AMC‘s Preacher El Valero TV Show Review. Preacher, Season 1, Episode 8: ‘El Valero,’ may have been the fever-break that Jesse (Dominic Cooper) has been needing (since taking his empowered Messiah complex way too seriously), but may have also been the fever-break the series could be needing, in the long run. If true, that would be the good news. The bad news: I’m not sure a series of bait-and-switch anti-climaxes was the way to sell viewers on any fever-break having taken place.
There were two major conflicts on the table, three confrontations (four, if you count a taunting apparition), and zero resolutions. The thing is, I’d be fine with that if not for the fact that nothing really happening came after nothing really happened for the balance of the episode. There were developments & revelations, sure; but the pacing seemed off – with the exposition watering down the action, and the action coming as an anti-climax to all the exposition. The saving grace then being an implied promise of an end in sight, to the Annville arc, and the devil in the exposition details.
TBH, the first thing to come to mind, with the very first scene, was insert-Hell-freezes-over-reference-here; but 80s hair & fashion gave it away as an entirely different kind of Hell (I lived in the 80s – I get to say that). As it turned out, that particular Hell served as the flashpoint for the history between Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) and the Custer church.
Considering all the weight that had been placed on the Jesse-Quincannon dynamic, the scene did a fairly effective job at summarizing both that history, and the Quincannon character as has been presented. No small credit goes to Haley, over this. I had hoped his casting would’ve brought more to the production, than just a well known figure of quiet menace, and he delivered a noteworthy glimpse of the mad behind the meat.
I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the explanation to Quincannon’s deflection of Jesse’s Command; but the flashback helped there, as well, I suppose. Once the initial (pulled) punch of the action was out of the way, the focus returned on Jess’ quest to undo the apparent banishing of Eugene (Ian Colletti). Of course, nothing easy is ever simple, and instant gratification should be relegated to the stuff of after-school specials; so for all his efforts, Jess got what he wanted as Edgar Allen Poe would’ve had it.
Frankly, I’m hoping this creepy case of keep-away was just the sort of divine dick move to finally get Jesse on the wrong side of the tracks (so the Genesis tour train can get rolling, already).
At the ground level, however, it looked like the law siding with Quincannon was going to be the thing to get Jess to finally give up on Annville. Miles (Ricky Mabe) pitching the matter as a choice between himself & Jesse, for Emily (Lucy Griffiths) to make (and not nearly as subtle about it as he likely thought), only seemed to magnify that prospect. Somehow, I don’t see Emily playing the traveling groupie role, once the band got together.
In the meantime, future member, Tulip (Ruth Negga), had taken to drowning her own sense of rejection (and helping a friend-in-need) with a good Brewski (yup, I saw what they did, there); but her role was only to add one more twisted tragedy, to Jesse’s list of unforeseen consequences, as a set-up for another would-be band-mate’s re-audition. That alone sorta made the brief (if not diversionary) exercise worthwhile (here’s hoping).
More promise of escalation came from one final disappointment for DeBlanc & Fiore (Anatol Yusef, Tom Brooke), Angels-at-large. If I’d give anyone a pass, for breaking the action, it would be these two; but this final reasoned confrontation (despite being their most in-command-moment, yet) came to an end that should’ve surprised no one. The good news: it came with an implied promise of escalation. Hopefully, there will be better follow up to that, than there was to the more immediate confrontation.
While the resumption of bookended violence did keep things interesting (once the Angels-at-large bowed out again), the ultimate outcome rendered it all pretty much moot.
Just an aside, but the testicular testament to the Preacher’s shooting skill: best use of traumatic shock, for comedic effect, in some time (should be an award category, somewhere; maybe on Spike….)
Not to take away from Donnie’s (Derek Wilson) inner turmoil moment, but I was kinda getting a kick out of Quincannon’s version of rally speak. Then again, once the supposedly Redneck tradition – of turning standoffs/ shoot-em-ups/ hangings into tailgate parties – made the scene, I suppose there was enough silliness to the middle acts to start taking bits for granted. Texan Alamo fetish meets Custer’s Last Stand – if you gotta contrive, contrive organic, folks. Given Donnie’s need to get his South to Rise Again, and his fixation on Jess’ ‘word of mouth,’ there could’ve only been one logical purpose to his little trunk stunt; but I had to wonder if anyone actually bought into it, as presented at the time. In the end, however, no one really got what they wanted. Jess still had a potent voice, but had given up on its usefulness; Donnie still didn’t get the satisfaction of besting the Preacher; the Sheriff (W. Earl Brown) got his hopes falsely raised, over Eugene; and Quincannon still has to wait “to serve man” justice to the Custer church.
So what was it all for? Yeah, ‘El Valero’ was a let down, in a lot of respects; but I still want to see how the season ends – if only because I see the source story’s beginnings in there, somewhere. If this doesn’t all add up to Jess taking his talents on the road (and his fellow Big-Fish-in-a-little-Pond with him), then it wouldn’t have just been a let down of an episode, but of a season. Personally, however, I’m holding out that a bit of wish-fulfillment (the non-dickish kind) could make the entire first season a warm-up act worth sitting through.
I suppose I should say something about the closing scene. The episode allowed a whole lot of pressure to build, but then let the air out. Sounds fitting enough. Where Preacher takes that simple assessment, on the metaphorical/ metaphysical level, however, might be more satisfying (here’s to hoping).
Those instruments I hear warming up better not be the onset of a stroke….
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