When’s the last time the second episode of a TV show cut backward 135 years to the Old West? That’s where we begin with Preacher episode 2. A man on the frontier; his child, sick; his wife, offering him firm directions, set off on a journey, save their child. This mystery man — he looks a bit like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, a little bit like Jonah Hex — sets off into the wasteland. He stops for a night, to eat with some settlers. The patriarch of the family is a godly man; he has a wonderful vision of this American frontier, the stars, the birds, the elk. “Do you agree,” the man asks our cowboy friend, “That this is paradise?”
The mystery man turns toward his host: “It ain’t.” The next day, he rides past a hanging tree, dead Native Americans hanging scalped from the branches. He rides his horse straight into Ratwater; it sounds like a nice place.
That’s the last we see of the mystery man — for now. (Anyone who has read the Preacher comic book knows that we will see him again — and it won’t be pretty.)
In the present day, Preacher Jesse Custer is doing the work of a godly man. He baptizes people, young and old, women and men. “Do you admit you’re a sinner, and in need of a savior?” One of his baptizees is poor Eugene Root, who runs into Jesse’s new pal Cassidy. (Cassidy’s been drinking the communion wine; you have to drink something in a town like this.) Seems that Eugene tried to kill himself, which explains his current facial predicament.
Suicide isn’t the worst thing on the minds of Jesse’s practitioners. A local bus driver confesses to Jesse that those old urges are returning: He’s been having not-so-nice thoughts about one of the young schoolgirls who rides on his bus. Jesse has an idea about what he’d like to do to the bus driver — but that wouldn’t be nice, either. And Jesse has bigger problems. Like this Cassidy fellow. Who is he, exactly? “I’m a 119-year-old vampire from Dubin City,” Cassidy explains, “Currently on the run from a group of vampire-hunting religious vigilantes.” Surely he’s joking, though: Cassidy also says that he thinks The Big Lebowski is overrated, which any person can clearly see is a ludicrous thing to say.
Maybe Cassidy’s full of it; but Jesse needs somebody to drink with. They tie one on that night, and Jesse has a bit too much, falling over unconscious on the floor. Cassidy absconds with his wallet and his car — and doesn’t see the mysterious men with English accents who walk into the church. They sing a little song, attempting to draw something out of Jesse. They sing a song about Wynken, Blynken, and Nod – the words from a poem by Eugene Field, the subject matter about young children who sail among the stars. (We might remember where we first saw the strange force possessing Jesse: sailing among the stars out by Neptune.)
Whatever they’re trying, it fails. That’s when the tall man pulls out the chainsaw; and that’s when Cassidy returns; and that’s when all heck breaks loose. Cassidy battles the men, blood pouring out of all their bodies by the end. Cassidy is triumphant – although the sight of a chopped-off arm still holding a chainsaw isn’t something you can get out of your head quickly.
NEXT: Dead and buried, they return