Jesse Custer heads back to Angelville for the last time.
Warning: this review contains spoilers for the entire third season of Preacher.
Just a quick note to start things off. Since we’ve stopped running weekly reviews for Preacher, this article will serve as a combined take on the season finale of Preacher and the season as a whole.
Without burying the lede, Preacher’s third season is easily the strongest and most consistently enjoyable of the series to date. Both previous seasons had some fundamental hurdles they were never able to overcome. Season 1 spent far too long focusing on characters and storylines that didn’t matter in the end, almost completely wiping the slate clean so that Jesse Custer’s road trip could finally begin. Season 2, like so many seasons of so many other comic book shows, was too long and never justified its 13 episode focus on the New Orleans storyline.
With Season 3, however the series finally found that elusive sweet spot The 10-episode structure prevented the series from wearing out its welcome, while the Angelville conflict felt meaningful in a way past storylines haven’t always managed. This season built up a solid amount f momentum over the past two months, and it all paid off in a very satisfying, densely packed finale.
As dramatically rich as Jesse’s Angelville past and his relationship with Gran’ma L’Angelle is, there were also some major hurdles facing the writers this season. In the comic, Jesse’s return home is a relatively short, focused chapter of the series. At least, short enough that it’s hard to see how it might become fodder for a full-length TV season. That’s why it’s been so satisfying to see the writers expand on this material and give it plenty of room to grow over many weeks.
The key was in stripping Jesse of his Genesis power until the very end. “The Light Above’ shows how quickly and efficiently Jesse could have dealt with this problem in the beginning had he not sacrificed a piece of his soul in Season 2. This season has been steadily escalating series of problems. Jesse needs his should back, but he can’t do so without Herr Starr’s help. And Starr won’t help unless Jesse agrees to be his new messiah. But even if Jesse forges that alliance, there’s still the problem of the Allfather and Humperdoo. So it is that the situation has kept escalating and growing more bizarre week after week. This finale managed to tie together all those loose threads while still simplifying matters and bringing Jesse’s story full-circle.
There was plenty of payoff to be had in this episode. For one thing, the final battle between Jesse and Jody didn’t disappoint. This is one area where the show stuck a little closer to the source material than usual, and for good reason. It was satisfying to see Jesse finally earn some long overdue vengeance against the man who killed his father, yet there was also a tinge of sadness to the whole ordeal. There’s a sense that both Jody and TC love Jesse in their own, strange ways. And for Jody, being bludgeoned to death in a fistfight with the closest thing he ever had to a son is probably his ideal way to go.
Equally satisfying was the final confrontation between Gran’ma and Jesse. More than any other character so far, Gran’ma may have improved the most from comic to TV. In the comic, she’s just a reprehensible villain from top to bottom. In the show,her wickedness is balanced by an aura of tragedy and the knowledge that she’s just an ancient witch clinging ever more desperately to whatever life she can find. She was only able to claim the most hollow of victories in her feed with her grandson, and in the end even that was denied to her. A satisfying end to the character, though Ill be sad to see Betty Buckley end her time on the series.
I also enjoyed seeing the occasional interaction between Dominic Cooper’s older Jesse and his younger self (played by Will Kindrachuk). Earlier this season we finally got n answer to the question of whether Jesse’s “pardner” John Wayne would ever show up. It’s still not clear whether Wayne is meant to be a recurring character on the show, but these visions of his younger self are another way of tapping into his unbalanced psyche and his tendency to be haunted by his past in very literal ways.
Elsewhere, Tulip’s season-long journey reached an exciting conclusion this week as the Saint of Killers slaughtered a whole bunch of Nazis and she got have another chat with God. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how often Mark Harelick has been able to reprise that role this season, given how rarely God actually appeared in “the flesh” in the previous two seasons. That latest showdown worked well, proving that Tulip can remain cooly defiant even when faced with an offer she can’t refuse. It also set the tone for Season 4 nicely. Clearly, Jesse’s quest is beginning to strike a nerve, and you have to wonder what new roadblocks God might be tossing out next year. That’s to say nothing of the shake-up caused by the death of Satan and Hitler’s ascension as the new master of Hell.
Hopefully the writers can make the dos of this increased sense of chaos, because my one complaint with how the season resolved is that there isn’t a clear sense of where the story is headed from here. Obviously tensions between Jesse and Starr are heating up, but what does that actually mean for the status quo? And how much longer do we have to wait for the core trinity of Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy to be reunited again?
Speaking of Cassidy, it’s continually impressive how much mileage this series has gotten out of the whole Les Enfants du Sang storyline What was basically a throwaway plot in the original comic has here become something far more critical to Cassidy’s character arc. We’ve seen Cassidy come agonizingly close to finding a real soulmate after 100 years of debauchery and lonely wandering, only for that relationship to crumble as soon as it formed. Unlike the other big hero/villain showdowns in the finale, there was little satisfaction in seeing Cassidy finally triumph over Eccaarius, only a depressing look at the loneliest man in New Orleans. Needless to say, actor Joseph Gilgun has been delivering a to-ntch performance all season long, and this episode was no exception.
It was also fascinating to see Hoover’s shared story wrap up the way it did. Here’s another case where a fairly one-note character from the comic has been given more depth and complexity in the TV version. Hoover finally found a family worth belonging to in Les Enfants du Sang. Yet instead of embracing that family, he threw it all away in a pointless effort to impress Starr. And rather than reward his minion for his efforts, Starr casually murdered him. It was a fitting end for Hoover, equal parts silly and tragic.