Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy grow further and further apart. Cassidy's made Denis into a vampire, but it's probably not going to end well. Herr Starr gets more of a wonderful introduction; he and Jesse are on parallel journeys which nicely foreshadows their meeting at the end of the episode. Featherstone and Hoover remain in Preacher's sweet spot of comic relief and sociopathy.
As season two of Preacher progresses, the quality of the show hasn't dipped, but somehow the enjoyment level has. Maybe that's because part of what makes this show great is seeing Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy enjoy each other every once in a while, and lately, that kind of interaction has been in very short order. "Puzzle Piece" promises no change to that dynamic any time soon, and as such, is severely lacking in Preacher's key ingredient -- the common ground between its three main characters that grounds the entire show.
We open on a hopeless Jesse resorting to searching on YouTube for leads on God now that he's fresh out of jazz clubs and other ideas. Luckily, he doesn't remain uninspired for long -- Grail agents Featherstone and Hoover, fresh off of briefing an uninterested Herr Starr on Jesse's power, carry out an attack on Denis' apartment. Unfortunately, even six presumably highly trained Grail agents equipped with night vision, earplugs and automatic weapons aren't a match for Jesse Custer and his now two vampire friends.
After a brief, but very violent scuffle during which Cassidy is momentarily incapacitated, Jesse manages to get the noise-canceling helmet off of one of the commandos and disturbingly uses the Word to force the man to "kill [his] friends." While the move is understandable considering it's made in serious self-defense, it's hard to imagine season one Jesse or even early season two, 100 percent souled Jesse making that call. It's not the first time this episode we see Jesse do something that makes it apparent that one percent he gave away in "Pig" was more important than he thought. He's freer and more confident in using the Word now than he ever has been before. Two prime examples occur when he tricks an exhausted Tulip into hugging him then immediately puts her to sleep and then later co-opts the free will of an entire police unit for a week to serve as his own personal bodyguards.
Yes, both of these things were done with very good intentions, but we all know where good intentions lead. If you don't, just ask Eugene.
For the rest of the episode, Jesse treats Denis' apartment like a fortress, insisting they all stay there and wait for the next Grail attack -- an attack Jesse's absolutely certain will happen within 24 hours. Unfortunately, Denis killed the only Grail operative they had left to question, so Jesse's certainty is just a really, really good guess. Not good enough, though -- the Grail does attack later that night, but not in the way Jesse's expecting or preparing for.
After the initial failed attack, Featherstone and Hoover find themselves in Herr Starr's office answering for their incompetence. But just as Hoover (the always hilarious Malcolm Barrett) is about to have his brains splattered all over the floor, Featherstone manages to convince Herr Starr that normal assassination techniques will be ineffective on Custer and Co., and that the head of the Samson Unit should perhaps consider an alternative known only as Brad. Spoiler Alert: Brad = B.R.A.D. = Battle Ready Remote Operated Area Drone.
This buys the semi-dynamic duo a little more time to watch the Jesse fall full victim to his paranoia and nearly take his own team with him. Absolutely certain there's another attack eminent (just not one he could possibly predict), Jesse galvanizes his exhausted troops once more. Cassidy's ready, willing, but slightly disabled having not fully healed from the night before. Tulip's in far worse shape, still significantly rattled by her encounter with the Saint and Jesse's use of the Word on her. Jesse's sympathetic to his lover's plight, but doesn't seem to register his responsibility in it, even when Tulip accidentally shoots an innocent guy just trying to clean up the remains of the Grail officers from last night. Cassidy can tell she's in terrible shape, but she and Jesse have both shut him out so much lately and Denis is finally letting him in, that the vampire doesn't try so hard to mediate anymore.
Luckily, Jesse's single-mindedness doesn't get anyone killed that night, but that's only because Herr Starr winds up calling off the entire thing. The question of why is answered by retracing our steps and heading down Starr's path this week.
While Jesse's busy loudly wigging out, Herr Starr is on a parallel journey, though one that's far more subdued. The past two episodes have made it clear the Head of the Samson Unit is searching for something, though whether that's something beyond power or sheer amusement have remained unclear until now. After we spend an episode watching him alternatively look up prison architecture, seek sexual release (to surprising results) and indifferently peruse Jesse's file after hearing the preacher insist God is missing, a light bulb goes off in his head mid-rape fantasy (Do. Not. Ask.). He whispers with glee, "The missing puzzle piece" in reference to something his inane date said the other night, and calls off B.R.A.D.
The following week, he meets a despondent Jesse at yet another jazz club and introduces himself as someone who can help the Preacher find God. However, there's probably only one prison in the universe that concerns Herr Starr, and it happens to be one Jesse Custer is intimately acquainted with. There's going to be a quid pro quo to this relationship, that's for sure. But we're just thankful for the relationship -- because Herr Starr is the most entertaining thing about this show at the moment and Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy could really use a shot of whatever he's having.