Season 1 ends with a big bang after Jesse brings God to Annville

By Sara Netzley
August 01, 2016 at 04:23 AM EDT
Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC
S1 E10
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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the preacher. And he looked and saw that the world had some problems, so he set out to fix it.

He screwed up. Like, a lot. But his intentions were good, except when they weren’t. And tonight’s season 1 finale finds not just the sins of Jesse Custer but those of the entire town coming home to roost.

We open with shots of Annville going about its down-at-the-heels business as “The Time of the Preacher” plays. A radio host discusses whether Jesse can really call down God as the camera lingers on boarded-up buildings and signs sporting Jesse-related slogans. A countdown periodically flashes to tell us how many minutes until God.

The radio host points out that “local freak Eugene Root” is still missing, and Jesse’s still dodging the police. At that moment, we see the man in question race down the street, police in hot pursuit.

Also chasing Jesse is Tulip, who’s back in town. She gets word that Donnie may have nabbed him, so she literally crashes through the Schencks’ front door looking for her man, breaking Betsy’s nose in the process.

But actually, our good preacher’s a guest there. Donnie may not have two functioning eardrums, but he does have his mojo back; earlier, we saw him spanking up a storm on his wife’s behind. See, Donnie saw the light when he stopped himself from killing Jesse in the church, showing mercy as Jesse had shown him mercy in that men’s bathroom in episode 3.

Tulip’s not interested in Donnie’s personal growth, though, and drags Jesse outside, where he gives her the apology she’s been waiting for. Satisfied, she grabs his belt buckle and tugs him closer, asking him to do something nasty for her. “Whatever you want,” Jesse purrs, liking where this is headed… until Tulip pops the trunk to reveal a trussed-up Carlos.

Aaaaand flashback! Jesse and Tulip joke and flirt as they empty a bank’s safety-deposit boxes while Carlos keeps watch. It’s our first protracted look at Jesse’s crime-era mullet, and it’s amazing in its volume, awfulness, and similarity to the hairstyle from the comics. Based on the banter they share over their earpieces, Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde all get along swimmingly.

But in the bank lobby, standing over the hogtied guard and customers, Carlos’ face hardens at the sound of Jesse and Tulip laughing in the back. He cuts the guard loose, and we see the previously aired scene of Jesse shooting the man while Carlos takes off in the getaway car. Now, though, we also see Tulip bending at the waist and gasping, “My baby!” as the police sirens wail.

So. She was pregnant and miscarried thanks to Carlos’ petty, spur-of-the-moment betrayal. It’s a tragedy, though slightly different than I expected after her comment to Emily that she used to have a kid. In the present, Jesse gets with the program and punches Carlos in the face, asking him why.

“You were happy,” Carlos admits. Wrong answer. Jesse shuts the trunk.

At the methane plant, the pressure gauge guy’s on the phone, trying to talk his wife into getting frisky that night. He takes her rejection politely while an enormous cauldron of manure boils ominously away.

Cassidy had less luck than Jesse and is sitting in lockup alongside Larry the Native American mascot. Larry’s sprung when the prairie dog mascot agrees to drop the charges in their hilarious, long-running feud, and now Cass is alone with Root, who’s pulled Cass’ criminal record: assault and battery in Vegas (“I told them right from the get-go I don’t like magicians!”), drunk and disorderly in Denver, lewd and lascivious in Nashville. And in New York, attempted murder. “A crime of passion,” Cass explains.

What’s weirder to Root are the dates: 1961, 1950, 1940, 1922. Amateur! Every immortal knows you have to adopt a new identity ever 40 years or so.

Thanks to Cass’ weird hats and some internet research, Root has put it all together. He shoots Cassidy, then offers him a restorative cup of blood from his thermos, which I sincerely hope he’s planning to throw away or at least soak in bleach afterward. Like Emily, the sheriff’s hella calm about all of this, proving that Annville residents come in two flavors: super chill or complete lunatic.

Watching Cass suck down blood, Root asks him what Jesse did to Eugene. Cassidy says the good and bad news is that Eugene’s still alive, probably.

Then Cass sets out to demonstrate how easy it is to make an awful mistake, the way Jesse did, by needling Root, asking if he’s secretly relieved that Eugene, with his unfortunate face and incessant questions, is gone. He pushes and pushes until Root unloads his gun into Cass’ chest, proving that even good men commit crimes of passion. Root apparently gets the point because he lets Cass go.

NEXT: God comes to Annville, sort of

Back at Casa Schenck, Tulip declares that Jesse’s plan to bring “some beardy white guy” to Texas is stupid. She ignores Jesse when he says they don’t know God is white and pivots to her favorite subject: killing Carlos. Jesse says nothing can bring their baby back, but Tulip still wants someone to pay. Finally, Jesse walks into the kitchen and grabs a garbage bag and oven mitt.

“I’m going to hell anyway,” he mutters, then opens the trunk where Carlos is cowering. He positions the bag under Carlos’ head (again with the ominous tarps on this show!) and puts the gun in the oven mitt. He’s ready to pull the trigger, but Tulip stops him with a hug. His willingness to kill for her is what matters. #RelationshipGoals

Ah, but they’re not quite done. Tulip cheerfully hands Carlos a tire iron. “Still not fair?” she asks Jesse, who says it’s not and gives Carlos the gun, as well. Then Jesse and Tulip strike an amazingly cool “we’ll mess up your world” pose. I bet they were the best at crime back in the day.

The next thing we see is a badly beaten Carlos groaning and shuffling down the street as if he belongs on AMC’s other show — an intentional homage, surely.

On Sunday morning, Betsy approaches the deputies guarding the church and rats out Jesse’s location. They tear off, and she shrieks after them, “You get that sumbith preacher!” Of course, that sumbitch preacher then pops out of her trunk so he and his God squad can prepare for the service by patching the hole in the floor, sweeping up broken glass, and laying out the angel hand and the heaven phone. (Man, what a weird show.)

Five minutes until God! The whole town is there: Quincannon and his Meat Men; unresponsive, eyes-open Tracey Loach; the pressure gauge reader and his sex-withholding wife; the penis-less Clive; the brothel residents; the two dueling mascots. Emily’s daughter wants to know if Miles will be there, and Emily says, “He’s meetin’ Him somewhere else.” That’s cold, Em.

Backstage, Jesse has no idea what’s going to happen, but Tulip doesn’t care as long as they get French fries afterward. Then she joins Cass in the crowd as Jesse steps to the pulpit.

Before he can get the service underway, that little weasel Quincannon hops up and reminds the town that he gets the church if God fails to appear. He also puts in another pitch for his own god and honestly, he should really stop trying to make “god of meat” happen. It isn’t going to happen.

Everyone looks on, rapt, as Jesse pulls out the heaven phone and applies the angel hand. (I spent more time than I should’ve trying to figure out if the hand belonged to Fiore or DeBlanc. Based on the size, I’m guessing DeBlanc.) There’s a strange whirring and buzzing, like a tiny, dying trash compactor, and Quincannon’s ready to declare Jesse the loser when the church goes dark. Then a blast of light, wind, and noise fills the room.

“LOOK UPON ME,” booms a voice. It’s God, floating above them on a throne, fluffy beard and all. “I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD.”

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Jesse approaches respectfully and tells God that everyone’s got questions. God’s angry that they dare question him, and Tulip yells back that they’re the ones who should be screaming at him, then mutters to Jesse, “Told you he was a white guy.”

Jesse pushes forward. “If we are your children, why don’t you act like a father?” God bursts into laughter at Jesse’s moxie and starts to answer the questions shouted by the clamoring townsfolk. Sadly, he doesn’t respond to, “What did you do to the dinosaurs?” although he does assure Quincannon that his daughter’s in heaven. Quincannon sighs with relief.

NEXT: A town without hope

It’s all too much. The off-kilter answers, the bombastic presentation, the enormous puffy God beard. Just as I’m starting to wonder if they’re all suffering from a mass hallucination, Jesse asks why God gave him the power of Genesis if he couldn’t save his flock.

On the contrary, God says. Jesse saved them all. It’s clear that Jesse wants to believe this so, so much, but he still has to ask: Even Eugene?

Everyone cheers when God says he saved them all — until Jesse points out that he sent Eugene to hell. God’s taken aback by that, and Jesse starts to realize that God has no idea about his power and, in fact, might not know about Genesis’ existence at all. So he goes on the attack. “You’re not God, are you?”

“I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA,” God booms.

“No you’re not,” Jesse says, and now God’s angry. The lights and wind kick up again, but Jesse doesn’t back down, using Genesis to demand of the imposter, “WHERE IS GOD?”

“I, uh, I don’t know,” the angel masquerading as God admits in a weak, worried voice. “He’s missing. God is missing.”

Fraud-God turns to the angels off-camera, insisting that the preacher compelled him to say that. They roughly drag him away before breaking the connection.

In the silence that follows, the townspeople sit in shock. Jesse offers them no words of comfort, instead collecting Tulip and Cassidy and heading out the door as Quincannon screams for Jesse to denounce God. When a deputy asks Root if he’s going to arrest the preacher, Root scoffs at the idea of human laws having any bearing in this new world.

He’s not the only one feeling lost; the townsfolk either weep as they shuffle out or channel their confusion and fury into ripping the church apart with their bare hands.

Later that day, Emily’s soothing her children, telling them they don’t need God and never did. “Nothing’s changed,” she repeats firmly, for them and for herself.

But across town, the broken residents have started giving in to their base, primitive desires, and what follows is one of the most vivid and unsettling depictions of the loss of hope that I’ve ever seen.

Noose around his neck, Larry the Native American mascot finishes a cigarette, then steps off a stool.

A pack of schoolgirls brandish the bloody sword they just used to castrate the pedophile bus driver.

Tracy Loach’s mom smothers her daughter with a pillow as her son takes a selfie.

Quincannon sits in his office cradling a child-shaped bundle of meat, a stand-in for his daughter. (Guess that’s as close as we’re getting to the more … intimate relationship he had with his product in the comics, which is probably for the best.)

Betsy, dressed as a sexy Dorothy Gale, can’t entice an inert Donny into any spankings.

At the methane plant, the gauge minder’s dead on the floor as the ball-gagged prostitute he hired frantically tries to figure out what to do as a warning light on the methane-electro reactor flashes DANGER DANGER DANGER.

Methane vents all over town fly open, and we get one final shot of the old Ratwater hanging tree, where the prairie dog mascot’s body now hangs next to the Native American mascot.

And then there’s a spark, which leads to an explosion, and we watch All Saint’s Church get vaporized in the resulting blast. It’s beautifully rendered and horrible to watch.

That was … that was bleak, you guys. Sure, the Annvillians we met weren’t angels. (But then, the angels on this show weren’t exactly angels, you know?) However, they were parents and prostitutes and students and drunkards and dreamers and people who enjoyed pancakes and fireworks and creepy paintball. And now they’re gone in a blaze of despair and methane gas.

Equally gloomy, albeit on a smaller scale, is a vacant-looking Fiore getting dropped off at the shuttle pickup site. Good news: He escaped hell, and his trunk is still there. Bad news: He’s alone. No DeBlanc. No Eugene.

NEXT: At least Tulip got her French fries

And then we cut to Jesse, Cass, and Tulip at a diner, where Jesse announces he wants to find God. Cass is down for a road trip involving sex, drugs, guns, and shady characters in bikinis. Tulip’s less sure about all of it. “We’re just gonna like drive around shooting people, getting wasted, and looking for God?”

That’s exactly what they’re going to do, Jesse confirms, and when they find God, they’ll offer him help if he wants it. If not, they’ll kick his ass. And with that, Tulip’s on board.

She and Cass head to the parking lot while Jesse pays, promising the cashier that he’ll get him out of hell. It’s Eugene! Looks like he’ll be Jesse’s imaginary Jiminy Cricket next season. Hey, if the kid can’t be sprung from hell, I’ll take my Eugene however I can get him.

Behind not-Eugene, the television shows a black mushroom cloud as a reporter explains that excess cow manure caused an explosion that leveled the town and left no survivors.

Outside the diner (and not just any diner!), Tulip has one more question. “This Genesis thing. What is it?” Jesse offers to show her, then Words her to kiss him. She does, at length, as Cass looks on from the backseat.

Hmm. That’s a little non-consenty for my taste, and apparently Tulip agrees. When they break apart, she punches him in the nose, warning, “Don’t ever do that again.” Still, it doesn’t stop them from hopping into her car, where the trio don sunglasses and hit the road with a vengeance.

Oh, but we’re not done. In what remains of Annville, the Soccer-phim limps through the wreckage, presumably intent on finding the missing angels, when a shotgun blast rips through the middle of her chest courtesy of the cowboy, who’s here, in Texas, in our time. She goes down and stays down, with no flash of respawn light, as the cowboy growls, “Preacher.”

Aaaaand credits.

Well. This was both an interesting and frustrating first season. It spent 10 episodes setting up a town and its people, introducing their petty (to us), life-and-death (to them) conflicts and hopes and frustrations before wiping them all off the face of the Earth.

In the end, I was surprised by how much I’d come to care about some of the residents of Annville, who started as one-dimensional tropes and grew into interesting, nuanced characters. So in my mind, just after the church service, Sheriff Root loaded up Emily, Donnie, Betsy, and their kids and took them all on a nice picnic several hundred miles away from town, where they decided to settle following the insurance payout from the destruction of Annville. Just … just let me have that, okay?

Annville dispensed with, it looks like we’re in for a very different show next season as our main trio hit the road in search of God. Presumably this means an array of characters in locations spread across the country — and possibly a closer relationship with the comics, which are essentially one big, violent road trip that begins where season 1 just ended.

That’s not to say that this all-American road trip will be smooth sailing. I suspect the events of the finale will hang heavy on Jesse; had he not called down God to prove his worth as a preacher, his town might not be a smoking hole in the ground right now. Plus, he and Tulip still have work to do on their relationship (remember, Jesse doesn’t know about the Tulip/Cass hookup), and Cass still harbors feelings for Tulip that he’s trying to drown with booze, drugs, and other women.

Long story short, I can’t wait to tag along on that ride in 2017. How about you?

Meditation points:

  • The final scene strongly indicates that the cowboy’s hell-powered bullets are permanently lethal for angels; just imagine what they’ll do to humans. RIP DeBlanc (sniff!) and Soccer-phim.
  • Tonight’s soundtrack was perfect, start to finish, from Personal Jesus for Carlos’ final scene to that downbeat cover of Blind Melon’s No Rain as the town fractures. Well done, Preacher’s music team.
  • Name me another show that would have the line “It’s like Lady and the Tramp, except with our butts” in it. Also, who rents a safety-deposit box to store that particular double-fisted item?
  • The show winked at Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead this season. Did I miss any homages to Mad Men? Into the Badlands? Low Winter Sun? Or is that more of a season 2 thing?
  • Comic readers: Some of you struggled with this season’s departure from the source material, but I give it major credit for staying true to the giddy violent tone of the comics as it told the stories the showrunners wanted to tell. That said, bring on The Grail!
  • I don’t know about you, but I need to watch The Big Lebowski right now, Cassidy be damned. Until next year, pilgrims!
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