Typically one of the craziest and most gonzo surreal series on television, AMC’s ‘Preacher’ opens its third season in an uncharacteristically restrained manner.
Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger with Tulip (Ruth Negga) gunned down and left for dead, and Jesse (Dominic Cooper) stopping Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) from saving her by turning her into a vampire. Insisting that he has a better plan, Jesse tossed Tulip’s dead body in their car and drove to his family’s plantation, called Angelville, seeking the assistance of his voodoo priestess grandmother.
The premiere picks up from this point and ignores all of the show’s other ongoing storylines. We don’t get anything about The Grail, or Herr Starr, or Eugene and Hitler. All that’s put on the backburner so Jesse can save Tulip.
First we start with a black-and-white flashback to fill us in on some of the backstory about Jesse’s family. Angelville is a thriving tourist destination as people come from all over to receive spells and incantations from the powerful Madame L’Angell. Her smiling assistant Christina (Liz McGeever) leads tours of the property and helpfully directs visitors to the gift shop.
But bad things are happening behind the scenes. An old man is held prisoner for reasons unexplained, and Christina is punished for trying to run away. She’s dragged back to the house and ordered to turn over something she’s hiding in her pocket. She refuses and instead defiantly swallows it. This enrages L’Angell, who orders her thugs to hold Christina down while she cuts open her stomach. The girl screams, and we learn that she is L’Angell’s daughter. That doesn’t stop her mother from cutting her open and pulling out a crumpled-up photo of a baby. Christina begs her to leave little Jesse alone.
Jesse and Cassidy arrive at Angelville and find the place seemingly abandoned, everything covered in years of dust and cobwebs. This is a surprise to Jesse. He calls out to his grandmother but gets no response. Cassidy is pissed and blames Jesse for not letting him save Tulip when he had the chance. Enraged, he blurts out that he and Tulip had sex. (That happened a while ago, but Jesse never knew about it.) Jesse is overcome with anger and launches himself at Cassidy.
As the two men scuffle on the floor, a figure steps out of the shadows to interrupt them. Jesse recognizes him as TC, one of his grandmother’s henchmen. A moment later, a gnarled battle-axe of a woman rolls out in a wheelchair. This is Gran’ma (Betty Buckley), and she’s not at all interested in helping Jesse save his girlfriend. The bitter old broad isn’t exactly pleased to see her grandson at all. Jesse promises that he’ll do anything, and cuts his hand with a knife to drip some blood onto a piece of paper. This, finally, pleases Gran’ma.
While Jesse works to bring her back to life, Tulip is stuck in Purgatory, depicted as a sparse, stagey theatrical set with only three walls and no roof. She sits on a couch next to a little girl playing with a pistol, and we quickly realize she’s meant to be Tulip’s younger self. Although Tulip speaks to her, the girl doesn’t acknowledge her presence. From the next room, we hear the exaggerated sounds of sexual moaning, which reminds us that her mother was a prostitute.
After a moment, the girls are joined by Tulip’s father, greeted the sounds of a sitcom laughter and applause track. (The producers of this show must be fans of Oliver Stone’s ‘Natural Born Killers’.) Wearing a stereotypical black-and-white striped prison jumpsuit, daddy Jake cheerfully announces that he just got sprung from the joint, that he’s gonna get a job and take care of the family, and that everything’s going to be better from now on. He leaves for a job interview before Tulip’s mother comes out of her room, bad-mouthing her ex.
The father returns later, trailed by the sounds of police sirens. He’s much angrier and more violent than the last time we saw him, and rants about teaching his bastard of a boss a lesson. He grabs a gun and shoots at cops from a window, little Tulip at his side. Despite knowing how this is going to play out, adult Tulip joins them and shoots as well.
Back in the World
Gran’ma sends Jesse on an errand to fetch something called “transpoil.” For this, he’ll need the assistance of a hulking thug named Jody. Jesse explains to Cassidy that they have bad blood and Jody killed his father. Nevertheless, Jody agrees to set that aside and drive Jesse to a rival priestess named Madame Boyd, operating out of a motel. Cassidy stays behind, and Gran’ma makes him eat a scorpion pepper, allegedly as part of her incantation but more likely just because she enjoys torturing him.
Because the Boyds are not inclined to help him, Jody single-handedly fights and murders his way through their armed henchmen with almost supernatural strength while Jesse waits in the truck. Jody eventually returns with the transpoil in hand and drives Jesse back to Angelville. However, before Jesse can bring it inside, Jody decides that now would be a good time for the two of them to settle their differences. He stalls Jesse by making him fight. Jesse is clearly outmatched. He gets his ass handed to him for a few minutes before Gran’ma rolls outside and orders Jody to stop wasting time.
God Spelled Backwards
In Purgatory, little Tulip sits on the couch again, her dead father on the floor behind her. Police pound on the door ordering her to come out peacefully. Adult Tulip pleads with her younger self to make the right decision this time, and young Tulip finally answers, stating that she’s just a re-enactor. Sensing that she’s being pulled out of Purgatory, Tulip begs for more time.
Tulip next finds herself on a lovely tree-lined road. She sees the man in the S&M dog costume, which Jesse identified as God, staring at her. As Tulip approaches, God tells her that she has been chosen and he needs her for something incredibly important. Before he can complete the sentence, Tulip is yanked out of the scene and revives in her body.
Jesse is grateful to his grandmother. It’s unclear just what she wants from him in return for her services, but it’s unlikely to be good.
On paper, the season premiere seems to have some pretty wacky, fun ideas, but they still feel tame compared to many of the things we saw in the show’s first two seasons. There was also never any doubt that Tulip would be brought back to life, which makes spending an hour waiting for that to happen feel like a lot of wheel-spinning.
The depiction of Purgatory is interesting, and Gran’ma could be a formidable addition to the story. Although he’s not in this episode, the opening credits now list Noah Taylor as a full cast member (rather than a guest star), which means that we’re definitely going to see a lot more of Hitler this season. All of this could be promising. Still, I can’t help feeling disappointed that the season gets off to such a slow start. That’s simply not what we watch this show for.