This week, we got a huge amount of backstory on the Cowboy of Ratwater, Jesse escaped custody, Cassidy got a bit better, and Tulip split town. Let’s explore this penultimate episode of Preacher!
Episode 9: Finish The Song
We watch the conclusion to the story that was begun decades ago in the town of Ratwater as The Cowboy, after discovering his dead wife and child, comes back to have his revenge against the town. As he walks, his shadow lengthens before him, covering the dirt and the windows. In the saloon, an Asian man is singing a song in Chinese with great passion and focus. The Cowboy walks in through the swinging doors, guns, out, and everybody freezes and stares at him. The corrupt preacher of the town tries to get The Cowboy to relax and join them, the town has plenty of room for all sinners, Jesus welcomes them all. The Cowboy mutters, “I love my horse. I love my wife. I love my daughter. And as for Jesus, he can join us all in hell.” And then he dumps out a bag full of decapitated heads, which go rolling all over the floor. The preacher asks, “What do you want?” And The Cowboy shoots him. He says to the Asian man: “I want you to finish the song.”
While the song goes on, The Cowboy shoots and shoots and shoots and pretty soon the entire saloon floor is covered in bodies. It’s an intense, brilliant scene, that barely shows any blood but ramps up the terror by slowly pushing in to the singing man’s face as he literally sings for his life as men, women, and children are all dying around him. And a storm grows in the distance.
Back in Annville, Jesse is in the back of Sheriff Root’s car, handcuffed, and heading towards jail. The sheriff regales Jesse with a story of how inmates treat “child killers” (was Eugene technically a “child?”). Jesse just says, “I’m sorry sheriff. See you Sunday.” And he gets the back door open and rolls out onto the pavement. By the time the sheriff has stopped, Jesse’s gone.
Fiore and DeBlanc walk through the rain (where did that come from?) and into a little travel office. They tell the lady behind the desk that they wish to go to hell. They empty their pockets (a ticket to hell only costs $348.50, but beverages are NOT included), she prints out the tickets, and they head out to start their journey.
Meanwhile, Tulip has asked Emily over to help her out: Cassidy is a vampire and is not healing very well. Emily looks dubious. Tulip explains she has given him many small animals, but he’s coming back very very slowly. She gets Emily to promise to continue to feed him while Tulip heads back to Albuquerque to kill a man. Aaaand, Tulip’s gone. Emily is speechless.
Jesse eats pancakes provided by a homeless couple under an overpass. They’ve heard he went a little crazy in church, promising to bring God to town next Sunday. “How are you going to do that?” “You’ll see.”
Back at Tulip’s, Emily is slowly walking to Cassidy’s door, cradling a doomed guinea pig as if was a newborn baby. While standing there, Mayor Person calls to say he got her message, he’d be happy to pick up the kids, and should he bring a bottle of wine and stay over? Emily’s a little distracted and barely listening. “Okay. Yeah.” She hangs up. She’s at Cassidy’s door. She quickly opens it, shoves the animal in, and then closes it again. Soon after there are horrid sounds of tearing flesh and inhuman growls and drinking, drinking. Curiosity gets the better of her and she slowly opens the door and peeks in. Cassidy, burned and deformed, snaps at her through bloody teeth. She slams and locks the door, breathing hard, shocked. She’s a believer now.
Back at the nearly-destroyed motel room, DeBlanc and Fiore are packing for their trip to hell. They discuss whether or not this is a good idea. Should they just call heaven and beg for mercy? They toss a coin. Hell. Fiore suggests “Double or nothing?” They toss again. Heaven. “Thank God!” They get the phone.
Or: they would get the phone if it was still under the bed where Fiore left it. Depressed, DeBlanc says, “Looks like we’re going to hell.” Hiding around a corner out on the street, Jesse clutches the phone to his chest.
Emily watches Psycho and, while listening to Norman and Marion discuss the cages that people build for themselves, has an epiphany. She calls Mayor Person. He’s at Quincannon’s and has to move to a corner of the office to hear her over the sound of men wrestling (uh…yeah). She whispers urgently over the phone, “He got out. He’s going to kill me….I’m at Tulip O’Hare’s. I’m hiding in the–” and then the line goes dead.
Person enters Tulip’s place cautiously, calling out for Emily. He walks through rooms filled with barnyard critters, and carefully walks towards the one closed door. He opens it oh so slowly, and walks into the room. Flies are buzzing in the gloom. He looks closer into one corner, and looks horrified. “Oh no…” And the Emily slams the door and bolts it, locking him in. With Cassidy. Bye bye, mayor.
The sheriff gets called over to the motel, after the housekeeping maid discovered the bloody condition of the room. The angels are gone, so the sheriff gets to freely explore the room. And inside the bathtub, he finds the female bounty hunter angel that was after Fiore and DeBlanc. Since killing her would only make her reconstitute, they decided to trap her in the bathtub, severing her arms and legs (and cauterizing the stumps, a nifty little detail that turned my stomach when I realized what had happened). The sheriff is dumbfounded. He calls for an ambulance, but she just implores him to “Kill me,” over and over.
And so he does. He strangles her, in one of the most horrific and personal scenes I’ve witnessed this whole season. And, naturally, she appears behind the sheriff while he is otherwise occupied. She walks out of the room.
Fiore and DeBlanc wait at the shuttle stop (in a familiar location to fans of Breaking Bad) sitting on their trunk. The “Distant Vistas” shuttle pulls up and they drag the trunk to the door. “No carry-ons,” says the driver. Fiore looks crushed. “But what about my comics?” They leave the trunk behind and walk onto the bus. It pulls away into the Texas heat.
Jesse shows up at Tulip’s to try to reconcile with Cassidy. Even though Jesse seems quite sincere in his apology, Cass is having none of it, and in fact comes very close to attacking Jesse. But they talk and Cass admits that Jesse did try to put him out, and Jesse admits it should have been sooner, and pretty soon they are friends again. That’s nice. Jesse offers to help Cassidy get rid of Mayor Person’s body.
Quincannon gives his opinion on Jesse Custer. He thinks Jesse is going to fail on Sunday and end up denouncing God. Thanks, Q.
Cassidy is playing around with the Heaven Phone, remarking that there’s no dial tone, no operator, no power to it. Jesse suddenly remembers that only angel hands can work the phone. Cassidy says he can get a hold of a few of those, no problem. Jesse is impressed. Problem solved. While Cassidy wraps up the mayor in a blanket, Jesse calls Tulip and gets her voicemail. he delivers a sweet monologue about eating breakfast with her, and ends with, “For me, it’s just you. ‘Til the end of the world.”
Tulip can’t come to the phone right now because she’s about to kill the tied-up-and-gagged Carlos sitting in front of her.
We next see the poor sad story of The Cowboy again. His sick daughter, his ride to Ratwater to get medicine, his delay in getting back, his dead family, his revenge upon the town that he blames, the doomed saloon patrons, the singing Chinese man, the growing storm. And then we see it again. Family, medicine, death, revenge, singing, storm. And then we watch it again, faster. And again, faster.
At first, I was thinking, “Why are we seeing all this again? We know his story.” Fully ten minutes go by as they replay multiple times. It was driving me crazy.
And then Fiore and DeBlanc step in to the saloon and gingerly walk over the bodies. The Cowboy draws his guns. The title says: “HELL.”
Brilliant. What better way to show us The cowboy’s state of mind (and maybe get a few sympathy points) than to put us through what he’s experiencing: his worst moments, over and over, on a never-ending cycle.
DeBlanc asks: “You want to be free of all this? We have a job for you.” “What job?” “We want you to kill someone.” “Who?” “A preacher.” And the storm outside builds and builds.
Back in Annville, Cassidy and Jesse dig up the “clones” of Fiore and DeBlanc. Cassidy casually tosses a severed hand to Jesse. “How many you need? Three? Four?” “One’ll do. Thanks, Cass.”
This was one of the best episodes so far. Full of quirky humor and intense confrontations, with all characters headed for a major showdown at the church. Sunday will be here before you know it! See you in the pews.