He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
1 John 2:9
Well, hot damn. Now that was an episode.
It’s taken some time for Preacher to know itself and have viewers like myself cease the comparisons to the comic and allow it to simply be. It may have taken two seasons for the show to find its own identity and learn from those bumps in its shaky narrative, yet it’s apparent after the airing of “Gonna Hurt” that the series is certainly going in the right direction.
Written by producer Gary Tieche and directed by veteran camera operator/Director of Photography John Grillo, “Gonna Hurt” was a seminal display of everything we love about Preacher, its potential, and best of all, what it’s like when the show is working on all cylinders. Perhaps one of their best episodes in its still evolving run, “Gonna Hurt” delved further into everyone’s darker natures (even God’s!) but in an evocative and visually arresting manner.
Much of the episode’s seemingly contrarian mix of eclectic flair, moribund ambiance, and frenetic energy was spearheaded by Tulip in her quest to seek revenge against The Grail. Despite Jesse’s best efforts to assuage his girlfriend from doing anything reckless, not even a few hours of being dead are going to make O’Hare simmer down. If anything, Tulip’s going to kick things up another notch as evidenced during her not-so random encounter with God (Mark Harelik). The Almighty didn’t do Himself any favors in revealing to O’Hare that everything – from her inability to bear a child to her family curse and her recent death – all occurred by His design. Nothing is beyond His sight nor above His reach.
Not only does God claim her free will led to everything He set in motion, due to Tulip’s dogged insistence, God admits He’s on earth to test humanity. Depending on if they pass or fail may decide the fate of the entire universe. Like most of the things that come out of the mouth of men, Tulip believes it’s bullshit and has the moxy to tell God to His face. It’s these moments which are typically led by Ruth Negga that compel us to tune during these sweltering Summer nights and she never disappointed us with her portrayal of the disarmingly vexatious Tulip O’Hare.
As for her counterparts, they continue to fall from what little grace they teetered upon. Jesse appeared to have given up any hope for the moment thanks to his botched exchange with Herr Starr in “Sonsabitches”. Back on fishing duty with Jody (Jeremy Childs), Custer was tasked by Gran’ma to find new clientele that will hastily restore Angelville to its former glory – and acquire more souls for Madame’s benefit.
The oddest and perhaps least believable parts of “Gonna Hurt” involve Jesse’s acquiescence to his grandmother’s will. Not so long ago in the show’s chronology, Custer was damn near the new Messiah. Yes, Custer lost a portion of his soul so he cannot wield the power of Genesis and he made a blood debt compact with Marie that may or may not have a deeply elemental connection between debtor and debtee, according to T.C. (Colin Cunningham). There appeared to be a bit of fight left in Jesse when he refused to open up the mysterious Tombs when an excited glue sniffer was insistent in the fact. Ironically enough, it was the lack of support he received from Tulip and Cassidy – after he left them high and dry for a handful of days in season two – that made him cave so easily to Gran’ma after she seeded his brain with doubt about Proinsias’ fidelity and Tulip’s importance in his life.
It was a subtle enough push to insure Jesse was beholden to Angelville and its rebirth… and create a wider schism between two good friends.
Forget all I’ve ever said about Cassidy showing a bit more heart in recent episodes despite his sordid past and relatively abhorrent qualities. As the kids say, he showed his whole ass in “Gonna Hurt” when Jesse attempted to extend an olive branch, and warn his pal that the L’Angells don’t take kindly to vampires and other supernatural ilk. Now part of his reaction to Custer is understandable; the preacher can be a single-minded lout whose inflexible view of people and/or a situation does more harm (to others) than good. In the short time Tulip has returned to the land of the living, Jesse appeared genuinely contrite towards Proinsias. It’s understandable the Irishman remained suspect of Custer’s remorse and apology, yet it was wholly foolish of him to believe his advice to leave Angelville was another ploy to have Tulip all for himself. Of all the times to be a pigheaded goof, Cassidy’s affection for O’Hare – along with T.C.’s ample cache of exotic drugs – have destroyed what little rationale was left in the dumb vampire’s brain.
Admittedly, it was Jesse’s fault that Cassidy landed in such a precarious situation due to Custer being played by Herr Starr and the Grail, who subsequently dropped Tulip and forced Jesse to run back to the family he vowed never to see again. Still, Proinsias’ ego and incontestable idiocy placed him in the circumstance he presently experiences. T.C. and Jody ain’t fools in the slightest and apparently have familiarity with vampires – in recognizing the tell-tale signs and how best to eradicate them. Thankfully for Cass, Jesse was able to placate the duo’s eagerness to torture his best friend until the sun rose and burned him alive suspended from a willow tree.
The only problem was Custer traded one special kind of hell for another by reopening The Tombs, the one place that briskly transforms men into monsters, including himself. From what can be gathered, in the basement of the plantation is a Fight Club for the soulless, where those who were unable to pay the price for Madame L’Angell’s spells forfeit the remainder of their lives. Now poor Cassidy, a bona fide creature of darkness, is the only innocent within this dwelling of the damned and is forced to kill in order to survive but also to retain the traces of his humanity.
The title of the episode didn’t lie, it was gonna hurt for a lot of folk. They just didn’t know in what way and how deeply.