"Dallas," the latest episode of Preacher, really felt like it was designed to test the limits of our love for Tulip and Jesse. Both of them are so miserably unlikable that, frankly, it made the viewing experience markedly unpleasant. The show gets darker during this hour than it ever has before, and the resolution does little to restore our faith in the show's anchor couple. We won't go so far as to say that it was a bad episode, but, frankly, it just wasn't very enjoyable.
"Dallas" picks up where "Viktor" left off, with Tulip desperately trying to get an enraged Jesse to let Viktor -- her apparent husband -- go. The Custer dark side we've heard so much about but rarely see takes center stage this week, and it isn't pretty. Jesse refuses to listen to Tulip, and instead drags Viktor to the torture room where poor Pat still hangs, lifeless. Tulip follows, pleading with Jesse to understand that after Dallas (the scene of Carlos' infamous double-cross and Tulip's resulting miscarriage), she'd thought they were through, and that's why she married Viktor. When Tulip's protests become too much, Jesse uses the Word to tell her to "get out," and so back to Denis' she goes, Viktor's daughter in tow.
The rest of the episode takes place partly in flashback as we watch Tulip and Jesse deteriorate after the loss of their baby. There's very little of the levity we've come to so enjoy in this show, but the lack of levity isn't what makes "Dallas" so hard to watch. It's the deep character flaws in both Tulip and Jesse that swim to the surface and can't be ignored.
The long and short of Tulip and Jesse's breakup is that after losing the baby, both agreed to go straight and give up their Bonnie and Clyde existence -- presumably putting their desire for a family before their dangerous lifestyle. Tulip clearly isn't a huge fan of this plan, but she loves Jesse and he has fallen into a serious funk, so she tries for the sake of her lover. However, Jesse has become an alcoholic couch potato who hangs out with a stoner named Reggie while Tulip works a real estate job to support him. (It's not very John Wayne of him.) What he does do is make sure he and Tulip engage in some pretty loveless lovemaking in an effort to get pregnant once more.
There's an uncomfortable montage that shows their life descend into boredom and despair, and it's reminiscent of the Hell montages we've seen with Hitler, Arseface and the Saint. It's apropos, considering this period is the couple's personal Hell. He's drowning in guilt, and he can't swim out of it. As each pregnancy test comes back negative, he loses faith in this change in lifestyle, which hasn't rewarded him with another child.
It's an emotional journey that would've inspired sympathy, but for the selfish and abusive way he treats Tulip. She enrages him after he finds out she's returned to criminal work after only three weeks of working a real estate job. Oh, and she's been taking birth control. He confronts her and she admits to being unable to live a normal life, and he basically calls her too trashy to make it work. It's gross. Eventually, seeing that Tulip cannot live the lifestyle he needs to, he decides to return to Annville and become a preacher. Tulip wishes him well and goes off on a journey that will eventually lead her to Viktor, whom she marries.
Meanwhile, at Denis', Tulip isn't any better. After putting Cassidy in a horrible position, she punches him in the face for breaking his silence. He protests that he thought she was in danger, but to no avail. She snaps that she's never been in danger from Viktor -- she just walked out on him when Dani got in touch with Carlos' whereabouts just before the start of Season 1. That means she killed Gary to avoid facing the very nice mobster she married and then abandoned with no explanation.
The MVP this week is Cassidy, who just does his best to navigate and support both of his selfish, mercurial friends. He delivers us the only genuinely funny moments this week at Denis'. Later, when he arrives at Viktor's to talk Jesse down from the ledge and hilariously admires Viktor's plush boudoir, he gets cruel insults (something about who would trust a vampire junkie -- ouch) for his trouble. It's hard to watch because the vampire and the mobster are the most well-behaved people in this mess, and they get the most punishment. Jesse does eventually see the light and lets Viktor live in exchange for divorce papers, but it's too little too late. His dark side is out in the open, and it's ugly and frightening.
No one wants to watch perfect people with no flaws, but "Dallas" almost approached character assassination in showing us the dark side of Jesse and Tulip's intensely selfish relationship. The end of the episode is particularly tragic, as Jesse's use of the Word calls the Saint to Viktor's home, where he is killed while his daughter hides in the closet. Luckily, the show has some limits, so Allie reveals she knows where the Preacher is staying before the Saint shoots her -- but not before cocking a pistol at her head, so don't think memories of his own daughter would ever stay his hand.
At the end of the day, "Dallas" is absent, and perhaps necessarily so, of the wonderful balance between horror and humor that the show usually employs so well. It's good the show has the capacity to change it up here and there, but it's just disturbing to see Tulip and Jesse treat so many people so poorly for the sake of their relationship. Here's hoping things get a little lighter next week.