Pig: Bar Games and the End of the World in ‘Preacher’

Pigs fly and Herr Starr finds his calling.
By  · Published on July 31st, 2017

Pigs fly and Herr Starr finds his calling.

“Pig,” the seventh episode of Preacher, is a solid addition to the season. Each episode so far has had its own structure, some of which work better than others. This one is especially well-balanced, giving each main character (and a brand new character) their due.

It also has some good bonkers world-building. Much like last week’s episode began with a new, unfamiliar aspect of the Preacher universe, this one begins with a miracle halfway around the world.

And then it shows us how miracles are treated.

As the look and feel of characters go, Herr Starr might be the closest to his source in the comics, and Pip Torrens is excellent in his role. He is a perfect weirdo—just strange enough to be refreshing, just exasperated enough to be likable. Say what you will about Herr Starr, he knows how to get things done. And you can’t help but feel for him in his crusade to deal with the idiots around him, in spite of yourself.

Herr Star (Pip Torrens)

Herr Starr’s introduction ushers in a new phase of the season. The antagonist of the first half, the Saint of Killers, is at the bottom of a swamp. And now that Herr Starr’s on the scene, I think he’ll stay there for most of the second half. This is fine. The Saint is a lot of fun, but he really only has one trick. Herr Starr, however, is more nuanced—he can be reasoned with, can gauge the situation and change tactics.

He’s also just plain funnier.

While the Saint of Killers is a wonderful villain in the overblown evil sense, Herr Starr will probably lend the season a more active feeling, will add to the total bizarreness that the show does so well. 

After opening with a world-building miracle and a new antagonist, the episode moves to our three protagonists, building their characters in a very symmetrical and tidy way.

This begins with our heroes and Denis finally visiting the Hurt Locker, the bar where you can get shot in the chest for money. It turns out they pay you… as long as you manage to stand back up. The three of them cook up a scam that’s wonderfully fun and reminiscent of the good old days of the Come on Eileen car chase of the first episode.

Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga)

Of course, there’s a lot more resting beneath the surface than in the car chase—Tulip and Cassidy pose as a couple, which Cassidy relishes and Jesse finds a bit too realistic. There’s not much room in the scam for Jesse, anyway—the addition of a righteous preacher is a little superfluous, almost as if he’s insisted on being included.

Jesse’s extraneousness is repeated when Tulip confronts him the next day. Jesse was late in last week’s episode. The only reason Tulip survived is because Cassidy slowed the Saint down, and Tulip seems to have taken that fact very much to heart, even dreaming about his severed fingers.

Cassidy has been pining for Tulip for almost as long as the show has been on, but now Tulip is starting to appreciate him. Just as he asked Jesse where she was in episode 4, now she’s asking after him. She seems to be rethinking her insistence that he’s only pretending to worry about her. But does he deserve it? That’s a question that’s up for debate, and one that manages to make a classic love triangle plot a lot more interesting.

But these are just seeds of the turmoil to come.


Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), Denis (Ronald Guttman)

After the fun of the Hurt Locker scam, each of our protagonists breaks off and deals with a single personal issue in a way that’s very well balanced and promises at least some kind of growth.

Cassidy finally stumbles across a French interpreter for Denis, and he learns the truth. Denis is dying and has always resented him, and the only way he’ll forgive him is if Cassidy turns him into a vampire. When he sees two people crying over a dead relative in the morgue, he clearly starts to consider it.

He probably won’t regret his decision.

Tulip continues to suffer from her encounter with the Saint—she’s wracked every night with nightmares that have the same repetitive, circular quality of Hell. (And a storm outside the open window that sounds eerily similar to the storm in the Saint’s own hell). After fighting with Jesse, she finds a way to confront her fear—getting shot at the Hurt Locker and imagining she’s being shot by the Saint.

This will probably lead to a healthy place.

And Jesse, after dismissing Tulip and her fears, has a beer with the Doomsday Preacher (John Ales) in a scene that very conveniently places him in the light and Jesse in shadow.

Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), Doomsday Preacher (John Ales)

In a fun list of signs of the apocalypse, this scene confirms that the Preacher universe is almost our own—the Cubs have won the World Series and Trump has been elected. But Tom Cruise has also exploded. And a pig in Vietnam is floating, confirming Fake God’s warning to look for “the beasts of the field thrown into confusion.”

Because that’s what Jesse’s after—corroboration between this preacher and Fake God. He’s looking for a pattern. Unfortunately for him, the Doomsday Preacher is the most reasonable person he’s met in a while. He believes that the signs of the apocalypse are just metaphor, and what people are really afraid of is themselves.

This is bad news for Jesse, who has it on good authority that the signs may be more than just metaphor. But what’s worse for him is the Doomsday Preacher’s insistence that it’s mankind that’s really scary, that people focus on the end of the world to distract themselves from themselves. Jesse’s done some bad things, but he’s always had a rationalization. He used to believe that God had a plan for him, and now he believes that he has to find God. Genesis chose him, and whatever else happens is secondary.

Now the Doomsday Preacher asks him: “What is more frightening than who we are and what we done?” And as a sure sign of the apocalypse, he tells him to look no further than men selling off parts of their souls.

Jesse has gone looking for divine answers, but instead, he’s gotten a mirror. Will he learn anything from it? We’ll see.

Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper)

“Pig” is a wonderfully balanced episode that offers character study, fun, and a real broadening of the universe. Herr Starr is finally here and looming as our new antagonist. Every character is dealing with their own darkness, and any progress they’re making may not be in their best interest. The pig is dead, but at least it got to fly.

In short, things couldn’t be better.

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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)