NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Preacher” are present in this review
Preacher has had a very uneven second season in many respects, with the show taking another frustrating dip during last week’s episode. Fortunately, the front-and-center return of Herr Starr and the Grail in key roles once again led to a superb episode this week, by contrast, as, “Puzzle Piece” starts accelerating the Grail’s agenda with Jesse, with destructive results!
Things heat up from the get-go when Herr Starr orders Hoover and Featherstone to send a Grail task force to exterminate Jesse and his allies, after Featherstone tells Starr about Jesse’s superhuman Genesis-fueled abilities. Starr doesn’t seem to believe Featherstone at first, but he is a right old bastard, so I suppose that it still fits that he’d send a death squad after Jesse for literally no reason. This is the same guy who shot his one competitor during a training challenge before pushing his recruiter off a high balcony, after all.
It’s probably also prudent to note that Preacher’s sense of humour once again started firing on all cylinders in this episode, after yet again taking a back seat in last week’s offering. There definitely seems to be a correlation between this season’s better episodes, and the direction not being too heavily based in drama and misery. Yes, there are dramatic elements to the story of Preacher, but there’s also supposed to be an over-the-top shocking edge that gives the show an effective sense of tongue-in-cheek humour, just like its source comics. It was good to see the show embracing opportunities to get silly again in several places this week, but still in a clever, fitting way.
In fact, the most dramatic that this episode gets is when that initial Grail squad comes after Jesse. This results in what’s admittedly a wonderfully intense scene, as soundproofing creates an eerily silent night raid that has Cassidy brutally pinned down, while Jesse tries to get one of the soldiers’ helmets off so that he can use the Word to get him to kill his allies. After this, Jesse also becomes predictably paranoid, which leads to him using the Word to force an entire police unit to guard him for several days. I guess no one in New Orleans was too bothered at a huge chunk of officers not reporting back in?
This trouble with the Grail also comes at the problematic time of Cassidy deciding to turn Denis, which was teased at the end of last week’s episode. Now a newborn vampire (though still an old man, for some reason), Denis is experiencing a newfound high on life, leading to him becoming intrusive, and getting in the way of Jesse’s efforts to learn the truth about the Grail. This could sometimes work, such as when Denis bites and kills the soldier that Jesse spared for intel, though sometimes, Denis being an annoying obstacle to Jesse did feel forced. The most apparent questionable moment on this note is when Denis arbitrarily blares music right when Jesse is expecting an attack, and Jesse simply shouts at him to turn it off. Um, can’t Jesse turn it off himself? It’s on a record player, isn’t it? Moreover, is the Word seriously limited by a language barrier? That’s a pretty considerable limitation that the show hasn’t really touched on, if that’s true!
As you can imagine though, Herr Starr once again made for one of the strongest elements of this episode, as we see him, Featherstone and Hoover start looking into the true importance of Jesse in relation to the Grail’s mission of guarding the secret heir of Jesus Christ. Featherstone just barely talking her way out of an execution alongside Hoover was nicely tense, as was a spectacularly uncomfortable ‘date’ between Starr and the daughter of New Orleans’ governor, where Starr forces the woman to take her top off and wear butter under her chin, before being called away. Yep, the show is digging further into Herr Starr’s infamously perverse sexual tendencies from the source comics here, though obviously, it still feels like the character has to be neutered a bit, pun not intended, due to AMC’s censorship limitations. I will say however that Hoover mixing up a prostitute demand by Starr, leading to Starr being forcibly raped by male prostitutes instead of female ones, was pretty hilarious, especially when Starr nonetheless appears happy, because this is the exact moment that he determines Jesse’s true worth as an asset to the Grail.
Starr coming to this realization just in time also leads to a weapon from the Grail just barely being diverted away from Denis’ apartment, and instead crashing into Harry Connick, Jr.’s house, in another over-the-top fictionalized celebrity death that was played for laughs. This was a funny and satisfying enough conclusion on its own, but the episode ending with Starr meeting Jesse in a bar soon afterward, and suggesting that he can help Jesse in his quest to find God, made for an even better cliffhanger conclusion. We’re getting well into the back half of Preacher’s second season by this point (another reason why the show’s inconsistent quality during much of this season has been particularly frustrating), so it makes sense that Starr would finally make himself known to Jesse, and Featherstone would put herself in a prime position to be found out by Tulip, after she lends Tulip a gun. So far, the Grail don’t look to be mortal enemies to Jesse’s crew, but of course, things could change if Jesse’s agenda starts getting in the way of the Grail’s mission…
“Puzzle Piece” put Preacher firmly back on track after another disappointing episode last week, and now that Jesse is completely in bed with the Grail, hopefully the rest of Season Two can keep up the heightened quality that we saw this week. Herr Starr and the Grail have been massive assets in many of this season’s strongest episodes, so hopefully more of them means good things for the series in Season Two’s remaining handful of episodes. Jesse is no doubt on the verge of learning about the secret heir of Christ, and it will be interesting to see exactly how that affects his mission to locate the missing God. Jesse and Starr becoming allies is another interesting prospect, though mostly because it will make it especially interesting if they’re doomed to eventually become enemies.