Preacher S01E09: Finish the Song – Everyone’s trapped by their own mistakes

There’s a scene in Finish the Song that sums up how batshit crazy this episode of Preacher is. Emily, played by Lucy Griffiths, is taking care of a severely burned Cassidy, taking over from Tulip who’s going to kill a man in Albuquerque. In between bouts of tossing helpless animals into Cassidy Emily happens to catch a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. In the scene Norman Bates explains to Marion Crane that most people are trapped in traps of their own making, some know it, some don’t. Emily then takes inspiration from Bates’ words to free herself from her own trap, namely her relationship with the mayor. But instead of merely breaking up with the poor guy she fakes a distress call and feeds him to Cassidy. It’s a shocking moment, the way the camera is angled as she holds the door shut is an eerie recreation of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. One seemingly harmless character turning on another, but this scene is Finish the Song in a nutshell, Annville has gone a bit Psycho.

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Each of Preacher’s characters are trapped in some way or another. Jesse is on the run after expertly ducking and rolling out of Sheriff Root’s police cruiser. Cassidy is trapped in a room trying to revitalise himself after his painful proving of a point to Jesse has left him horrifically burned. Tulip has been trapped all season, if it’s not pining after the Jesse she used to know, then it’s her obsession with her revenge against Carlos. The angels are trapped by their failure to separate Genesis from Jesse. Eugene is still in hell (get him out damnit!). Finally, The Cowboy is trapped in hell; that is until an enticing offer comes along.

The common factor in all of this is Jesse, who spends most of the episode laying low and frantically hiding behind corners. After enjoying some pancakes and merlot under a bridge Jesse steals the angels heaven phone, which was conveniently hidden under the bed, because who checks under the bed anymore? Next he goes to Tulip’s only to find a post Psycho Emily trying to free a rabbit. I know I say this every week but Jesus is this show weird. But instead of Tulip, who’s off revenging, Jesse finds Cassidy who still isn’t back to full Irish after eating the mayor. It’s to Cassidy that Jesse finally vocalises his fall from grace. Cassidy has seen the worst of Jesse, not that Cassidy thinks he’s that bad, Jesse did save him from burning to death, even though Jesse thought he could have done more, to Cassidy that was enough. So they’re friends again, and what do friends do? They get rid of dead bodies together.

In the last few weeks Preacher has been focusing on Jesse more and more, a choice that has greatly benefited the show. So once his mini arc with Quincannon was over, or paused at least, it was time to check in with the wider ensemble. As mentioned Emily finally became interesting, although it’s hard to say if her approach was too much out of character, but hell it was interesting. This was also another great episode for Fiore and Deblanc. The angels have been a fantastic conduit for the more cosmic aspects of the show, and this episode was no different. At the end of their rope, and minus a heavenly telephone, our fake cowboys decide to show initiative, meaning that they go to hell. In a twist that seems more Terry Pratchett than Garth Ennis, getting to hell is just about finding the right travel agent. The mundanity of the process only makes it more distinctive even though poor Fiore has to leave his comics behind.

Finish the Song was also another strong outing for Sheriff Root, up to this point unsung in these reviews but he has been a solid presence. He shares a scene much like Emily’s, as he encounters the dismembered body of the arc angel in Fiore and Deblanc’s hotel bathroom. The image of this women sans arms and legs and plus a shuddering musical cue, is horrifying. Telling the hotel manager to get an ambulance the woman implores Root to kill her. Seeing the desperate look in her eyes, Root gives in and takes her life. It’s a powerful moment, Root’s is now a major player in the kind of horrific stories he’s been telling Jesse all season. The worlds gone to hell, and with Eugene’s disappearance, and this violent act of mercy (of course he doesn’t know that she came back to life almost immediately), Root might now be in his own personal hell.

Which brings me seamlessly to The Cowboy. Dear lord does that man instil terror with a twitch of his mouth. After the events at Ratwater contributed to the death of his wife and daughter, The Cowboy exacts bloody revenge on the whole town. If Eugene is the shows moral heart then The Cowboy is the exact opposite. Stalking into town like the Angel of Death, he kills everyone, men, women, and children. Entering the saloon where he got the ever-loving crap kicked out of him he unfurls the American flag dropping the severed heads of the towns children at the feet of the preacher that started this whole mess off. He then proceeds to murder everyone in the bar highlighting the directorial flare that is becoming synonymous with this show. Whether figuratively, or literally, hell is the focus of finish the song. In a great bit of poetic justice, Preacher’s version of hell is living the time in which you damned yourself over and over again. The Cowboy is given the chance to break out of this cycle if he can do a little job for the angel: kill a preacher.

8/10 Another great episode that gives the spotlight to some minor players which is not wasted. Let’s hope once Tulip gets her revenge the writers can finally give Ruth Negga something interesting to do.

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