'Preacher' Puts Women In and Out of Distress

'Preacher' goes to New Orleans and Hell (again).

Preacher Jesse Cassidy Tulip

‘Preacher’ goes to New Orleans and Hell (again).

“Damsels,” the third episode of Preacher, finally lands us in New Orleans. Judging from the opening credits, we’re going to be spending a lot of time here.

It also finally shows us the truth of Eugene’s history. It’s a nice update—Eugene (Ian Colletti) always seemed too nice for the official story, that he tried to kill Tracy Loach and himself when she rejected him. Of course, the truth goes easier on him, but it’s still shocking and sad.

It’s also grotesquely funny.

Tracy has an awful adolescent misunderstanding of the gravity and permanence of death. But while her suicide note is meant to be outrageous, it’s not that out of place in this show. Bystanders are mown down all the time. Almost everyone we knew last season has exploded. Cassidy’s immortal. Fiore and DeBlanc’s deaths have been used for some amazing visual comedy. Tulip siphoned gas through an intestine.

The bottom line is: Preacher is exuberantly violent, and death is given very little weight. But maybe that’s okay. After all, Heaven and Hell are real places with employees, bus tickets, and technical difficulties. Maybe Tracy has the right attitude for this universe.

Maybe you really do still get into Heaven if it was only anal.

Tracy and Eugene’s story also introduces us to the theme behind the title of the episode, “Damsels.” Eugene’s worst memory begins with a frantic call from Tracy sounding as damselly as they come. He even has his own triumphant music as he flies to her rescue. And after he talks her down from killing herself, he moves in for his reward. Because that’s what heroes get when they save the girl.

It does not work out.

Preacher Eugene Arseface

Eugene Root (Ian Colletti)

Because this episode is about damsels who don’t quite get saved. Or trick you into saving them. Or don’t want to be saved. It’s about the heroes who think they need to save them and the spectacular ways in which they fail. And it’s about the damsels who really could use saving and the heroes who miss it.

Our second damsel is the singer at the club, Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery). Just like Eugene, Jesse gets to swoop in and save her life. And just like Eugene, he fails and gets much more than he bargained for. Jesse’s only problem is that he doesn’t know it yet.

Featherstone appeals to Jesse’s hero complex and takes him for a ride. As far as he knows, he’s made real progress in his search and done a good deed to boot. But in doing so he gives himself away, summons the Saint (we can only assume) and misses Tulip’s cry for help.

Because of course, the final damsel is Tulip.

Tulip is tripping over a fine line, trying to spare Jesse while inadvertently alienating him. She’s determined to handle things on her own and, when needed, with Cassidy. This makes for some interesting dynamics. Since Tulip doesn’t care about Cassidy, she doesn’t feel the need to protect him from herself. This lets Cassidy get closer and fall for her further.

Cassidy can see her distress, and he tries his best to help her. Jesse only sees the aggressive, secretive side of this distress, and he rejects it. It’s a very nice demonstration of different interpretations of the title. I only hope it goes further than a simple love triangle.

I somehow scarcely mentioned Tulip at all last week, which is a crime. Tulip has changed a lot since the books, virtually all for the better, and Ruth Negga is fabulous. For a mindset that on paper could be restricted to “stubborn and fearful withdrawal,” she displays a huge range of emotions throughout this episode, all of them completely believable and on point.

Tulip has always been a great and somewhat mysterious character, and now her mystery is reaching new heights.

preacher Cassidy Tulip Jesse

Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga), Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper)

And so are her troubles. There’s, of course, the infamous Viktor, whose story we’re likely to learn next week. And closer to home there’s Jesse’s brewing suspicion that something is going on between her and Cassidy. It’s trouble in paradise from a mile off, and it’s being laid out maybe a bit too obviously. I give it two more episodes before it erupts.

That’s too bad for Cassidy because he continues to be fantastic. I’ve never been one to speak out about fashion, but Cassidy’s outfits this season have been stunning—a lovely mishmash of probably found clothes with very little regard for gender or fit. Last week’s layered crop tank tops were great, but this week’s sparkle butterfly girly tee is a whole new level.

With the expanding wardrobe comes expanding personality. Cassidy has always been fun, but the darkness behind the fun is beginning to show through. Showrunner Sam Catlin has said that Cassidy’s romp with Fiore last week was a demonstration of this—he’ll charm you, he’ll make you love him, and then he’ll leave you all alone.

Or he’ll keep coming back, as is the case with Denis.

From what I can understand of Denis’ French tirade, he’s only generically railing against Cassidy for showing up and expecting to be able to stay. But it’s an intriguing window into Cassidy’s past, and one that will hopefully be explored. There would have been a time, after all, when Cassidy and Denis appeared to be the same age. And Denis does leave the door open for them.

Preacher Cassidy

Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun)

Unfortunately, the character who seems to be expanding the least is Jesse. He’s making some strides in his quest, but as a person, he’s a bit of a standstill. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—Jesse’s always been something of the straight man to the fabulous characters around him.

With any luck, though, that Angelville poster he spots toward the end of the episode will do something to change that. We’ve seen that skull logo twice before if we’re keeping track. I won’t say where, since I’m sure we’ll be reminded shortly.

We’re due to see a lot of things shortly. Fans of the comics should be thrilled to finally meet Herr Starr. Fans of evil should be excited to meet Hitler. (I’m no fan, but I am very interested to see where the story in Hell takes us, as it is firmly out of the realm of the source material).

I am a fan of recurrence, and I’m putting the odds at about 85% that Cassidy’s foreskin conspiracy theory proves to be true. In my mind, I can already see his reaction when it’s revealed.

Odds that the Man Dog in the basement actually does have something to do with God are currently sitting at 30%.

Preacher Cassidy Tulip Jesse

Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga), Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper)

“Damsels” feels like the beginning of the real meat of the season. After two episodes on the road to reestablish our heroes and to clear things up with Fiore, we finally have a home base that we’re going to stay in for at least two episodes. We’ve met a few crucial new characters, we’re poised to meet another, and against all odds, we’ve met Hitler. (You’d think his block would be full by now).

Now the real action is ready to start.

Liz has an MA in English and a lot of time on her hands.