AMC’s Preacher, Season 2, Episode 13: “The End of the Road”
Finally, “The End of the Road,” and it truly is the end of the road for the second season. The season finale left me with pretty mixed feelings about how things turned out. On the one hand, a lot that happened this episode that was completely out of left field for me. My personal hubris aside, however, it’s not just that things are different than what I expected. It’s that a lot of it seems off base from what was clearly being built upon all season. The way this season resolves leaves us with a lot more questions than answers, which isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case, I think it is. Chief among those bad things is the culmination of the mounting tension between the three protagonists; the audience is essentially cheated out of that conflict. The handling of The Grail and the Eugene subplot also come off as clunky and lacking. There are some strong moments, though: the climax at the end, Cassidy’s decision on how to handle Denis, and the flashback cold open. Unfortunately, Preacher season 2 simply fizzles out, leaving us with just enough meat on the bone to get excited about next season.
The finale opens with an extended flashback sequence to a teenage Jesse (sporting his best Colonel Sanders cosplay) working as a parking assistant/pickpocket for Madame L’Angell. He spends most of his days directing visitors and fending off the law. Eventually, people show up in a pick-up truck requesting the money he’s made for the day. Jesse gives them the money and reluctantly the wallet he’d stolen from one earlier visitor. This transgression earns him swift painful retribution, which causes Jesse to get angry and kill a nearby chicken that’s been pecking at his food. Feeling bad about what he had done, he takes the chicken to Madame L’Angell who can apparently resurrect it… for a price.
Back in the present, Herr Starr is parading Jesse about to rake in some viral fame by orchestrating situations in which the use of Genesis can be filmed. However, something is off with the word and Jesse is unable to use it on the thugs Starr hired to harass the class Jesse is speaking to. Jesse starts to lament the path he’s chosen, although Starr has built up enough of a fan base for Jesse that he is able to secure a slot on Jimmy Kimmel to further the charade.
Tulip robs a convenience store and offers the spoils to a shoplifting mother, who is horrified by the act and runs out of the establishment (good on you, shoplifting mom. Not everyone can get away with doing stuff like that Tulip!) She gets back to Denis’s house and tells Cassidy to get ready to leave just as he snaps out of a daydream. The dream he’s awoken from is about acting on his desire for Tulip, even the vampiric ones, an impulse that he tries to keep subdued with crack (it’s medicinal.)
Cassidy continues to deal with an increasingly insubordinate Denis. Getting things packed up to leave New Orleans without Jesse, he notices Denis’s laptop open and decides to look at the video that’s queued up. It’s understood that what he sees is a massacre of some sort accompanied by lots of screaming, presumably blood, and probably death. Cassidy abruptly shuts the laptop knowing that, on some base level, his son is falling victim to his vampiric impulses. Denis confronts his father about a pair of Tulip’s underwear that Cassidy had found earlier. Denis refuses to put the underwear down, antagonizing his father about his weakness. Cassidy realizes that Denis is too much of a danger to Tulip and his continual presence is a negative influence on him. Cassidy decides to make the painful decision to kill Denis by pushing him outside into the sun as he screams, “Papa” (which is surprisingly heartbreaking.)
While getting things packed, Tulip notices a hidden camera on the floor and realize that The Grail has been spying on them for intel on Jesse. Tulip dismisses Cassidy’s suggestions to let Jesse know about it. Just as they get their things packed and into the car, Tulip decides she’d like to say goodbye to her friend, who unbeknownst to her is the undercover Grail agent Featherstone. When Tulip gets up to Featherstone’s room, she notices that she is packing up, too, and also notices the same sort of glue used to hang up the hidden camera she found earlier. Featherstone, realizing that she’s been made (no thanks to Hoover, though I will thank him for that hilarious “bitch” line delivery,) shoots Tulip.
Eugene and Hitler make it to the river Styx in their escape from Hell. Hitler admits that the way out is an impasse that he’s not capable of overcoming, asserting that it was only ever a mission to get Eugene back home. The figure guarding the exit bears a striking resemblance to Death itself, but turns out to be a considerably less menacing Charon the Ferryman, and agrees to let Eugene cross the water back to Earth. As the boat arrives, Hell’s warden, Ms. Mannering, shows up proclaiming that no one escapes Hell and shoots “Charie,” killing him (which again is kind of weird, the inner workings of Hell and its inhabitants could do with some fleshing out.) Hitler shows up, however, just in the nick of time and knocks Ms. Mannering out. Thankful for his help, Eugene foolishly asks Hitler to come with him back to Earth, whereupon their arrival, Hitler promptly runs off to do “Hitler things” most likely.
Getting ready to fly out to make the Jimmy Kimmel appearance, Jesse receives a text from Cassidy (on what must be the oldest cell phone he could find) saying that Tulip had been shot. In a rush to get to Tulip, Jesse speeds off in a car, but just before he leaves, Starr reveals that he has the part of Jesse’s soul that was sacrificed earlier this season to stop The Saint of Killers. He arrives at Denis’s, finding Cassidy with Tulip, who is bleeding profusely from the gunshot wound. Jesse attempts to save Tulip but, as she succumbs to the wound, Cassidy decides he has to turn her, proclaiming that it’s the only way. Jesse and Cassidy fight over the decision with Jesse eventually getting Cassidy to back down and let Tulip die. The episode ends with Cassidy, Jesse and Tulip’s corpse heading to Madame L’Angell’s.
Overall, the finale is kind of a letdown. The latter half of the season was seemingly building to this climactic moment between the main trio that, in the end, just is not there. As I noted earlier, the trio confronting their boiling tensions was a forgone conclusion in my mind, but the show writers basically kicked that can down the road to next season, I suppose. It’s a strange choice, considering that Cassidy and Tulip spent so much time in the second half of the season not doing much. Ultimately, things prove to be more strained but pretty much still spinning the same old conflict for season 3.
Although I’ve enjoyed The Grail this season, specifically Herr Starr, I’m disappointed in how their story resolves in “The End of the Road.” I was expecting more of a confrontation between Starr and Jesse, at the very least a clearer understanding of Starr’s master plan. Again, it’s not so much that my expectations were subverted. It’s that what we got was not as substantive or as interesting. So is Starr just going to prop Jesse up? And then what? It’s doubtful how he can continue to pull the levers of power all while maintaining control over this new Messiah. There’s got to be some method to his madness. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait til next season to see what that is.
I know I’ve been railing on this finale, but there are some high points to mention. We finally get to see the culmination of the Denis plot. This story is doubly good since it presents an impossible choice for Cassidy to make or possibly the easiest choice for his character to make. I think Preacher has spent an abundance of time telling us that however fun loving Cassidy appears to be, he thinks of himself as a bad person. The decision to kill Denis on its face can be seen as a difficult one for him, but one could argue it was not killing Denis that was Cassidy’s real struggle. Cassidy does not enjoy the general instincts of vampirism, so he goes out of his way to avoid succumbing to them. Saving Denis by turning him puts that life choice in peril, as we see unfold. The actual event itself is emotional and impactful as Joe Gilgun is masterful per usual. My one nit to pick is about how the sunlight affects vampires in this world. Pushing Denis outside he immediately ignites yet immediately after, Cassidy is in direct contact with the sun when he gets in the car with Tulip yet he fine. Ok, nit picked, get it together next season Preacher.
So it seems season 3 will place several antagonists squarely in the crosshairs. The ‘antagonistiest’ of them will be Jesse’s grandma, who we were introduced to this season. We also witness the confirmation of God existing on the show, apparently poised to be a force in the next season. Despite my tone here, I’m generally optimistic for next season. What I hope Preacher does is learn from what worked in season 2, and there is a lot, because there was some good stuff being built here that fell flat by the finale. You know if God himself can’t help this show next season, what else can?