Synopsis of 1×6: Jesse plans to spread his message while rejecting the angels’ desire to retake Genesis. Cassidy finds out about Tulip and Jesse’s relationship. Eugene questions his new status in town and looks to Jesse for answers.
One of the biggest issues the televised adaptation of Preacher has had is a severe lack of authorial voice. It’s been a show marked by compromise, sanding off the controversial issues that made the original comic so incendiary and often replacing them with less than thoughtful problems of its own. It’s also grounded its grand story in the mundane, following its characters as they do little more than live their lives around big moments that just don’t seem to actually show themselves.
“Sundowner” begins to play with the bigger, pulpier imagery that made Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s series work so well. The episode opens with a hotel room brawl that’s equal parts gritty fistfight and over-the-top supernatural slapstick. The final moments of the episode also see a supernatural tonal shift that suits the series well. What rests between those moments, however, is still Preacher at its dramatic nadir, a plodding character piece with a poorly sketched out central trio.
The episode mostly sees Jesse confirm his devotion to using Genesis in order to save Annville while Eugene questions whether Jesse’s gift is just that. Eugene’s struggle here is interesting, albeit not unexpected. Preacher has devoted an awful lot of its run time so far to the intersection between free-will and personal agency and Eugene being forced to question whether he’s earned forgiveness is just another appearance of the common theme.
It’s still well done and Tom Brooks plays the situation extraordinarily well. Eugene being brought into the tunnel by his newfound friends, questioning whether this is a trick or a moment of true question is well telegraphed and suspenseful, with the first firework’s explosion a suitable release for viewers and characters alike.
Less well played are the scenes with Tulip and Emily. It feels like the show’s increasingly lost track of just who Tulip is supposed to be and what exactly it is that she wants and that continues here. She’s shouting that Jesse is her boyfriend and breaking things before setting into a role as a squirrely gal pal for the church organist.
It’s not so much that this is an unbelievable sequence of events, but it feels rote and a little out of character for both women. Focusing all of Tulip’s actions around Jesse feels as if its weakening her character, especially when we still haven’t spent al that much time with her to begin with. Cassidy suffers a similar problem, although the scene where he and Jesse share beers over a laundry session remedies this somewhat.
The biggest moments of “Sundowner” start to address the lack of fireworks in what should be an action-packed series, but character continues to be the biggest problem with the series. It’s a show that desperately needs to let Cassidy and Tulip have their own stories unconnected to Jesse’s before they’re more tightly bound to his mission.