jesse’s mother – Christina Custer (Liz McGeever).
In a truly grisly sequence of events, Madame L’Angell sensed her daughter was attempting to leave the plantation yet again to reunite with her son. Rather than tell her what she had been hiding in her room, Christina ate the evidence. Never one to accept defeat, Marie would rather cut inside her daughter’s belly and retrieve the photo of young Jesse than let Christina win one over her. It’s a chilling attitude to have against one’s kin, but if anything, Buckley’s portrayal of Madame L’Angell is as authentic to the character as she is unsettling in her demeanor.
In present day, Angelville has seen better days. No longer the shining gem of the bayou, the plantation has grown wild and gnarled like the evil roots that lay underneath its foundation. “Gran’ma” is still present along with her trusted help, T.C. and Jody. Colin Cunningham and Jeremy Childs immediately left enduring marks as their respective characters, who were by far the most loathsome, savage antagonists written by Garth Ennis during Preacher’s run. Naturally, many storylines and motley character flaws have been dampened for television, but it’s clear those two cajuns are going to be a handful throughout the season.
Knowing the full cost of receiving his grandmother’s help – and possibly not fully realizing the sacrifices his mother made to keep him far away – Jesse made the only play he could to pull Tulip out of Purgatory by taking a blood oath with the L’Angell clan. Given what he’s seen recently thanks to Herr Starr, and his encounter with “God”, aligning himself with his family is small potatoes compared to the seemingly unending horizon of depravity Custer had viewed briefly. In O’Hare’s case, time was of the essence and while Jesse and Jody collected the materials necessary to retrieve her from the other side (and engage in a fistfight for good measure), Tulip recalled key moments of her childhood that were long buried.
Per usual, Ruth Negga provided ample amounts of emotional depth in her scenes; for “Angelville” it was a confined recreation of her childhood living room, complete with manifestations of her parents and an eight-year-old version of herself. Once more there were liberal changes made to Tulip’s origin, understandable yet debatable choices that provide a heightened sense of drama at the expense of placing O’Hare in a more perilous circumstance. Much of Jake (Keith Burke) core values were retained in this new incarnation, a repeat offender trying to do good for his daughter’s sake.
Unlike Jake, her mother Barb (Kelly Murtagh) was a wholly original creation and an awfully contemptible one at that. Proclaiming both Tulip and Jake cursed, Barb did her 53% thing and allowed the bad times to happen around her as the stressors of trying to become a productive citizen when society is already stacked against eventually got to Jake. While Tulip falls into the mire of this abridged, surrealist recreation of events, items collected by Jesse and Cassidy show up in her purgatory which shake O’Hare from her doldrums and send her on her way back home… but not before a brief word from God Himself.
For a premiere, the narrative already felt as though it were in the middle of the road, however it’s apparent the stakes have been dramatically raised now that Jesse returned to Angelville. Now at the mercy of his gran’ma and her freakish companions, Custer along with Cassidy and Tulip will likely have to bend to L’Angell’s will – out of tradition, obligation or some crazy spell she cast when they weren’t paying attention. No doubt The Grail will come into play sooner than later as they cannot have an apocalyptic event without their new Messiah.
If anything this season of Preacher will assuredly drive us into darker territory… because if there’s something we cannot get away from far enough, it’s family we don’t exactly like.