Developed by: Seth Rogan, Sam Catlin, Evan Goldberg
Directed by: Guillermo Navarro
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Joe Gilgun
Air Date: 3rd July
Preacher’s viewing figures have dropped to almost half of its 2.38 million pilot viewers. It’s not unusual for a show to lose viewers after the pilot, but Preacher’s numbers have slowly been plummeting and, unfortunately, it hasn’t been making an effort to stabilise them. What’s sad about this is that, despite a slow few episodes, “Sundowner” has managed to recapture some of the magic we’ve been missing since the first few episodes. It’s definitely not perfect, but it seems a little ironic that by the time Preacher has managed to finally get its act together, it’s almost the final Act of the first season, and a lot of viewers have lost interest. With season 2 already confirmed however, it’s a good sign for people who have managed to hang on this long.
The show picks up exactly as we left it and the opening that follows is perhaps one of the most enjoyable we’ve had in a while, with an uncanny act of teamwork against an angelic foe turning into a comical 4-part slapstick bit. It feels like a solid, relevant opening and, fortunately, that feeling continues throughout the episode, with character development finally shuffling forward. It might not be enough, but it’s still gratifying to see.
The whole episode makes some nice progress in all areas, with central plotlines moving forward (such as the Mayor’s predicament with the missing Green Acre businessmen) but the real treat is in character exploration here. The whole cast gets their fair share of screen time, with the central trio getting a fresh lick of paint on their tired facades. Tulip may finally be providing Ruth Negga’s considerable acting talent with some kind of sustenance. While she is still frustratingly single-minded in her devotion to Jesse, her one-note obsession wavers a little in a nice bonding scene between her and Emily. The ladies seem to fulfil something that each is missing, with Emily revealing parts of Tulip that are much softer, while Tulip finally introduces Emily into the exciting world that she’s been excluded from. It’s an inspired choice of friendship and while it sheds no light on some of Tulip’s weirder decisions as of late (her one-night fling with Cassidy, for example), it hints as to why she is who she is. With the way Preacher has been of late, even that is a victory.
On the subject of Cassidy, his love for Tulip might have sprung out of the soil a little too soon, but it’s proving useful in creating friction between him and Jesse. Nowadays they can’t have a conversation without argument; whether that be about the merits of The Big Lebowski or the hybrid danger in Jesse’s possession, and the tension is starting to show. It’s obvious that Cassidy is tired of being ignored but with the realisation of just whose Tulip he’s fallen for, the metaphorical nail may have been driven into the coffin of his friendship. That’s for later episodes to decide of course, but one can’t help but sympathise with him, especially as Jesse’s sin of inattention worsens. It’s sad to see Cassidy receive the short end of the stick again and Gilgun plays it tenderly. There’s a truly beautiful moment in which a door forms a literal divide between Cassidy and the preacher, just as an emotional rift forms between them and, as before, Cassidy is left in the dark. The direction is fantastic and it’s a moment that reminded me of what we hoped Preacher could have been as it became “proper TV”.
In fact, there are several moments like that in this episode and it’s what makes it such a bitter-sweet hour, as the audience is treated to some great scripting and performance that makes us wonder why it’s been absent for so long. For example, there’s a shining moment of very intelligent self-awareness in “Sundowner” wherein the Mayor’s dilemma coincides neatly with the problem that Jesse doesn’t know he’s suffering from. The exchange is witty and poignant in equal measures and, for all of Preacher’s faults, one would like to point to this as what the show “should” be.
“Sundowner” provides some great rises and falls. Arseface’s newly-found acceptance was obvious in its set up for a fall but Ian Colletti’s excellent performance makes for a compelling watch and a stellar cliff-hanger. The biggest rise, of course, is Jesse’s ever expanding ego and the inevitable fall is lurking somewhere in the near future (especially as the finale nears). In one scene, Jessie insists that “God doesn’t make mistakes”, to a 119 year old vampire, while a demonic hybrid power causes havoc in his life. Indeed, the irony abounds as the camera pans to what Jesse has just attached to the church roof and the figurative egotistical rise is prepped to be, literally, heralded from the church roof. It might be the biggest mistake yet, in an episode full of people making mistakes. The tension created is another example of how this episode hit the notes that the show should have been hitting for a while now.
As a singular episode, I’d like to give “Sundowner” more credit. It moves at a good pace, there are enough interesting revelations and some decent character development. I’d like to rate it higher than previous episodes on its own merit, but judging it as a part of the whole machine, it’s hard to give it too much credit. Especially when, looking back, we’re only a slither further than we were three episodes ago, with characters still playing the same old notes. It holds promise for the future, but all this may be too little, too late.
I’m giving “Sundowner” 3 crosses