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 Two: Mumbai Sky Tower – *****
Part One: Non-Lethal Suicide as a Coping Mechanism…?
After a bloody run-in with the Saint of Killers, the golden trio head to the Mumbai Sky Tower casino on the basis that they saw Fiore, the surviving member of the gay angel duo from the first season, advertised as part of a performing act. The show then reveals what happened to him after returning from Hell and it’s… “interesting” is the main word I’m finding. Essentially, his long-time partner and friend, Deblanc, has died – something angels weren’t even supposed to be able to do – and now he’s severely depressed. He has no prospects, no drive, and nothing left to live for, so he tries to kill himself. One can imagine, given the series’ lore on angels, that this does not go as planned.
Depression and especially suicide are serious topics and the general rule of thumb is to treat them delicately. However, the failed attempts at suicide here are played for a strange combination of dark humor and genuine sympathy for the character’s plight. I imagine some might find this part of the episode distasteful, but within the context of the series, the suicides are clearly inconsequential, and thus lack the stakes of what suicide would mean to a human character. Fiore can’t die; he knows this, the audience knows this, and his repeated attempts to kill himself end in him dying and then coming back to life, leaving him in a Groundhog Day-like scenario without an end. As he realizes this, he tries to find short-term ways to cope with his grief – he tries gambling, he has sex with a prostitute, and eventually he finds something that seems to stick: he dies, over and over again, on stage with adoring fans.
I’m not entirely sure what sort of message this sends, but I think, in a very weird way befitting this series, it’s kind of uplifting. By the end of the backstory montage, Fiore is not killing himself because he’s driven by depression, but rather he accepts that he can’t die, and uses this ability to become successful, famous, and to give himself a new purpose in life.
We learn it isn’t a perfect existence when Jesse and Cassidy go to speak with him after one of his shows. While the adoration of fans initially gave him something uplifting, it’s still only a temporary fix, and fame comes with side effects. Fiore has become entitled, bitter, and world-weary, enjoying the prestige and admiration his performances bestow upon him, while despising the minutiae that comes with it.
He’s not especially stoked to see Jesse, who was largely responsible for them going to Hell in the first place, and therefore also getting Deblanc killed. We learn that he was completely oblivious to God’s disappearance, but at this point he doesn’t really care. He’s lost his faith in humanity and interest in doing anything to please other people, instead turning to small superficial things that make him feel good in what he believes to be an otherwise grim, desolate world.
Guess who also likes superficial things that make him feel good?
Part Two: Gay-Angel-Vampire-Best-Friend-Drug-Trip-Bathtub-Party-Sexy-Funtime
After they learn important information about the Saint of Killers – namely that he’s trying to kill Jesse and keeps finding them when Jesse uses Genesis – the main characters try to get Fiore to call him off. Jesse proposes a plan that seems like it might work: he intends to use Genesis to force Fiore to tell the Saint to stop trying to kill them, attracting the Saint to the casino so that he can do so. However, fearing a bloodbath like the one that sent them running to the casino in the first place, Cassidy asks to “have a go at him,” explaining that he has skills he thinks could help change the angel’s mind.
Now, as of this episode, Cassidy has shown competency in about five areas: he’s good at killing people, he’s good at not dying, he’s good at watching television, he’s good at being kind of a shitty friend, and he’s good at obtaining drugs and/or sex favors. Which of these skills he intends to use, and how, is anyone’s guess, especially when we see him later in the episode with a blowtorch and welder’s helmet in front of a bunch of chemistry equipment, having broken into Fiore’s hotel suite to set things up. As it turns out, those “skills” he mentioned are mostly a combination of the latter two, the chemistry set being used to prepare mineral water in some sort of heroin/cocaine/? cocktail. This is not only something he’s done before (despite evidence to the contrary when he accidentally overdoses Fiore), but something he’s done frequently enough to have the process down to, specifically, two hours and forty-five minutes.
What follows is by far and away the best damn scene in the entire series.
The cinematography is spectacular, showing Fiore and Cassidy high and very much impaired by way of blurred background motion, echoing sound effects, and sporadic motion by the characters, both of whom are doing things like throwing a Frisbee across the suite, playing basketball, building a pillow fort, and dancing together in a hot tub – and then of course talking about baby foreskins while eating ice cream. It’s beautiful to see these two interacting while on a drug trip, especially Fiore who has clearly never done anything like this before. But while the scene is mostly comedic, it also provides some insight into both of the characters.
Fiore comes out about his relationship with Deblanc and starts talking less cynically than before, even after the drugs seem to have worn off. By the end of the two hours and forty-five minutes, we see that, while the endeavor has apparently been a ridiculous Frisbee-throwing, hot tub dancing, super friendship drug trip that probably ends in them having sex, Cassidy has been calculating every move all throughout. Well, maybe not every move, given that isn’t really within his character, but he is keeping track of the time and goes back to make sure they’re both sufficiently drugged up, and seems to be trying to get specific information out of him concerning Deblanc. All of this is so that he can, in a short span of time, get Fiore to drop his defenses, make the angel view him in a positive light, become close friends with him, and then seduce him, resulting in Fiore being willing to do favors for Cassidy that he wouldn’t have even considered hours before. This is pretty devious when viewed in that light, and quite possibly foreshadowing events to come.
One thing Cassidy’s character has always been in this series, and something key to the character in the graphic novels as well, is that people like him. He’s incompetent and ridiculous and does horrible things, but the character is so much fun that you don’t really notice his faults for what they are until you’re too far invested in his well-being. This is true of the audience as well as other characters in the series, and while what he does with Fiore seems more intentional, it’s essentially the same sort of thing he pulls on Jesse and Tulip in the first season. After one night of insulting Jesse and his town, kicking a chair partway across a room, and having a brief conversation in prison about how he doesn’t believe in God, he convinces Jesse to let him live in his house indefinitely, for free. After pretending to be dying, tricking Tulip into kissing him, confessing to being a vampire, and insulting her boyfriend, he convinces Tulip to have sex with him. Cassidy is good at getting what he wants, and this scene shows that he is well aware of that.
Obviously, it’s also the gayest thing in either the books or the show so far, therefore making it the best thing and the strongest support for the Jesse-Cassidy OTP.
Part Three: Death by Marriage Pager
The events in this episode drive the plot even further from the trajectory of the books by way of the hotel, but also by way of an unexpected marriage subplot. After being together in earnest for about three days, Jesse proposes to Tulip, which comes out of nowhere and catches both of them off-guard. Initially this is just an arbitrary move that Jesse makes to try to reaffirm their relationship after having been through so much and reached a point close to where they were when they broke apart in Jesse’s mind. At least one of them has proclaimed marriage to be a stupid thing in the past, and that neither of them seems to clearly remember who said that is some indication of how frivolous the act is. They go for it anyway.
However, the episode throws another twist when some guy named Gary shows up and frightens Tulip into cancelling the impromptu wedding (after she beats him to death with a heart-shaped marriage pager, unbeknownst to Jesse). This opens up the Viktor subplot, Viktor being a contact Tulip had either in the interim between her and Jesse splitting apart and her going to find him about enacting revenge on Carlos, or before she and Jesse met up as adults. Little is clear about Viktor at this point, but Tulip evidently knows Gary well, and their interaction doesn’t seem to be wholly antagonistic either, at least not to the point of lethality until he tries to get her to talk to Viktor.
She’s afraid of Viktor, or something she knows Viktor will do to her, and being out of touch with him has put her on bad footing. From the sound of it, Viktor is a gangster or crime boss with influence centered in New Orleans, and presumably someone Tulip worked for at some point. She insists on keeping her beef with him a secret from Jesse, even when the latter decides they should head to New Orleans in search of God. The episode ends with her gritting her teeth and letting Jesse drag them along on his quest, and Fiore speaking with the Saint of Killers.
Concerning the last moments of the episode, I think there are a couple of interpretations for what Fiore does. Jesse gives him what he believes to be an arbitrary, good-natured command via Genesis, to “find peace.” Either through his interactions with Jesse and Cassidy bringing back bad memories, or through the drugs wear off and his new BFF leave for Louisiana, one might see him going back on his deal to stop the Saint as a resurgence of his depression. Jesse’s command could also be somewhat to blame; in telling Fiore to “find peace,” he’s prompted the angel to analyze his situation (that even with his performances he’s still unhappy, that the one thing that brought him long-term happiness is not coming back, and that the thing that recently brought him short-term happiness is also not sticking around), and find a way to stop him being upset (i.e., the one thing that can actually kill him is now conveniently here). Cassidy also might just not be as good at what he does than he thinks, meaning Fiore could have changed his mind after the drugs wore off or that his mind was never really changed in the first place when he agreed to call off the Saint. His choice may be the result of many of these, but it ultimate has the consequence of the Saint of Killers remaining on the protagonists’ trail and, at Fiore’s request, killing him permanently.