PREACHER Review: “End Of The Road” And The Season That Was

Are any of these characters good people?

Cassidy’s large adult vampire son Denis poses a question midway through Preacher’s season two finale. “Can you be good?” he asks. In that moment, Denis is referring to his father’s capacity for violence, and specifically the sexual, vampiric desire he has for BFF Tulip and her tasty tasty blood. That question - whether or not the show’s characters are fundamentally capable of good - has been knocking around Preacher all season long, and generally the answer has been "Ehhhh?".

“End of the Road” pulls the rip cord on a number of narrative throughlines, as all finales do, but it also brings its characters to a confrontation that forces them to answer that central question.

Jesse Custer needs to face that question more than anyone - not that he'd ever realise it, of course. Having become an unwitting pawn (or possibly witting; the script and Dominic Cooper’s performance are unclear on this point) in the Grail’s designs for world domination, he’s told what he’s doing is for the greater good, but never bothers to ask what exactly that good is. He doesn’t question the staged terror attack he wards off until after the fact, and Herr Starr’s admission that he organised it all doesn’t appear to change his opinion one way or the other. Not that, nor the unwanted adulation of the public, have any effect on Jesse. It’s only when his estranged friends reach out to him that he changes his priorities - or realises what they always were anyway.

Cassidy’s grapple with good and evil is inherent in his identity: he’s a vampire, and he’s into Tulip. Like Jesse, he’s a danger to those around him; unlike Jesse, he’s at least somewhat self-aware. Not quite the Cassidy from the books, then; this Cassidy predominantly engages in crack-fuelled, self-loathing daydreams about his worst instincts, rather than acting on them. His solution to his quandary - killing Denis, who he sees as the sole bad influence in his life - may not be wholly unexpected, but it’s certainly shocking in execution: pushing him out the window to burn, horribly, to death in the sunlight can't be a pleasant thing to do to one's progeny.

Tulip’s moral struggle is more clear-cut. After finally, finally discovering the Grail surveillance camera that’s been out in the open nearly all season, and briefly contending with the notion of having masturbated on camera, Tulip at last puts the puzzle pieces together regarding her neighbours. Farewelling “Jenny” reveals a soul-extraction manual and a glued-up screwdriver (hey, the show was never subtle), and the Grail spies' jig is up. Hoover’s half-hearted attempt to keep up the charade is adorably lame, but it’s not enough to prevent Tulip and Featherstone’s screwdriver-pistol standoff from turning violent. And pistol, unsurprisingly, beats screwdriver.

Perhaps the unlikeliest subject of the question “can you be good?” is none other than Adolf Hitler, and the answer...won’t surprise anyone. Though helping Eugene escape from Hell (via an amusingly down-to-earth cloaked figure named Sherry) might have seemed like a desperate attempt to finally do something good, upon escape, the first thing he does is bolt for the horizon, leaving Eugene all on his lonesome. It’s heartening that the writers acknowledge Hitler as essentially evil (even the character does!). His unsurprising heel turn, after a season’s worth of fake redemptive arc, is heartbreaking not for Hitler (fuck that guy) but for Eugene, who’s been taken on a ride by one of history’s worst monsters. Everyone knows you can't trust Hitler.

The finale’s climax sees Cassidy and Jesse fighting over the bleeding-out Tulip, and frankly, the drama’s just not that compelling when Jesse wants to just let her die. After all: in this show, death ain’t permanent. Heck, even Hell isn’t an eternity.

In the final moments of the episode, Jesse takes Cassidy and Tulip’s corpse back to his old family home, the L’Angell plantation-cum-occult-museum, for what promises to be an emotionally and supernaturally fraught third season. Looking ahead, the roadmap is almost as clear as this season’s. Tulip will certainly be brought back to life by Madame L’Angell. Hitler will wreak havoc above ground, while Hell’s minions, off God's leash so to speak, try to hunt him down. Herr Starr will lord his possession of Jesse’s soul over with bored delight. The vampire cult “Les Enfants du Sang” is too dangly a thread to leave untugged. And God will be watching, always watching, from inside his hotel room and dog costume.

So how was that season? Much of it was painfully obvious and protracted, with characters acting stupidly for the purposes of plotting, and storylines dragging out to the very end of the finale. Though it never reached the molasses-like pace of Season One, too many episodes were content to spin their wheels, the (great!) characters refusing to take action. But the season also gave us plenty of weird shit to chew on. We saw an angel as a casino magician; soul transfusions being performed in the back of trucks; a truly brutal fight scene in a torture chamber; some amusing and/or seedy elements of the show’s version of New Orleans; God's audition tape; Hell's maintenance area; inbred Jesus; and one of the best villain introductions in recent memory for Herr Starr. If the show can keep reaching for those tangible high points, and get a little more ambitious with its characters and storytelling, Season 3 might be able to finally fulfill the Preacher promise.