Jesse finally gets his answers.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
The overarching question with AMC’s Preacher is less whether Jesse Custer will ultimately find God and discover why humanity has been forsaken, and more whether he’ll like the answers he receives in the end. If “Dirty Little Secret” is any indication, the answer will be a resounding “No.” Even as Jesse’s quest received a much-needed jolt of momentum, our hero got a stark reminder that he lives in a very deranged and darkly comical universe.
One thing this series has really mastered over the past two seasons is the art of the cold open. I get a constant kick out of the disorienting approach the writers take with these opening scenes, throwing viewers in the deep end and leaving them to slowly grow accustomed to the unfamiliar surroundings and piece together the connections to the larger narrative. This week’s opening scene was especially memorable it featured such an anachronistic take on Jesus Christ. For several minutes it wasn’t even clear what time period that scene was taking place in, much less whom these characters were. I actually assumed we were seeing younger versions of Jesse’s parents at first. And once it became clear that we were seeing Jesus losing his virginity shortly before the crucifixion, the vague setting and wildly anachronistic dialogue became all the more amusing.
This flashback played nicely into one of the big themes of the series – that the forces of Heaven and Hell are both surprisingly mundane and ordinary when encountered up close. That was certainly borne out when Jesse was brought to the Grail’s hidden sanctuary and met Jesus’ 25th-great grandson, “Humperdoo.” As much as this series has altered some of the trappings of the comic book source material, Sam Catlin, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen have basically kept the Grail entirely intact. And why not? It’s pretty hard to outdo the sheer wackiness and absurdity of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s work. The series continues to do a great job of painting Herr Starr and his ilk as simultaneously imposing and vaguely pathetic.
For the most part, this episode really hinged on the dynamics between Jesse and Starr on one side and Tulip and Featherstone on the other. Both pairings are proving to be a great deal of fun. The former is a bit tricky to handle. How can Starr truly be a threat to Jesse when he, unlike the Saint of Killers, is vulnerable to the word of Genesis? How do you create a sense of danger from this pairing? The answer, it seems is that you don’t. This episode emphasized the fact that Starr sees Jesse as less an enemy than an opportunity. Starr clearly sees in Jesse a more worthy messiah than the one his organization has been tasked with safeguarding. And Jesse, as much as he might be loathe top admit it, needs the resources the Grail can bring to bear if he’s ever going to make real headway in his quest.
The result of this is an amusing pseudo-partnership forming between two men who were bitter enemies just last week. Adding extra color to that partnership is the fact that Starr seems vaguely attracted to Jesse. Starr is clearly coming to terms with his sexuality in light of last week’s misadventure. There’s a subtle little flutter of desire in Starr’s face whenever Jesse used the word on him, and that only adds to the fun of their unlikely alliance.
Back in New Orleans, we saw the Tulip/Featherstone friendship deepen this week as Tulip continues to struggle with her PTSD. Theirs is another terrific dynamic, especially with the stark contrast between Featherstone the ruthless Grail agent and Lara the meek, battered abuse survivor. Julie Ann Emory might be turning in the finest performance on the show right now. She really does come across like two completely different people. And in many ways, she’s becoming a more clear and immediate threat to our heroes than Starr himself. This week was a strong showcase for how dangerous Featherstone’s powers of manipulation can be, as she quickly and efficiently maneuvered Tulip into conflict with the absentee Jesse. And just when it seemed that Tulip was finally seeing through this pretty blatant deception, Hoover stopped by to serve as a convenient punching bag. Poor Hoover. Somehow, I doubt that’s the worst hand fate will deal him this season.
“Dirty Little Secret” ended on a suitably downbeat note. It’s clear Jesse wants to believe that his friendship with Tulip and Cassidy will be all the support he needs in this ongoing quest. But given how much things have deteriorated since he last saw them, that doesn’t seem likely. If anything, these three seem due for a huge falling-out, especially with Tulip rapidly seeing through Jesse’s lies and Cassidy losing control of his newly vampiric son. There’s a sense that things are going to get mighty dark in the final three episodes of this season, and it’s questionable whether the Jesse/Tulip/Cassidy trinity can even survive. But that’s just one more reason to stay tuned.