Gimme Something to Watch: AMC’s Preacher (Season 1, Episode 9 “Finish The Song”)
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, here, and here.
Psalm Zero doesn’t have anything to do with the Preacher series, but Stranger to Violence is one of the very best records to drop in 2016.
“I love my horse. I love my wife. And I love my little girl”.
“Finish The Song.” holds to a tried and true tradition of comics, the origin story. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and became Spider-Man. Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered in front of him, and he became the Batman. Al Simmons was murdered on assignment by his corrupt government, sold his soul to the Malebolgia, and became Spawn. The film Unbreakable (referenced in a previous Preacher article) broke down comic book archetypes (such as superhero weaknesses) while telling the origin story of its David Dunn and Elijah Price. As Hollywood continues to churn out superhero franchises one after another, the same origin stories are told again and again. Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan, and Zack Snyder have all tackled Batman’s origin in their films. Why? It helps us to understand where our superheroes come from and their present motivations, and more importantly it helps us to understand that many of them were once like us. Sometimes villains have origins of their own. 1989’s Batman (referenced last week!) also showed us how Jack Napier became The Joker, because of Batman. The latest episode of Preacher unpacks the rest of The Cowboy’s origin story – how the Butcher of Gettysburg became The Saint of Killers. It’s one Hell of an origin.
“Finish The Song.” (that punctuation is in the title) stands out among the first season of Preacher for having the most straight up horror elements of the season so far. It also continues to show us the relationship dynamics between men of God and other powerful men, seen previously between John Custer and Odin Quincannon, and again between Jesse Custer and Quincannon. The episode’s cold open shows us the aftermath of corrupt preacher Macready’s foolish decision to gun down The Cowboy’s horse. The Cowboy returns to Ratwater, and in a Se7en “what’s in the box?!” moment dumps the heads of several children from a bundle in the town’s American flag. After that, no one is spared. Not even the Chinese singer. The massacre shines both in macabre atmosphere and for its violent spectacle. Preacher‘s first season has been uneven, and some would argue a bit slow moving, but it’s been ace for each and every one of its action sequences.
The horror continues: two acts of mercy are executed in an unforgiving fashion. We see what disarticulation meant from earlier in the season. The Seraphim had her arms and legs amputated by Fiore, and the injuries treated, so she could be kept alive in a tub covered in ice. After DeBlanc and Fiore check out of their hotel, it’s Sheriff Root (who lost Jesse as a prisoner earlier in the episode) who gets the call. The Seraphim begs for Root to kill her, and after a moment’s consideration, he does. If you haven’t seen Deadwood, shame on you. W. Earl Brown (“Deadwood Dan”) nails the horrifying look of his mercy “kill,” as the Seraphim reinvigorates and slips away unnoticed.
The fate we suspected of Cassidy is just as we thought. He survived his trip into the daylight (and as we learn later, Jesse put him out with the fire extinguisher). Emily takes second shift from Tulip, who leaves on her own to murder Carlos, exclaiming she is through with Jesse Custer. It’s Emily who makes the most shocking decision of the episode, if only for being the most unexpected. I remarked last week about being disappointed with the corruption of Mayor Miles, but it made sense when Emily set up the mayor to be devoured by Cass. It was another moment straight out of a horror film: Emily calls Miles for help, gets him over to Uncle Walter’s place, appears behind him and locks him in a room with a starving vampire. The camera stays on Emily as Miles is killed. I had thought Emily was one of the better-equipped-morally characters on the show, and despite her trickery being an act of mercy for Cass, it was a huge surprise for me nonetheless. I wonder if Emily found out about last week’s spoiled milk.
Tulip gets little screen time this week, again, but we get some closure on the Carlos this week. After telling Emily she could have Jesse, Tulip tracks down Carlos. We hear Jesse’s voicemail/apology (“until the end of the world”) while Tulip listens, and the reveal is that she is staring at Carlos the whole time. Pan out to the classic TV/film table of sharp objects, Tulip’s approach with a meat tenderizer, and cut. It’s been said a million times by better writers than me, but often what’s imagined is much scarier than what’s shown. I’m sure I’m not alone in being happy the Carlos subplot is over, as it never seemed to have much to do with this story.
During the episode’s climax, for a moment, I thought my TV was broken. “Finish The Song.” shows us The Cowboy’s story from the beginning, and then shows it again and again, down to every bloody detail. It’s The Cowboy’s own personal Hell. He’s forced to relive the tragic events surrounding his family’s demise and the massacre at Ratwater. As we’ve speculated for weeks, he is Fiore and DeBlanc’s “other option.” He is stopped at the bar by the pair, and shoots DeBlanc in the face when DeBlanc insists he comes along without any information. Fiore, scared shitless, tells him their job for him is to kill a preacher.
So. Sheriff Root is after an escaped Jesse Custer. Jesse and Cassidy have reunited as mates, and Cassidy figures out a way to use the direct phone to Heaven. Carlos is out of the way. Miles is dead. Quincannon is eagerly anticipating Jesse’s denouncement of God. The Seraphim is back on the hunt for Fiore and DeBlanc. As penultimate episodes go, “Finish The Song.” does a fantastic job setting up Preacher’s season finale – it’s also been one of my favorite episodes this season.
Differences between the graphic novel, speculations, and stray observations:
- In the comics, a third angel wakes up The Saint of Killers from his grave in Ratwater and is killed; in the TV show, Fiore and DeBlanc traveled to TSOK’s Hell and DeBlanc is the one who takes a bullet for it. I wonder, and I’m hoping, that DeBlanc can survive a bullet from TSOK.
- “The big one, in back with me, for twenty minutes.” “If that’s what it takes.”
- I’m not sure if Fiore and DeBlanc are presumed to be in a romantic relationship, or just the best of friends.
- It was awesome to see Cassidy show Jesse where the corpses were buried, after Jesse blew him off in “Monster Swamp.” Did anyone think those two wouldn’t make amends quickly?
- That damn loudspeaker better still be on the church.
“Finish The Song.” 5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell!
Stay tuned for the next write-up of episode 10, the season finale!
For anyone having trouble watching the series, the first season is available on the Playstation Store.
Images via AMC and Garth Ennis’ Preacher graphic novel.