Characters and Character Development: 9
Aesthetics and Style: 8
Overall Plot: 7
Audience Assumptions: Some familiarity with series (or my Preacher graphic novels reviews)
Episode Four: Monster Swamp – ****
Part One: The Fuck Is This?
Aside from Donnie, the only other significant character invented for the show is Emily. Her initial role is assistant to Jesse at the church, helping him set up services and encouraging him to make improvements. She’s established as a potential love interest to compete with Tulip in the first episode, though this subplot never gains ground, which I think is for the better. She’s distinct from most of the main characters in being religious and firmly rooted in the town’s local affairs, apparently lacking the moral baggage that weighs on the main trio. Over the course of the series, she gets several character-defining moments, the first of which arises here.
The mayor of the town, a minor character named Miles, is set up as an alternative romantic interest for her – one everyone including Miles feels she should have interest in, but whom she doesn’t seem to really like. He doesn’t do anything outright unpleasant to her, and she trusts him enough to let him babysit her children. Despite not seeming to like him much, we learn in this episode they have casual sex fairly frequently. The scene where she agrees to sleep with him unfolds like this: Jesse requests something of her (to pick up a television) that she finds questionable and inconvenient (she has three young children and doesn’t think a television is the best way to coax people to the church), but is obliged to do anyway (she likes Jesse, distinctly does not like Cassidy, and Jesse has threatened to have Cassidy pick up the television if she can’t). She calls Miles to have him watch her children while she picks up the T.V. When she arrives home, he refuses payment, but suggests she sit and have a glass of wine with him – wine he bought for this very purpose and which Emily sits down to but does not drink. They have a conversation which ends in her reasserting that she does not want to be his girlfriend, then she starts taking off her clothes and walks to the bedroom.
The tone, the progression of events, and especially Emily’s facial expressions suggest that, whether because he has suggested it or because her personality obliges she pay her social debts, she pays Miles for helping her take care of her kids by sleeping with him, which gives him leverage over her she dislikes. I honestly find Emily’s character to be a bit perplexing and inconsistent at times, but understanding her relationship with Miles, and to a lesser extent Jesse, is key to events later in the season.
Part Two: Tulip Has Anger Management Issues and Angels Don’t Understand How Money Works
Outside of learning about Emily, the focus of this episode revolves around Tulip trying to cope with Jesse abandoning her again and Cassidy convincing Deblanc and Fiore to give him drug money.
In this episode, we see Tulip’s frustration toward Jesse externalized as disgust in the way men in general treat women. A prostitute from the brothel where Tulip is staying dies during a strange paintball hunting game set up between some of the prostitutes and the Quincannon Meat & Power men. Because she died on the land of the wealthiest person in the town, what would otherwise be considered negligence worth investigating is passed off as a vaguely regrettable accident. The apathy of the main QM&P guy responsible gets to Tulip, especially coming so soon after Jesse’s apathy toward their revenge quest. A snide comment followed by the man moving on to a new prostitute riles Tulip enough for her to storm upstairs and push him out a window, accidentally embedding a shard of glass in his neck. She then realizes she’s attacked the wrong person, but luckily the person she actually assaulted is rather resilient to dying.
Cassidy, meanwhile, tries to explain what happened with the angels and the chainsaw in the last episode to Jesse. When that goes about as well as expected, he goes to the angels for more information, which they give him, and money, which they also give him for some reason. Finally with the means to get a suitable quantity of drugs and sex favors, this places Cassidy in the position to be at a brothel so he can be pushed out the window by Tulip and the two can meet in an official capacity for the first time.
This is also the start of the fucking love fishing pole plotline from the graphic novels, though to the writers’ credit, at least this time it kind of resembles a triangle and is introduced early on. I’ll talk about it more for the next episode, but one important feature of this subplot is that it results in Tulip finding out that Cassidy is a vampire, something that Jesse is still more or less oblivious about.
Part Three: Hey, That Guy Was in the Books!
Jesse’s subplot is mostly confined to the end of the episode, where he uses his power to change Quincannon into what he perceives to be a better person. Until this episode, Quincannon has been a menacing figure always framed in a dark, enigmatic way. Jesse’s father had an unpleasant history with Quincannon, but the audience doesn’t yet know what that history is. Based on previous flashbacks, it wouldn’t be out of line for him to be involved in the death of Jesse’s father. He listens to recordings of cows getting slaughtered, bulldozes people’s houses the moment they move out of them, and runs QM&P, the workers of whom have been introduced as generally unlikable.
Curiously out of place with this depiction of Quincannon is that Jesse comes by, apparently regularly, to help him work on a scale model of the Alamo, despite his father’s history with him and Quincannon’s disdain for religion. While working on the model, Jesse suggests that Quincannon come to church, and offers his land as incentive, betting that he can change Quincannon’s mind about Christianity by the end of the service. He cheats, of course, using Genesis to command Quincannon to serve God. This is just the start of his ploy to use his power to save the town by forcing people to act good according to his personal philosophy.