No One in ‘Preacher’ Is Especially Nice

‘Preacher’ illuminates the past and reveals everyone’s dark side.
By  · Published on July 18th, 2017

‘Preacher’ illuminates the past and reveals everyone’s dark side.

Last week’s episode of Preacher had me worried that things were slowing down, but “Dallas” has assuaged all my fears.

The fifth episode picks up its pace and delivers some stellar character development, both in the past and the present. The name of the game in “Dallas” is hidden darkness, and all three of our protagonists reveal theirs.

The most obvious, of course, is Jesse, who’s unreachable behind his rage. Jesse’s darkness is partly a symptom of a change of medium and the passage of time. His character has always had a certain machismo to him that doesn’t age quite perfectly with the 20 years since the comics began.

The show finally addresses this through Reggie, Jesse’s hapless but adorable stoner friend who’s taken a class on Oppositional Gender Studies. By looking at John Wayne through Reggie’s lens, the show keeps its judgment mercifully light, but it does back it up with an interesting development.

Jesse likes John Wayne, in part, because he’s respectful of women. And he seems to take that respect to heart—when he’s furious with Tulip he doesn’t lay a hand on her. Instead, he beats the bejesus out of poor Reggie, whose only crime is not knowing when to shut up. Jesse won’t hit a woman, it’s true, but he’ll lose control of his temper and hit an innocent man.

Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper)

This is taken to an even greater extreme in the present when he drags Viktor to the torture chamber and contemplates killing him. Viktor may not be “innocent” in the sense that Reggie was, but he’s far from guilty. He fell in love with Tulip and married her, and he does seem to have been nice to her. Who’d have thought the moral compass of this episode would be the vicious mob boss whose name has been haunting us for weeks?

So while Jesse considers murdering Viktor, and his salvation (or at least his niceness) hangs in the balance, we learn about his past and Tulip’s dark side.

Tulip and Jesse were both hit hard by Carlos’ betrayal and the loss of their baby—there’s probably no reason to doubt that. But when she starts to heal, and he doesn’t, she hides it from him and only makes his suffering worse. If we’re feeling generous, we could maybe call Tulip’s crime “being true to herself.” She understands what she wants and needs, and she acts upon it.

But its effect on Jesse is severe.

The accelerating montage of Jesse’s life post-Carlos is very obviously reminiscent of Eugene and the Saint of Killers’ hell scenes. But while their hells are accelerating repetitions of the same scene, Jesse’s is a collection of different but identical scenes. Time passes for him, but his life stays the same. He’s aging in his hell, and Tulip lets him stay there.

Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga)

But while Tulip and Jesse both have dark sides, by the end of the episode they’ve both made some selfless decisions and forgiven each other. The same can’t be said for Cassidy, whose darkness, in my opinion, is by far the most interesting.

After existing mostly in stasis last week, Cassidy is in wonderful form trying to cheer up Allie. But this funny and arguably good-intentioned moment quickly gives way to a serious meditation on whether he’s a “good guy.” When Tulip punches him and accuses him of ulterior motives, we want to side with him. After all, we just spent the last episode watching him do nothing but worry about her. And all we’ve seen him do this episode is trying his darnedest to keep Allie’s spirits up. Tulip’s reaction seems overblown.

But then he goes to talk to Jesse.

Cassidy’s talk with Jesse is a strange thing. At first, it endears us to him even more—after two episodes off, the foreskin conspiracy gets another mention, which as far as I’m concerned makes it one of this season’s principal characters.

Then it gives us a bit of insight into Cassidy’s past, telling us that he was rich once. Finally, though, it reveals a real darkness that might even surpass Jesse’s. It’s not clear that Cassidy’s encouraging Jesse to kill Viktor—it’s possible that he just knows how to steer him.

But I wouldn’t put money on it.

Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun)

Cassidy assures Jesse that he would kill Viktor if he were in his shoes, and says he doubts Tulip will leave him if he does. Or more accurately, he says that if he were Jesse and some muppet had his hands on his girl, he wouldn’t be very restrained. And the muppet is, of course, him. Cassidy has been toying with the idea of telling Jesse that he and Tulip slept together for a while.

Now he can see what the consequences would be.

Cassidy is in love with Tulip—that much is clear to us and, it turns out, to her. (He did tell her as much last season). He’s doubling down with this speech, trying to get Jesse to do the unforgivable so he can be forgiven and, just maybe, have Tulip to himself.

We’ve seen Cassidy be duplicitous before—he conned DeBlanc and Fiore into giving him those black beauties, and he charmed Fiore into (supposedly) calling off the Saint. We’ve never seen him play Tulip and Jesse like this, though, and it’s a little unsettling. His let down when Jesse reveals that he’s let Viktor live is hard to misinterpret.

Cassidy has always been the show’s most enjoyable character, and he’s shaping up to be its most complex.

Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun)

“Dallas” fills in a noteworthy blank spot in Jesse and Tulip’s past, but more interestingly it gives each of its protagonists glaring imperfections that both make them more believable and promise some real explosions in the future. Tulip and Jesse are reconciled for now, but her secret with Cassidy is a ticking time bomb whose potential repercussions have gotten a lot more serious.

Cassidy is, as he admits, “a right bastard.” But when he’s angry, Jesse is no treat, either.

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Liz Baessler is a frequent contributor and infrequent columnist at Film School Rejects. She has an MA in English and a lot of time on her hands. (She/Her)