TV Review: AMC’s Preacher 1×08, “El Valero”

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This week’s Preacher may be the most preacher-focused yet. I am aware Dominic Cooper has been praised by some and tolerated by others, but “El Valero” really goes out of its way to show all the different shades Cooper brings to the character of Jesse Custer. That’s not to say his take on this comic book character is any more faithful than Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead, but a case can be made that Cooper is doing some excellent work here. It certainly helps that the episode is such a strong one.

For every plot-focused moment that revolves around Jesse’s self-loathing, we also get a scene such as the one where a man gets his dick shot off (in that man’s own words). Yes, as a good reminder this TV adaptation is the brainchild of developers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, we not only get to (sorta) see Jesse beat up a bunch of guys in order to defend his church, there is also the moment where a man is thought to have been triumphant in stopping Jesse, only to find out that he’s holding his own privates.

Strangely enough, while that is the broadest moment of absurdism seen this week, it also serves a highlight of how this show has shifted for the better. Rather than being a random occurrence that gets a rise out of the viewer, we are aware of why this happened, as silly as it is, and can accept it. The end of last week’s episode set us up for this siege on the church. We also know Jesse can easily hold his own in a fight. A whole episode devoted to Jesse’s defense has some logical concepts to let playout, as well as room for some humor.

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Certainly humorous is the brief return of Eugene. Cast into hell a couple weeks ago, Jesse feels terrible and wants to bring him back, only to have a fleeting moment where he feels he succeeded. Jesse pulls Eugene out of the dirt under the floorboards and has a conversation about what hell was like. Of course, this Eugene was just a delusion, but it’s interesting to see Jesse’s version of Eugene, who is just a bit smarter and allows for decent conversation, which is basically just Jesse talking things out with himself.

The lack of a real Eugene does lead to the return of the angels. After being invited by Jesse, the duo made a deal to take Genesis in exchange for a way to really bring back Eugene. At this point in the season, it makes sense to remind us of this whole angle, but at the same time, it’s hard to think Jesse was really going to lose his ability. It means a lack of tension as a result, so even after the angles really do get Genesis out, it is of little surprise to see it force itself right back in. We’ll just have to see where this goes, as the angles essentially tease a new threat, but there’s still the matter of how they can help bring back Eugene.

As Jesse wrestles with the angels and his own demons, Odin Quinncannon is outside attempting to get the church away from Jesse. His men are basically useless, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get another fun speech delivered by Jackie Earle Haley. More interesting is the setup to this episode, which rounds out his character. We learn in flashback that Odin’s entire family was killed in a freak accident during a ski trip, leading him to freak out over their remains (in a very literal way), denouncing god to Jesse’s father in the process. It’s another scene certainly stemming from the wild side of things, but just think of how we were introduced to Odin and where we are now with him.

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The same can be said for Donny, who has gone from a violent thug in the first episode to a strangely conflicted employee with a fear and understanding of Jesse’s ability. Things looked awfully grim for Donny during the sequence in which he puts his head in a trunk and fires a gun, but it all makes sense later on. Donny gets the drop on Jesse by entering the church, deaf to everything around him (due to that gunshot) and as a result, can’t obey Jesse’s commands. This allows Donny to get the win he and his wife have wanted. Whether or not Donny has more use on this show is up in the air, but he’s damaged goods, thanks to Jesse, that was not forgotten.

By the end of this episode, Jesse signs over the church to Odin, but not before asking to have one final Sunday to deliver a sermon, one where he will call upon God to appear and denounce him in front of everyone. A bold move for sure, which will likely have some wild consequences. Of course, Jesse has been dealing with a lot of the consequences that come from the gift he’s been given. Perhaps convincing from Jesse’s ex-girlfriend and his vampire friend can help steer him down a better path.

“El Valero” is another fine episode in this back half of the season. I expected a bit more action to come from the whole siege scenario, but spending almost the whole time with Jesse was a welcome way to keep us on board with our titular character. After sending Eugene to hell, the least the show could do was make sure we still want to see how Jesse deals with his actions. Now it’s just a matter of what Preacher will do now that he’s lost his church.

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Preachin’ To The Choir:

  • This week with Tulip: While we watched the Jesse show this week, Tulip was busy purchasing a dog, spending time with it and eventually feeding it to Cassidy to help him get better. Those wacky kids.
  • Nice touch in seeing Jesse find a straw for a very thirsty Eugene.
  • Eugene’s description of Hell – “It’s not that far.”
  • “Food court! Food court!” – Clive had a lot on his mind, before getting his dick shot off.
  • “You need milk.” – I’m hoping to eventually have more to say about the Mayor.
  • Perhaps those angels were referring to the mysterious cowboy from the past…
  • The end of this episode features some kind of power plant reaching high pressure levels. Uh-oh?
  • I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it, but the Preacher panel at Comic-Con will have the cast doing a live read of next week’s penultimate episode. That should be fun.

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Aaron is a movie fanatic. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. There are too many films, TV shows, books, etc. for him to list as favorites, but he can assure that the amount of film knowledge within his noggin is ridiculous, though he is always open to learning more. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else he is up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com, and check out his podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.
  • rshewmaker

    One episode is awesome. The next is ho-hum. El Valero falls more in the second category. Cooper and Negga are both amazing, but together I’m not feeling any Emmy vibes.