Synopsis of 1×5: Jesse’s actions at church make him an Annville celebrity and he exercises his new powers to change the community. Cassidy reveals his feelings for Tulip and Tulip has sex with him in an attempt to make Jesse jealous.
Much has been made of the differences in pacing between the book and TV adaptation of Preacher. In print, Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy are out of Annville after four issues, leaving a pile of bodies and an avenging force of nature after them.
The show’s taken a considerably different tact, building up Jesse’s place in the community and how he tests the limits of his powers on an unsuspecting populace. Really, one isn’t any better than the other and both attempt to accomplish vastly different goals in the early going but both demand momentum, incremental ratcheting up of tension.
“South Will Rise Again” monumentally fails at this task. It’s a repetitive, grating hour, filled to the top with characters repeating what the audience already knows, a series of go-nowhere jokes and Jesse repeatedly shaping thoughts and minds with his powers. It’s the sort of filler episode that’s mired plenty of other AMC shows, The Walking Dead chief among them, and it’s no less troublesome here.
All of the development in this episode is relegated to the cold open, and, much more importantly, the final 20 minutes, which see Quinncannon kill off the developers chomping at the bit for a piece of his power company and Tulip having sex with Cassidy in an attempt to motivate Jesse to hunt down Carlos. Neither are compelling enough to justify the time spent with the episode beforehand and only one has enough weight to really dig into.
I really want to avoid constantly comparing the two incarnations of Preacher because it’s clear that both are attempting to tell entirely different stories but the relationship between Tulip and Cassidy is one of those areas that’s undeniably important enough that it deserves comment upon. I’ve alluded to it a couple times already but the greatest strength Preacher has as a comic is that it tells readers everything they need to know about Cassidy right away.
The characters realize that he’s a killer, manipulator, and heavily-implied rapist from Preacher #5. The book all but says that Cassidy will sexually assault Tulip from the very beginning and dares its characters to take action. The tragedy intrinsic to the series is that both Jesse and Tulip think he can change. They think, to some degree and to varying levels throughout the series, that Cassidy is a decent person and only find themselves wrong by series’ end.
The attraction that leads to Cassidy’s crimes in the comic is entirely unrequited, unrequested, and one-sided. A drunk Cassidy attempts to have sex with Tulip, who rejects him based on her relationship with Jesse. In the show, that relationship is significantly more complicated. Now, Tulip’s fully manipulating Cassidy for her own ends, attempting to use Cassidy’s feelings to motivate Jesse into action.
It’s too early to tell exactly where the show wants to go with this relationship and how much it will define the series going forward but it’s hard to see this change as a net-positive. At best, it establishes Tulip’s agency, her devotion to Jesse, and her ability to use her charms to her advantage. At worse, it could prove to undo how unapologetically villainous Cassidy’s actions are by the end of Preacher by giving Tulip a more active role in what the vampire does.
It’s all awfully hard to judge at this point but it’s not a change I’m particularly happy with. One of the greatest strengths of Preacher, both as a comic and a show, is the simplicity of its relationships and characters against a background of apocalyptic western imagery.
It’s, first and foremost, a story about loyalty, friendship, love, and betrayal and the more that’s added to cloud those themes, the less cohesive the whole of the series feels. There’s surely a way to make this story still work but it’s not a particularly compelling decision from a show that’s made plenty of exciting adjustments to the source material already.