Gimme Something to Watch: AMC’s Preacher (Season 1, Episode 4 “Monster Swamp”)
His Hero Is Gone doesn’t have anything to do with the Preacher series, but they rule.
“Some people just can’t be saved.”
That line was spoken by John Custer, Jesse’s father, to Jesse during a flashback in an episode rife with them. Preacher’s fourth episode “Monster Swamp” impresses much more than the previous episode “Possibilities.” The title references dialogue spoken by Sheriff Root to his son Eugene/Arseface in the previous episode. It predicts the fate of a minor character, and shows us the state of Annville as the story unfolds. “Monster Swamp” provides one of the biggest deviations from the comics so far, and sets up what we predict will be one of the show’s most important relationships.
The cold open for “Monster Swamp” plays out like a B-horror flick: it’s night in a deserted Annville, save for an empty school bus driving itself (uh…), a drunk Uncle Walter passed out sitting up against a fence, and Annville’s new politically correct mascot walking the streets. Queue tense music and a half naked woman running from some terror unseen, quickly revealed to be employees from Quincannon Meat Packing & Power participating in a sadistic game of paintball hide and seek (apparently sadism trickles down from the top of Q.M.P.P). The reveal comes immediately before Lacey, having been shot with a paintball by Clive, falls into a literal shithole and dies.
The episode’s next scene offers a wink and a nod to those who have read the comic series. Cassidy attempts to explain the gory chainsaw battle of “See” to Jesse, and warns him he must leave town to escape what Cassidy believes are some kind of high-tech government agency clones. “Road trip, you’ve got to know where this is headed!” It’s almost as if the show runners could predict many fans’ primary complaint about the first season, being centrally located in Annville rather than the international adventure that took place in the graphic novel.
The story moves forward for each of our primary characters. Jesse Custer’s past is slowly unpacked through a series of flashbacks featuring him as a child with his father John Custer (played by Nathan Darrow, Edward Meechum from House of Cards)! Young Jesse helps his father prepare for church service. Young Jesse is spanked with a belt when his father catches him smoking with other children, including a young Tulip O’Hare. Lastly, young Jesse is woken by his father in the middle of the night, who takes him to a meeting with Odin Quincannon. Jesse pilfers an ashtray outside in the waiting room. We see young Jesse’s internal conflict, as his father angrily says that some people can’t be saved, while Jesse pushes his stolen goods further into his pocket. In the present, Jesse formulates a plan to grow the attendance of his church service, including a raffle for an out-of-budget flat screen television.
In an early scene, we get the indication that Emily is totally smitten with Jesse, which he appears to take advantage of. Later, we see Emily drinking with the town mayor Miles, and she tells him that she will never be with him, before bringing him to bed.
Cassidy, who agreed to act as a middle-man between the angels and Jesse, dupes them into turning over their cash, which he promptly spends on drugs and prostitutes. Joseph Gilgun, the actor who plays Cassidy capitalizes on some pretty brilliant facial expressions. An inconsistency I’ve noticed, and a minor annoyance to me, is Cassidy spending a lot of time in the sun. His ridiculous outfit with the hat is played for comic effect, but when he leaves the hotel after meeting with the angels he walks outside in broad daylight in plain clothes! I’m also curious, as its not quite clear yet, if Jesse believes Cassidy’s story about being a vampire. More on that shortly. We also learn the angels have a direct line to Heaven in their hotel room, as one urges the other not to use it.
Tulip, who had become a bit redundant in the previous two episodes, benefits this week without attempting to pursue Jesse. She’s given a new target for her anger with the death of Lacey. She’s present when Quincannon gives a hilariously brief and unsympathetic speech following Lacey’s death and interrupts a eulogy for Lacey at Toadvine’s whore house. “Monster Swamp” sets up a confrontation between Tulip and Clive (and possibly Quincannon himself in the future)! When Tulip attempts to beat Clive with an iron pipe, it turns out be Cassidy, who falls from a hotel window, badly injured, with a large shard of glass protruding from his neck. Tulip rushes Cassidy to the hospital, when he asks for a kiss from her – that big set up mentioned before. At the hospital, Tulip finds Cassidy gorging on blood packs and healed, discovering what he really is in the process.
As an avid watcher of high quality serial dramas, one of the things that stood out about “Monster Swamp” was the absolutely terrific two scenes at the end of the episode. The first takes place in Odin’s office, and the second at the Sunday service. In his plan to grow attendance at the church, Jesse hatches a plan to convert Odin, who hasn’t attended the church since Jesse’s father John was the minister there. Jesse bets Odin he will leave the service a Christian, against his father’s land, the last twenty acres of land in town that Odin doesn’t already own. Both scenes are well acted and well shot. The dialogue crackles between the two (“well, what if it’s ice”) as Jesse questions Odin about damnation and Odin plainly rebuffs him in his office. Jesse delivers a harsh sermon and singles out Odin the next day. When Odin tells Jesse he has lost the bet, Jesse uses his powers and commands Odin to “SERVE GOD.” It’s the strength of scenes like this where Preacher shines, outside of the madcap violence in the first few episodes. The last scene ends on a cliffhanger, as Heaven tries to call the angels via the direct line in their hotel room.
Some differences between the graphic novel and “Monster Swamp,” plus stray observations:
- As mentioned in previous write ups, the story line featuring Odin Quincannon is vastly different on the show versus the graphic novel. In the comics Quincannon was a late game antagonist in the town of Salvation; in the show, despite being staged as an early villain, he has some kind of an established relationship with Jesse Custer.
- In the comics, Tulip’s mother dies during childbirth, and Tulip learned to shoot guns from her father (who was killed in a gruesome hunting accident); on the television show, Tulip’s father hasn’t been mentioned, she has a drunk Uncle Walter, and her mother was a prostitute.
- Lots of backstory on TV about Jesse’s father so far, but nothing yet about his mother, and only a slight reference two episodes back about his upbringing and where he learned to fight.
- In the comics, Jesse and Tulip discover that Cassidy is a vampire when he eats someone they are fighting against; on the television show Tulip discovers Cassidy is a vampire in the hospital scene, and as mentioned above it’s unclear if Jesse believes his stories or not, so far.
- In the comics, there wasn’t a comparable central location like Toadvine’s whore house.
- In the second and third episodes, they introduced us to The Saint of Killers and Herr Starr, neither of whom made an appearance in this episode. I’m curious as to whether the angels on Earth will attempt to wake up the Saint of Killers on orders from Heaven.
- Why wasn’t Eugene/Arseface in church this Sunday?
- Still no sign of The Duke, John Wayne. I’m gonna be peeved if he isn’t a part of this story.
Season One Episode 4 “Monster Swamp” 4.5 / 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
For anyone having trouble watching the series, the first season is available on the Playstation Store.
Images via AMC.