Jesse hides from the cops, Cassidy gets hangry, the angels head south, and Emily shocks us all
Credit: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC
S1 E9
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Preacher gave us an amazing Breaking Bad Easter egg this week in an episode in which most of the character do, in fact, break bad. Appropriately, at least 50 percent of “Finish the Song” seems to take place in blood-spattered rooms.

We open in 1881, where our not-so-friendly cowboy’s had a bad couple of days. Having arrived home too late to save his wife and daughter, he straps on his guns and heads back to Ratwater. At the saloon, the preacher who knows him as the killer of 77 men at Gettysburg welcomes him in from the storm — as long as the cowboy professes his love for the Lord.

He will not. “I love my horse, I love my wife, and I love my little girl. And as for Jesus, he can join us all in hell.” When he entered the saloon, he interrupted a singer performing, and he now instructs the terrified man to “finish the song.” Then he exacts some old timey justice.

Did I say justice? That’s the wrong word. He actually murders every last soul in that saloon: patrons, prostitutes, piano player, and all. The scene is shot in what I’m starting to think is the typical Preacher style: Ultra-violence that’s only hinted at. We don’t see the actual killin’, for the most part, but we do hear the mayhem and see the bodies start to pile up.

The last man standing is the saloon’s singer, and even he isn’t spared when the cowboy suddenly and viciously separates his head from his shoulders.

Now the only living person in the saloon, the cowboy calmly pours himself a drink as the wind shakes the bar, knocking over bottles and rattling windows.

And then we’re in the present, where Jesse’s in the back of Sheriff Root’s cruiser, having just confessed to sending Eugene to hell. Root thinks Jesse’s being poetical-like and tells him that child killers don’t find penitentiary easy: “Preacher, you gonna wish you was in hell.” (Hmm. That’s shaping up to be a theme tonight.)

Jesse has other plans, though. He apologizes and dives out of the police car, promising Root he’ll see him in church on Sunday. Root and I are both curious how Jesse got out of the back of a police car, and a quick investigation reveals a battered silver pen. (And not just any pen, but it looks quite a bit like the one a young Jesse eyed at Quincannon Meat & Power while his dad was counseling a grieving Odin in episode 4.) I’ve got no idea how a pen can jimmy a police car door, but Jesse apparently does. You know, part of me wishes we could see bad boy Jesse in more flashbacks, but the surprising bits of criminality that surface certainly do tell their own story.

Anyway, Jesse’s not the only one on the move this week. DeBlanc and Fiore enter a travel agency and ask to travel south. Really far south. When the agent realizes they’re unregistered angels, she forges some paperwork, asking for their occupations in case any of hell’s denizens ask. DeBlanc and Fiore provide them in unison: “Serial killer.” “Architect.”

This show. I swear. It kills me every week with its dry humor and specific little details, like the travel agent throwing a cover over her bird’s cage before planning a vacation to hell. Why? Who knows! But I love it.

The ticket printout shows that a trip to hell costs $348.50, in case you were wondering, and DeBlanc shuts down the agent’s attempts to get Fiore to pay for them in sexual favors. In the end, she hands over their tickets and tells them where to meet their shuttle.

Okay, remember that story line I swore we’d never talk about again? It’s gotten worse, and Tulip cannot deal anymore. She calls Emily to her uncle’s house and tells her that Cassidy’s having trouble healing and, oh yeah, he’s a vampire. The living room’s full of cages, some full and some empty.

Tulip’s care and feeding instructions: “Just open the door a crack and throw in a hamster or chicken or something. Done. Here’s some cash if you need more critters. Don’t go to Pet Express because they’re on to me.”

Furthermore, Tulip says Emily can have Jesse, because Tulip’s done. Emily declines. She’s dating Mayor Miles. You know: ginger goatee, khaki pants, been chasing her forever?

“He sounds … cool,” Tulip lies, then leaves to kill a man in Albuquerque.

NEXT: Emily’s serious about her breakups

So there’s Emily, creeping toward Cassidy’s room when Miles calls to bully his way into staying overnight at her place. She agrees just to get him off the phone. Oh, Khaki Miles, she’s just not that into you.

Cass’ door is now secured with an industrial-sized bolt, and behind it is a badly burned, feral vamp. Emily’s horrified, and the guinea pig she drops in doesn’t seem to take the edge off.

In the Sundowner Motel, the Adelphi are packing up in their still-trashed hotel room (apparently they’ve kept the “do not disturb sign up”?) and debating whether to follow through on the plan to go to hell, or if it would be better to go to heaven, where they’ll fess up to what they’ve been doing. If heaven, Fiore’s worried they’ll be separated forever. Awww, bros! So they toss a coin until it gives them the result they want (heaven). But when they discover the heaven phone missing, their only choice is hell. They check out and leave the dismembered Soccer-phim in the bathtub, which will probably result in an extra cleaning charge to their credit card.

Gee, who else knows about the heaven phone? Yep, it’s Jesse, who’s now picking the locks on his handcuffs under an overpass with two homeless people. He accepts their offer of pancakes and breakfast merlot and indulges their debate about just how far off his rocker he is and whether he can really bring God to heel in front of the whole town. With the help of a heaven phone? Just maybe.

Back in Tulip’s uncle’s house, Emily’s cradling a bunny in her lap and watching Psycho, listening to Norman Bates talk about how none of us can claw our way out of our private traps. We try, but we never budge an inch. A desperate cry from Cass interrupts her reverie, and she leaves the bunny behind as she walks to the vampire’s lair.

At Quincannon Meat & Power, it should surprise nobody that the men are all gathered in Odin’s office to cheer on two bare-chested wrestlers. Miles’ enjoyment of this Greco-Roman display is interrupted by a frantic call from Emily, who’s hiding at the O’Hare place because “he got out.”

So good ol’ Miles rushes over to find Tulip’s uncle passed out on the couch. The fact that we’ve never seen him conscious is my favorite, albeit sad, running joke of the show. Miles is alarmed that there are animals everywhere, including a goat, and he can barely fathom what he encounters in Cass’ room.

And then Emily slams the door shut behind him, allowing Cassidy to have his first decent meal in ages.

DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, DID YOU SEE THAT COMING? BECAUSE I CERTAINLY DID NOT. Man, when Emily decides to break out of her trap, she kicks it apart and burns it to the ground afterward.

Across town, Root’s been called to the Adelphi’s blood-drenched hotel room, where he discovers the armless, legless Soccer-phim in the tub. He gives a heartfelt “you stay with me!” speech, but she begs him over and over to kill her. In the end, he removes his hat and strokes her head, then strangles her. It’s a brutal moment of compassion that ends with the sheriff in tears. He’s still choking her when the resurrected Soccer-phim appears briefly in the doorway, then leaves. Wonder where she’s headed?

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Breaking Bad shout out time! Fiore and DeBlanc wait for the hell shuttle in the very same spot where the van arrived to ferry Walter White and Jesse Pinkman to their new lives. It’s a fabulous little Easter egg, down to the very same dog running across the road, left to right in “Ozymandias,” and right to left in “Finish the Song.” Bless you, whatever delightful wizard made this happen! (My money’s on producer Sam Catlin or director Michael Slovis, both of whom worked on BB.)

Anyway, back to the Adelphi. The shuttle driver points to their trunk and tells them they’re not allowed carry-ons. Fiore doesn’t want to abandon his comic books, but DeBlanc says tenderly, “It’s all right, my dear. Leave ‘em behind.” Oooooh. Bros.

NEXT: Two story lines finally connect

Outside the O’Hare house, Emily’s freeing the surviving guinea pigs. (Some traps are more literal than others, although I wonder whether piggies can live wild in Texas.) Then Jesse shows up, and Emily, who’s pretty calm for somebody who just facilitated murder, tells him that Tulip’s gone and his “mate” is inside.

Jesse walks into the charnel house, shocked by what he finds. Cass, huddled in a corner, tells him to go away. “It’s not safe for you here.”

But thanks to an influx of Vitamin Miles, Cassidy’s actually looking a bit better, and he doesn’t attack Jesse. He sounds more like himself when he says mournfully, “I told you what I was. And now you see.”

Jesse responds that Cass saw the worst parts of him, too, and apologizes. Cass scoffs, wondering what the guy with the pretty girl and the kung fu moves has to be sorry for. Plenty, Jesse says, including letting Cass burn last week.

“Well, you put me out pretty quick,” Cass says. So that answers that question. Jesse blames himself for not doing it fast enough, but for Cass, the fact that he did it at all is what matters.

And hey, what’s even better than an apology? Helping your best mate dispose of the mayor’s body, of course! Awwww, bros! Bro hang!

Then Jesse realizes he’ll need angel hands to get the heaven phone to work, and it’s Cass to the rescue. Remember when he secretly disposed of DeBlanc and Fiore’s bodies the first few times he offed them? Now they can kill two birds with one unmarked grave.

Before they leave, Jesse calls Tulip. It goes to voicemail, and he leaves her a long message that starts with reminiscing about M&M pancakes (yum) and ends with, “I just wanted to say, for me, it’s just you. Until the end of the world.”

Yes! At last! It almost feels like Jesse’s waking up from a trance; Genesis shook him free of his rut, and he’s remembering who he was and who he should be. But is it too late for Tulip?

Maybe. As he’s leaving this message, she’s advancing on a trussed-up Carlos (played by Edgar from You’re the Worst!) with a meat mallet. But if two lines from previous episodes mean anything, her rage could be well justified.

Back to Ratwater, where the cowboy’s walking through the scenes we’ve already watched: His sick daughter, his wife urging him to return, the preacher telling the dirty joke, his disastrous return to Ratwater, finding his family, killing everyone in the saloon. It ends with him pouring himself a drink, and then it all starts over again. Daughter, wife, Ratwater, death, more death, always death. He ends in a room covered in bodies of his own making.

And hey, here come Fiore and DeBlanc, picking their way across the blood-drenched floor. At this point, the best location identifier in television history pops up: HELL.

The cowboy draws his guns. DeBlanc offers to free him from all of this, and the cowboy responds by shooting him dead. Nooooo! Do angels re-spawn in hell? I didn’t see a flash of light, and I’m bummed because suddenly, Fiore and DeBlanc (FiBlanc? Diore?) are my favorite couple on this show.

Fiore carries on, telling the cowboy they want him to kill a preacher. Then it’s nothing but wind and horses and chaos, and next we see Jesse and Cass digging up a grave under the former hanging tree. Cass grabs the angel hands: “How many you need? Three? Four?” “Mmmm, one’ll do,” Jesse says.

Then they bury Miles and a petting zoo’s worth of animal bodies in the hole (“I’ve got the dog,” Jesse says, despite us agreeing TO NEVER SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN) and engage in cheerful conversation about God coming to Texas on Sunday as they start replacing the dirt in the mass grave.

So. Jesse’s on the run from the police. Cass, Emily, and Root all killed people. Tulip looks like she’s about to, and the cowboy slaughtered a whole town. So much for trying to be good, huh? In next week’s finale, we’ll see how they finish this particular song.

Meditation points:

  • No sign of poor Eugene. Think Fiore has time for a side trip before returning topside?
  • So did I miss seeing how the cowboy dies? Or was that not made explicit?
  • Thank you, show, for giving us a scene of Quincannon hollering at Donnie, who’s either really good at lip reading or didn’t permanently ruin his hearing.
  • It’s my fervent hope that Preacher is made easily available on some streaming service prior to season 2. Not only is this a show that rewards close watching and rewatching, but being able to binge this season should be an excellent way to grab new viewers.
  • Comic readers: Was that the “until the end of the world” you were hoping for? For me, it doesn’t repair all the damage to that relationship, but it’s a heck of a start.

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