SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers from the latest episode of AMC’s “Preacher” (and the Vertigo comic series it’s adapted from) follow.
Even in its comic-book form, “Preacher” has always owed a lot to Westerns, so it makes sense that the AMC series would get its very own standoff episode. As Odin Quincannon’s men close in on Jesse’s church, he attacks them from the steeple, putting his considerable marksmanship skills to use.
But “Preacher” is no ordinary Western, and “El Valero” becomes just as much about Jesse’s guilt as him shooting off his attackers’ penises. While holed up in the chapel, he hallucinates that he’s actually able to summon Eugene back from Hell. Writer Olivia Dufault does a sly job of stringing us along for a while, only dropping subtle hints that Eugene’s merely a figment of the holy man’s imagination and not the real deal.
That plot detail elevates “El Valero” above the typical shit-kicker gunfight, making it an important signpost in Jesse’s uncertain road to redemption. It’s the first time that Jesse seems actually worried about the power of Genesis, so much that he eventually calls upon DeBlanc and Fiore to retract it. The fact that their extraction process doesn’t work (Genesis now seems permanently bound to Jesse) makes salvation even more complicated for the protagonist.
Meanwhile, Odin’s mission to take over the church now comes from an equally potent spirituality. True to Jesse’s command, he’s now serving God, but it’s his own God — a God informed from a ski-lift tragedy that killed his entire family decades ago. As we see in a flashback, he disemboweled the corpse of his daughter alongside a cow afterwards, his religious views shifted when he found nary a soul nor energy nor anything except gore in either one. In his eyes, dead livestock is indistinguishable from a dead little girl.
As a result, Jesse’s command has driven Odin towards worshipping a “meat God,” a deity where power lies in blood, skin, and bone: things you can actually touch rather than just envision. It’s creepy sure, but you also see where the meat mogul is coming from. And that makes him realer, which of course makes him scarier.
Then again, maybe Odin’s beliefs aren’t entirely off-base. As the b-story with Tulip proves, there’s plenty of power in blood and guts. In another sick twist on “El Valero,” the bloodhound (note the breed’s name) she rescues becomes nothing more than nourishment for what we can only presume is a severely injured Cassidy. She spends most of the episode feeding the dog and playing with it, only to solemnly escort it into another room where growls, chomping noises, yelps, and spots of blood follow.
It appears “Preacher”‘s gearing up for a final showdown between these two forces of meat and mysticism. When “El Valero” ends and the lynch mob has successfully infiltrated the church (thanks to a morbid, self-harming scheme from Donny), Odin has agreed to a final sermon from Jesse, one where he’ll not only get the congregation to believe in God, but get the Almighty to appear in front of everyone and answer their questions. And if he can’t? Then Jesse will denounce God once and for all.
Which side will prevail? Odin’s gory philosophy or Jesse’s more metaphysical faith? If God shows up, something tells me He/She/It will be a mixture of the two, which will only lead to more conflict. And that’s a good thing. A great TV show (and that’s certainly what “Preacher” is shaping up to be) needs conflict.
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