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PREACHER Review: What Lurks in the “Monster Swamp”?

Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of Preacher! Proceed with caution. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched “Monster Swamp,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.

If there’s one element of AMC’s Preacher that most distinguishes it from the DC/Vertigo comic on which it’s based, it’s the setting. Writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon’s Preacher was, first and foremost, a road trip. The ultimate road trip — about a literal journey to find God. A journey that took its protagonists from the heartland of America to the skyscrapers of New York City and everywhere in between. While Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin’s Preacher is no less outre than its inspiration, it’s clear that the show has no intent to stray far from Annville, Texas any time soon. (If nothing else, the opening credits are a dead giveaway.) It won’t matter to many. TV viewers, especially fans of the kind of small-town quirk on display here, are used to focusing on one locale, be it Bon Temps, Louisiana or Twin Peaks, Washington. TV budgets are certainly better suited to a finite number of locations.

Still, there’s a huge difference in how the show approaches Jesse’s mission, at least at this point. Right now, he’s hellbent on growing his church’s congregation. As he demonstrates in “Monster Swamp” (a B-movie title that perfectly suits the episode’s crazed opening, in which a local girl involved in paintball shenanigans is swallowed up by a sinkhole), he’s not afraid to use his “word of God” on the town’s most notorious citizen, Jackie Earle Haley’s coldblooded meat magnate Odin Quinncannon. Haley, it must be said, is perfection itself in this role, his every measured steely move a joy to watch. But the Quincannon of the comic was not introduced until much later in Jesse’s story. So the outcome of Preacher Custer forcing him to accept God into his heart is anybody’s guess. I suspect, however, that little good will come of it. There’s no way Preacher is gonna wind up advocating robbing folks of their free will. So Jesse’s decision to forcibly convert the miserly Quincannon is undoubtedly going to come back to bite him square on the ass.

It’s also unclear, and blissfully so, what’s in store for the heavenly hit men, who finally reveal themselves as angels to Cassidy when he hilariously swindles them out of a wad of cash that he in turn immediately spends on drugs and prostitutes. Since “Monster Swamp” ends with a call from, presumably, their superiors, it’s likely that they too will soon have hell to pay. I’m hoping that means it won’t be too long before we’re treated to a much more formidable breed of antagonist–Graham McTavish’s Saint of Killers–whom thus far we’ve only glimpsed in a single flashback scene two episodes ago.

And speaking of flashbacks… “Monster Swamp” gives us a lot more background on Jesse’s father, whom the Reverend Custer seeks to emulate in his work (even if he’s not above using a 4K TV to do it). It’s yet another major break from the comic, in which Jesse’s dad was a former G.I. who, upon returning from duty, stumbled into an even greater madness in the American South than that which he encountered in Vietnam. Yet it’s worth nothing that this version of Jesse’s dad also has strong ties to Quincannon. Which begs the question… Was he in some way involved in his tragic death?

Preacher 2

Preaching to the Choir

— There’s not nearly enough Tulip this week, but what we get is choice–when she accidentally “kills” Cassidy, mistaking him for a dickish QM&P employee. Of course he takes full advantage of the situation to steal a kiss from the guilt-stricken Ms. O’Hare.

— “A road trip–you’ve got to know that’s where this is headed.” Oh, how I pray you’re right, Cassidy.

— “Whatcha expect? It’s Chinatown.” Well, at least the Annville locals are film literate.

— As reminiscent as so much of Preacher is of David Lynch and the Coen Brothers, the angels look like they stepped right out of a Terry Gilliam movie.

— “Oh, ‘Wynken, Blynken, and Nod’! I think he’d prefer that to the saw, to be honest.”

— Poor wide-eyed Emily. Jesse’s girl Friday is settling for the town’s ineffectual mayor while she continues to pine away for her boss. Is it too much to ask that they get one date together before he takes to the road with Tulip?

— “The Big Ass Texas Burger. Fit your mouth around this.”

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).

Images: AMC

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