SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Viktor,” the latest episode of Preacher, which as of publication has not yet aired on the west coast.
“Viktor,” the fourth episode of Preacher‘s second season hits some of its highest highs so far, but it also hits some serious lows. Or lulls, rather.
We pick right back up where we left off last week, with Tulip in the laundromat surrounded by Viktor’s men. Once she’s in “custody,” she’s taken to a large house uptown and basically spends the rest of the episode biting her nails and getting iced out by old friends. During their initial meeting, Viktor (Paul Ben-Victor) makes it very clear that whatever Tulip has done is serious, and no amount of tears, crocodile or otherwise, will fix it. After that, he’s called away and Tulip’s left to her own devices for the rest of the day. She bums around the house feeling sorry for herself and the only thing the audience learns is that everyone in Viktor’s house hates her. It’s weird and kind of boring, slow-paced in the bad way. Unfortunately, Jesse and Cassidy don’t fare much better.
Jesse remains in a state of blissful selfishness for much of the episode as he and Cassidy follow another lead on God. But said lead isn’t that much more interesting than Tulip wandering around Viktor’s house sulking. Remember Fake God from last season? Brought to life by the wonderful Mark Harelik? Turns out Fake God is a local actor named (drumroll please) Mark Harelik! Trés meta, Preacher. Unfortunately, he’s missing, but they do manage to secure a copy of his God screen test. After a stellar performance as the Almighty, Harelik is shot in the chest, sent to Heaven and put to work. The revelation of Harelik’s fate confirms that Heaven is comfortable playing a more active and manipulative role in human life than we previously thought.
This is all semi-interesting, but like Tulip’s holding pattern, it feels like marking time. Usually this is where the performances would more than make up for some narrative chill, but Jesse’s got his head in the clouds the entire time, and all Cassidy does is wring his hands over Tulip. That said, once Cassidy finally stops hemming and hawing and tells Jesse what he knows, the episode cruises beautifully until the end.
When Jesse learns Tulip’s in danger, he bullets over to Viktor’s house and starts using the Word to subdue anything and anyone in his way (despite the consequences). Unfortunately, Viktor keeps a torturer on staff, and Pat always has earbuds in. When he comes face-to-face with Jesse, the two have to battle it out the old-fashioned way. What follows is one of the best fight scenes since “Sundowner.” Jesse and Pat battle it out all over Pat’s torture chamber while “Uptown Girl” blares in Pat’s ears. Also, the entire thing is filmed in one shot. Give it another watch if you haven’t already.
Jesse survives to level-up one more time, but when he finds Viktor and Tulip, it’s not a “princess trapped by a Big Bad” situation. Viktor is Tulip’s husband. That’s revelatory enough to make us excited for next week, but not enough to make up for the trio’s snoozefest of an episode.
But we don’t want to belie the fact that this show killed it someplace else this week — we can’t wait to go back to Hell. Eugene’s arc is properly set-up this week, and it shamelessly stole the show from everyone up top with one simple choice — the redemption of Adolf Hitler. Even writing that sentence is uncomfortable, so you can imagine the experience of watching a Hitler that’s convincing in his regret and pathos. It was horribly, terrifically, disturbingly good — a.k.a. Preacher‘s sweet spot.
After we pick back up with Eugene and Adolf, other prisoners venture out of their malfunctioning cells to find out what’s going on. It’s a fascinating assortment of humanity that defies stereotypes and reinforces them at the same time. There’s Hitler, a caveman, a mousy-looking woman in cat-eye glasses, a gypsy and in some seriously lucky casting, Justin Prentice as Tyler, playing almost exactly the same terrifying bully he played in 13 Reasons Why (cue Buzzfeed Community Post trying to prove Preacher and 13 Reasons Why share a universe).
Hell-Prison has all the trappings of actual prison, including overcrowding and people of varying degrees of horrible character sharing a small space. Eugene’ll probably wind up being “guy who claims he’s innocent,” but only because it’s true. He’s still the same wonderful creature that Tracy Loach rebuffed, so when Tyler starts pushing around an old Gypsy woman who’s worried they’ll get in trouble for leaving their cells, Eugene steps in. Of course, Tyler turns on him next, and Eugene stands his ground as long as he can (because he is so, so brave — JESSE CUSTER YOU RESCUE THIS BOY RIGHT NOW). But before anything gets out of hand, Hitler steps in… and defuses the situation.
Now we know what you’re gonna say, “Uh, CBR, this is clearly one of Preacher’s patented bait-and-switch characterizations, and he’s gonna be EXTRA evil by the end of this.” And that very well may be, but it didn’t happen this week. This week, Hitler was a kind, timid and considerate friend to Eugene Root, and then he gets beaten up by everyone including Eugene (don’t worry, Eugene isn’t a terrible person all of a sudden, the warden [Amy Hill] just pointed out that Hell isn’t fond of the hope, innocence and sunshine that Eugene’s made of, so he has to pretend.). Noah Taylor’s vulnerable performance as the declawed Führer is incredibly effective. Honestly, they could spin-off Hell right the hell now and we’d eat it up with a spoon. File that under things we never thought we’d say…
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