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 Nine: Finish the Song – ****
Part One: Handy
This episode is all about little dilemmas. I say that, but what I actually mean is that there isn’t really a single big point of focus – possibly Cassidy regenerating, but that doesn’t take up a lot of the episode and it’s small enough to be resolved by the end. I view this episode as all of the characters setting up for the grand finale, namely the meeting with God Jesse has promised.
Our main protagonist is having a surprisingly easy time of things given the circumstances. Having escaped custody by way of Quincannon’s pen, he’s now on the lam and trying to figure out how to put his plan into motion. He steals the angels’ phone but eventually realizes that he won’t be able to work it without angel hands. Luckily there are about four of these buried under the ominous tree near the church thanks to Cassidy’s run-ins with Fiore and Deblanc earlier in the series. That problem solved, he calls up Tulip to try to make amends, and does the same to Cassidy in person, the latter having survived being burned, though not without consequences.
Cassidy’s dilemma for much of the episode is coping with being literal monster, specifically one that apparently doesn’t heal well from sunburns. Tulip has taken it upon herself to help him by rounding up animals from local pet stores and shelters and feeding him to see what sticks. During the last episode, this was explained by way of her adopting a dog, playing with it, loving it, and then locking it in a room with the hungry vampire. The continuation of that subplot in this episode is by comparison less depressing but not much less disturbing.
Tulip’s dilemma is that partway through the episode, she has to head to Albuquerque to kill Carlos and needs someone to occasionally throw small animals into Cassidy’s room, so she recruits Emily for help.
Part Two: WHAT THE FUCK, EMILY?
This episode is, in a way, the climax of Emily’s story arc. She doesn’t do much else for the plot, her role in that love triangle-tetrahedron almost entirely menial, and she only gets two more real talking moments in the series, both of which are to her children.
The last conversation she had with Jesse was back in Episode Seven, when he told her she was stupid for believing in and trusting him. That bridge burned, Miles is pressing forward to become a more prominent part of her life. However, as established, Emily is not overly fond of Miles, so when he suggests being open with her kids about their relationship, she does the rational thing and tricks him into coming over and then locks him in a room to feed him to Cassidy. As you do.
This bothered me a bit when I first watched this episode, and I’m still not entirely sure what to think of it. Miles is a bit of a sleaze and at one point pours sour milk into her kid’s cereal, but I’m not sure that’s something worth murdering someone for. Maybe the series wanted to pull the wool over the audience’s eye by having Emily feed Miles to Cassidy instead of Tulip’s deadbeat uncle as the cinematography has hinted, but I can think of two rationales specific to Emily’s character.
The first, and more likely, is that Miles is more coercive than we explicitly see. Emily clearly does not like him, and even when she deludes herself into thinking she does, or ends up in circumstances where she has to be around him, he makes her uncomfortable. The way he talks to her over the phone about staying over is more of a demand than a suggestion, and there have been other occasions where he’s tried to push himself into her life uninvited. She goes out of her way to kill him, mind you, not only lying to get him to come over to the house, but also holding the door shut when he gets to the right one, and this despite Tulip’s uncle being the easier victim. Emily wants Miles specifically dead, and she doesn’t seem especially choked up about it, either.
If not because Miles is much worse to her than he initially seems, then the only other logical explanation is that Emily is a psychopathic murderer. Although unlikely, this scenario still holds a surprising amount of water given the character’s actions in previous episodes – notably her willingness to forgive and lie for Jesse despite the severity of what she perceives to be his crimes. Her willingness to sleep with Miles with little provocation, the various times she has difficulty talking to people, or the blank, dead-fish stare she gives earlier in this episode might also be an indication that something isn’t quite right with her. A lack of sympathy toward Miles as a person might be part of it, but the bottom line is that she cares more for the guinea pigs than her boyfriend, so she decides he has to go.
Either way, the whole murder thing at least makes Emily less boring.
Part Three: NO, DON’T HARM THE GAYNGELS, YOU BASTARD!
The bookends of this episode, and the recurring dilemma of the angels, surrounds the gunslinger and Hell. The Saint of Killers’ backstory is completed with his revenge massacre of the entire tavern, presumably holding most of the town’s inhabitants at the time, and decapitation of the school children. His whole story plays out over and over again without end in Hell, where the Saint is residing before Fiore and Deblanc arrive to hire him to kill Jesse.
The angels decided back in the previous episode after capturing Genesis failed to go to Hell to find the Saint and finish the job. This is clearly not something they want to do, so much so that they entertain the idea of going back to Heaven in shame instead, only to find their phone missing. Getting to Hell is a surprisingly easy thing, involving a travel agent and a bus.
What little we see of Hell involves a person to reliving their worst memories over and over again. While the revelation of the Saint being in Hell is delightful and finally ties his story to the modern-day subplots, I’ll admit that it goes on for a long time in this episode and feels like it could have been pared down by about half. The audience has seen the Saint’s story already and it’s not especially fast-paced as it is. The rapid cutting of scenes works to demonstrate the monotony and endless repetition of the events, but I didn’t feel at any point it was necessary to see the entire thing again. I like that they got the backstory out of the way early, and spreading it out over several episodes makes it easier to handle as it converges with the main plot at the very end of the season. It builds anticipation for the next season, but the only real interaction he gets with any of the other characters is killing Deblanc when the angels hire him for the job.
It is possible that Deblanc is trapped in Hell or something of the like, but based on Fiore returning without him and no evidence to the contrary, it’s more likely that somehow the Saint’s guns can kill unkillable beings. Even before we see what damage he can really do outside of Ratwater, the show demonstrates how dangerous he is.
The show doesn’t necessarily have to follow Fiore anymore, but I’m curious to see if it does for the next season. The two of them were certainly among my favorite characters, and their prominent role in the first season was a nice addition.