PREACHER Review: “Holes” Digs Deep

Everybody got ‘em.

Everyone's on a low ebb in this week's Preacher. The episode title, “Holes,” can be applied to any of its four protagonists’ situations, depending on how figurative you're willing to get. But while “Holes” puts all its key players into moral spirals and dead ends, it also sets up a number of axes to fall in episodes to come.

Jesse's hole (yeah, hurr hurr; laugh it up, I work with the episode titles I'm given) is the only one directly connected to the main plot, but ends up being the least consequential. He's investigating Mark Harelik's “God” audition tape, taking the footage to the “Dork Docs” to get it enhanced. Like in the shows, you see. There might be a serial number on that gun.

Even putting aside the fact that it's straight-up impossible to create detail in an image that wasn't there before, and that even if it was possible, you wouldn't do it at your local electronics store, this whole sequence feels like treading water. Jesse learns that the gun's serial number was filed off, but the key piece of information - that the DVD in question is “property of Grail Industries” - is only revealed to us, and wouldn't even mean anything to Jesse, who hasn't yet heard the term “The Grail.” It's a sporadically amusing sequence, largely thanks to Dork Docs Burt and Arnie's assumption that Jesse's into kinky and/or illegal shit, but ultimately it just fills time, doing nothing to dig Jesse out of his hole.

It's also the first time Dominic Cooper's performance as Jesse has failed to connect. Maybe the circumstances were simply too abstract in this episode for him to genuinely emote, but his deflation at discovering there’s no face reflected in a slate on a DVD (see?) feels lifeless and uncommitted. Cooper’s been better than this.

Moving on down to Hell: Eugene’s been working out, trying to blend in with the evil bastards in his new forever-home. He and everyone else are crammed into a common room, with only some exercise equipment, a TV (showing only flames), and a Zagnuts-exclusive vending machine to entertain them. Their individual Hells are still out of order, thanks to an energy shortage caused by the presence of an interloper - someone who doesn’t belong. It’s Eugene, of course, and he knows it. So does bunkmate Adolf Hitler, the only person to recognise Eugene as the self-loathing softie he is.

Eugene’s hole - not counting the one in his face - is The Hole, where people in Hell go when they behave too nicely. In it, Eugene experiences a version of the personal Hell we saw several episodes ago, only this time Tracy rejects him because she’s snogging Jesse Custer. It’s a bit more cutting for Eugene, but it doesn’t feel really that substantially worse than his existing Hell. The scene’s blatantly there to condition Eugene into hating Jesse all the more for a probable heel turn in Season 3. But he'll first have to escape from Hell - a daunting task, and one Hitler claims he can help him with. Can Hitler really follow through on that promise? Who knows? It’s a long way to the top, but if anyone knows Hell, it’s probably Hitler.

(As a side note: shoutout to writer Mark Stegemann for putting a date rapist in Hell and having him quibble over the definition of rape even while in Hell. A++.)

The hole in Cassidy’s life (I’m reaching here) is the one left by all the loved ones he’s lost over his years as an immortal vampire. All the sad memories come flooding back to Cassidy as he watches his elderly son Denis die, begging for the vampire’s bite of immortality. This is a pretty compelling scenario, but it’s cheapened somewhat by our lack of understanding of who Denis is, outside of a vampire-story trope. Granted, Cassidy doesn’t know Denis either, and that’s part of the tragedy, but we we need to understand more what Cass was doing to cause all his regret. Joe Gilgun does great work with the material he’s given anyway, selling Cassidy's sad confusion pretty effectively. The episode leaves us with Cass singing to Denis the same song he sung to him as a baby; it’s unclear whether he’s about to leave him, kill him, or bite him. Something's gonna give - maybe next week.

Tulip’s holes are both figurative and literal: the PTSD of the Saint’s attack from two weeks ago, and the literal holes left by his bullets in Denis’ apartment building and refrigerator. Her impulse to repair the damage feels right, as does her continuing to frequent her favourite Kevlar-tourism joint the Hurt Locker. This could have been a really dull storyline, but Ruth Negga somehow imbues her performance with energy and attitude nonetheless. Even when moping, Tulip doesn’t fuck around.

The big revelation this week, of course, is that the Grail is surveilling the gang’s apartment - from just a few rooms away, no less. When Tulip enters their apartment to repair their bullet hole, Agent Featherstone manages to improvise a believable cover story on the fly, allaying any minor suspicions she might have. So the Grail continues to eat Boo Berry and surveil, posing only an indirect threat for now. Things will certainly heat up next week, though, either through Tulip’s potential girls' night out with Featherstone, or through the arrival of Herr Starr. Neither of which present a positive change for the good guys here.

An episode of dead ends? Somewhat. But there’s reason to tune in next week, for sure. How are we feeling about the story at this point, readers? With three episodes to go in the season, I’m unsure in what overall direction it’s headed, other than some kind of confrontation with Herr Starr, and likely Eugene’s escape from Hell. But that’s still pretty dang exciting compared to where Preacher was this time last year.

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