Directed by: Wayne Yip
Written by: Olivia Dufault
Flying pigs are really one of the least surprising things to happen on Preacher. In just one season we’ve had a cowboy from Hell, Hitler, secret organizations, an angel, and man-dog, so the flying pig fits right in. Still, it’s a problem for Herr Starr – who got a brief introduction a few episodes ago(and an even briefer cameo in the first season) – the head of The Grail’s Samson Unit, in charge of dealing with false prophets. Along with a better introduction to one of the stranger characters in a show full of strange characters, “Pig” deals with the fallout of Tulip’s encounter with the Saint, Jesse selling part of his soul, and the revelation that Denis is Cassidy’s son.
Unfortunately, this episode feels a bit cramped and discordant as a result of trying to do all of those things at once. Jesse and Cassidy’s storylines have little room to breathe, and while there are extended sequences dealing with Tulip’s trauma and Herr Starr’s backstory, they feel a little out of place being in the same episode. Individually, they’re some of the best scenes this show has to offer, but the dark, twisted images of Tulip’s nightmares and the perverse humor of Herr Starr’s training for The Grail sort of clash tonally when placed so close together.
“Pig” also shows that perhaps the show’s heavy-handed directing(the huge block letters and quick zooms and whatnot) that has become its signature style is a good thing. As easy as it is to lampoon Preacher for not understanding subtlety, maybe that’s just because subtlety really isn’t a style that fits well with the big emotions and high concepts of the show. The specifics of Herr Starr’s encounter with the flying pig and details of Tulip’s dream both went over my head the first time viewing the episode. Maybe that’s just my fault, but I think it more likely I missed those elements because things were presented in a very un-Preacher-like way.
As for Herr Starr himself, the content and character of his scenes are in line with his comic-book counterpart, but I think the show will need a couple more episodes to get a handle on comedic-timing when it comes to Starr. I can’t say exactly why, but Starr’s lines were roughly 50/50 when it came to making me laugh even though the content and delivery of them throughout the episode was fairly consistent. Pip Torrens does a fantastic job with his deadpan delivery, and there are little touches to his performance that give the audience a good sense of his character despite still knowing very little about him. He balances out nicely with Graham McTavish’s imposing, monster-like Saint of Killers.
One element of subtlety that does work well in this episode is Ruth Negga’s performance as Tulip. You get a real sense that Tulip is deeply unsettled by her confrontation with the Saint, not only because of whatever happened when he touched her, but also because Tulip is simply not used to not being in control.
Cassidy’s storyline continues to move very slowly, and the few scenes that do focus on him this episode are mostly played for laughs. I’m curious to see how his issues with Denis resolve, but I won’t be surprised if they continue to take a backseat as Starr plays a more present role in the story, and more of Jesse’s backstory is revealed.
Jesse’s story is the element in this episode more than any other that feels as if it should’ve been cut. His continuing search for God goes nowhere, and the implications of him selling part of his soul are only lightly touched on in a very on the nose way that doesn’t quite work, especially when it’s playing directly off Tulip dealing with her confrontation with the Saint in much better scenes.
Overall, this is one of the weakest episodes of this season, oddly enough because it does too much at once. If this episode had been all about introducing Herr Starr and the Grail, it would’ve probably been fantastic. If it had been all about the aftermath of the gang’s confrontation with the Saint of Killers, it would’ve probably been fantastic. Doing both in the same episode was not a good idea.