Gimme Something to Watch: AMC’s Preacher (Season 1, Episode 8 “El Valero”)

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Spoiler Warning: This post will be loaded with spoilers from the Preacher comics and television show. You can catch up on write-ups for previous episodes of Preacher here, here, here, here, here and here.

Moonknight doesn’t have anything to do with the Preacher series, but he rules.

“Where the hell are your weapons?”

Preacher’s eighth episode, “El Valero” finds Jesse Custer going full Alamo against Odin Quincannon and his henchman. It unpacks more of the backstory surrounding the villainous Quincannon and his motivations, as well as answering questions about several prominent characters. It moves our “hero” closer to the light, despite a series of setbacks. “El Valero” also nails the tone of Garth Ennis’ Preacher, despite wild differences from that story, and seems to be pushing us to Ground Zero, page 1 of the graphic novel.

“El Valero” features a two part cold open. Firstly, we see a flashback to the entire Quincannon clan (minus Odin, due to his “disgusting” job) die in a freak cable car accident at the Vail mountain ski resort. Odin is shipped their corpses, and in his grief, conducts a gruesome experiment.  It reveals what a young Jesse saw in Odin’s office during “Monster Swamp” – Odin comparing a cow’s intestines to that of his deceased daughter in front of John Custer. Odin says they are the same, that it’s all just meat, that he can’t find a soul, and he demands that John go to church the following Sunday and denounce God in front of his whole congregation. It’s a stark and grisly visual: a man in utter shock and despair, holding the intestines in front of a child. It offers us a look into Odin’s psyche, to his atheism, sadism, and diabolical tendencies. It also offers a parallel between Odin and John to the present day situation with Odin and Jesse, which is part two of the same opening.

preacher-episode-107-jesse-cooper-658The present day story picks up where “He Gone” left us, Odin and his men storming a drunken Jesse’s church. Over a series of assaults, Jesse fights off all of Quincannon’s henchman. Jesse defeats the first squad, in hand-to-hand combat, sadly shown off screen. As Quincannon and his men regroup, Jesse pleads with God to return Eugene, even suggesting he will never use The Voice again. I was thrilled to see Jesse pulling Eugene from the dirt floor. Eugene looked as ghoulish as ever covered in dirt, vomiting blood, and begging for a glass of water. He described Hell as “crowded.” Preacher smartly shirked my expectations by revealing Eugene to be a figment of Jesse’s imagination, after Jesse placed a call to Sheriff Root saying Eugene had come home. It’s sad and chilling, the realization that Eugene is still going through the things his apparition is describing.

After, Jesse climbs the bell tower of his church to defend it from a much larger group, shooting at and disarming several men. One of the Meat Men hilariously and obviously exclaims “Not only can Preacher fight, he can shoot!” This week I digress from Zack Handlen who described Clive getting his dick shot off unfavorably. The reason is that, while perhaps being juvenile, a character losing his dick in a gruesome but comical fashion is the essence of Garth Ennis’ Preacher. The comic was filled with outrageous genital mutilation (Herr Starr comes to mind, lol), and it reads to me like homage to the comic rather than bad television. 

Fiore and DeBlanc return to the church, after Jesse agrees to return Genesis to them. It’s a moment (along with Quincannon’s, in a moment) that gave me the impression I was wrong during my last write up of this. The angels needed Jesse’s permission to “COME IN” after commanding them to keep away in a previous episode. The “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” lullaby is a success, but Genesis quickly returns to Jesse, keeping his original choice. The angels tell Jesse there are no tries left, and refer again to “the other option” (mother fuckin’ Saint of Killers time!) Jesse rebuffs a final night assault on the church, but Donny outsmarts Jesse and gains entry. It’s another reveal, that like Eugene, ends up being smartly twisted on viewer expectations. Donny had previously stuck his head in the trunk of his car and fired a gun. In the moment, I thought he had committed suicide, perhaps acting on previous commands from Custer’s Voice. In reality, he blew out his eardrums, deafening himself, and making himself immune to The Voice. It was a clever move, and Jesse tells Donny that he “earned it.” I thought Jesse’s surrender was a bit out of character given his stalwart defense of the church during “El Valero,” and one of the only reasons I’d dock points from this episode.

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That last reveal of the episode really threw me. In one of the final scenes, as Jesse is signing the paperwork over to Odin for possession of his church, he says to Odin, “I thought I told you to serve God.” Odin responds that he has been, devoutly serving the God of Meat, the God of what’s tangible and touchable and true. The Voice worked on Odin in ways Jesse couldn’t predict, another example of his shortsighted use of the power. Jesse created a more monstrous version of Odin than existed before, and in a 1989 Batman sense, created one of his own worst enemies. As Custer is driven away in a police car as Sheriff Root’s prisoner, townspeople crowd the car begging to be saved. We’re treated to another cut scene of the Danger Methane Meter, and Cassidy’s fate is finally revealed.

Differences between the graphic novel, speculations, and stray observations:

  • In the comics, Odin Quincannon had a kindly twin brother named Conan who came after his death, but he never had his entire family eliminated in a freak accident if I recall correctly.
  • In the comics, Genesis found Jesse and stayed with him until the end of the series; in the show Genesis was drawn out by DeBlanc’s lullaby but chose to inhabit Jesse Custer once again.
  • In the comics, Tulip was never really Team Cassidy until Jesse’s presumed death; in the show they seem to be setting an early shift in the love triangle dynamics.
  • The corruption of Mayor Miles has been a little disappointing to watch.
  • Here’s hoping Jesse does something cooler with Chekhov’s Loudspeaker next week.
  • Cassidy, while not shown onscreen, is alive and “well.” He’s gonna be pissed.

“El Valero” 4.5 / 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

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Stay tuned for the next write-up of episode 9.

For anyone having trouble watching the series, the first season is available on the Playstation Store.

Images via AMC.

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