After an odd opening season that served as basically a ten-episode prequel/pilot episode to the status quo long-time readers know and love, followed by two excellent seasons that fully embodied the tone of irreverent character-driven drama and gratuitous-to-the-point-of-absurd hyper-violence while veering wildly from the nine-volume source material by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, viewers were expecting quite a bit from this Season 4 premiere– particularly in light of the announcement that, based on the creators’ wishes, this is Preacher‘s final season.
How much crazier could things get? Just the Previously On . . . montage had us shaking our heads at the frightening extent to which this show had already taken it, and how much we had already blocked out to protect our mortal minds. So, of course this season begins 65-million years ago with God surveying all his good works, the trees and rainbows and the dinosaurs…
I loved the decision to use extremely dated practical effects in the opening scene. It directly conjured Demille’s The Ten Commandments and pulled off this weird reverse effect of making everything seemed more authentic, no matter how “fake” it looked (that brontosaurus’s bowel movement is my freshest scar for life, though, yes.) Cutting to Tulip (Ruth Negga) and Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) in the motel room, Gilgun demonstrates for the 500th time that he’s delivering some of the best supporting character work of all time, full stop. The emotion with which he just tells that joke is thunderous. Then something very dramatic happens, and we flash back.
Now, normally I can’t stand that played-out device: opening with something crazy, then spending the whole episode/season bringing us up to that point, but between Cassidy’s joke and the diction of the flashback titles being couple months before as opposed to the typical two months earlier . . ., it just landed for me this time (ooof, no pun intended). It was wonderful seeing Pip Torrins, Noah Taylor, Julie Ann Emery, Mark Harelik, and Tyson Ritter (especially Tyson Ritter) all included in the opening credits as full-cast series regulars, too. Well deserved, all around.
This episode provides a nice basic small-scale goal relative to the larger narrative of tracking God (Mark Harelik) down and holding him accountable for all His Creation: rescue Cassidy from Grail Headquarters. All of Tulip and Jesse’s (Dominic Cooper) struggles to accomplish this opposite the horrific repeated torture that Cassidy is undergoing at the time was certainly entertaining, while making me squirm on my couch pretty badly. Everything escalating to Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery) vs. Tulip up on the cliff with Cassidy vs. Jesse by the sealed front door was masterful. Then, all of that resolves and we get that final conversation, which made me question the wisdom of just dumping two episodes on us here this opening night, that one was much much more than enough.
II: “THE LAST SUPPER”
That opening deal with Jesse compelling his ride to pull over and then getting stuck up by the kid felt very much like a Biblical parable but — of course — skewed in the damaged direction of this show: his intentions are noble but the outcome is a disaster and, in this case, quite ironic. This same thing happens later on with the two guys in the middle of the road.
Back at Grail HQ, the fate of the Deputy Prime Minister from New Zealand is shot and executed to perfection and serves very nicely as a microcosmic expression of what’s going on with this show. When he escapes, Cassidy in disguise as a doctor is also such an instant classic and again Gilgun just crushing it every day at the office. That’s followed by a hilarious bit with Jesse letting his airline pilot know that smoking is actually allowed. But everybody gets to shine, as Tulip goes solo and systematically obliterates Featherstone’s army of electric-car Grailmobiles in a manner delightfully reminiscent of murder-car grind-house flicks of the seventies.
Finally, there may be jazz playing in that last scene, and maybe it’s just the braids in his hair and my Lone Star talking, but God does a fair job of conjuring Willie Nelson there at the end, quiet and contemplative over the toys he’s built so far and the ones that he’s about to play with as we lurch toward the series finale. There’s a great deal to love about both barrels of this opening salvo. The writers remember to put character up near the front. Jesse has plenty of swagger and charisma while remaining a dumbass, Tulip is cooler than hell and ruthless, and Cassidy is forever charming and radiates doom. All of that often almost gets overwhelmed by all of the surreal ultra-violence, but at this point, we wouldn’t have it any other way. 4.5/5 Oceans of Guinness.