Spoilers for Preacher Season 2, up to and including the Season 2 finale "The End of the Road," and the Preacher comics, below
Something felt off watching Preacher's Season 2 finale, "The End of the Road." It wasn't just that Season 2's moments--entire episodes, even--of greatness were overshadowed by many more that were less than great. If you've been watching Preacher for the last two seasons, then you've come to expect flashes of brilliance dragged down by hours of plodding distraction. What really stung is that it was supposed to have gotten better by now.
You see, we've been through this before. Preacher's second season didn't suffer from any new issues; these are the same problems that plagued Season 1. There were long episodes that felt like filler, the gang languishing in some dingy set talking circles around inflated scripts. We spent an entire episode, "Dallas," watching flashbacks that conveyed only what we already knew: Jesse and Tulip have a checkered past. Tulip's entire subplot--a secret marriage--amounted to nothing and was easily resolved, leaving her to do little but mope for the several remaining episodes. Ditto for Cassidy and Denis. Jesse spent an entire episode inside a wannabe Best Buy's waiting room. Eugene made friends with Hitler, whose "darker side" never really arrived after all. The quest to find God feels like an afterthought, at best a plot point designed simply to drive an unnecessary wedge between the characters and cause drama, not to actually drive the story.
Preacher fans were excited for the crew to hit the road and get down to business, and instead they wallowed in Denis's apartment all season long, seemingly just so Joseph Gilgun's Cassidy would have more reasons to furrow his brow all worried-like (which, to be fair, he does really well). Here’s an idea: If the perk of shooting Season 2 is that unique New Orleans location, maybe we should have actually seen it in more than a single episode?
In this week's Preacher finale, one final lesson became clear: The show really should stick closer to the books. Tulip's death and resurrection at the L'Angelle estate is one of the most powerful, iconic, and downright awesome moments in the comics, and the show has screwed it up nine ways to Sunday.
By the end of "The End of the Road," Tulip O'Hare is dead. She was shot--off-screen!--by Featherstone, a character who Tulip had reason to mistrust but for some reason let her guard down around all season. Cassidy tried to turn her into a vampire, which would have saved her life, but Jesse stopped him. His reasons for doing so are clear only to the Preacher--and to every single viewer, because for some reason the show deliberately telegraphed what should have been an incredible twist, turning it instead into just another talking point.
In the flashback that opened the episode, young Jesse kills a chicken in a fit of frustration. Then he begs Grandma L'Angelle--who we'll hopefully meet if there is a Preacher Season 3--to bring it back to life, because that's apparently a thing she can do. In the season's final moments, Jesse and Cass rush Tulip's lifeless corpse directly toward the Preacher's childhood home. Wonder what'll happen there?
Then, just in case it wasn't clear from the episode itself, Executive Producer Sam Catlin dropped this subtle hint in an official post-season video: "Is it the end of Tulip? I mean, it's an end of Tulip. She is dead. But on this show we all know dead can mean many different things." Thanks for that clarification, Sam.
In contrast, this storyline in the Preacher comics came as a total surprise. When Grandma had her cronies blow Tulip's head off--a punishment for Jesse--I truly believed she was dead. It was relatively early in Preacher's 75-issue run, and despite the presence of angels and demons and the Saint of Killers and all the rest, the books--unlike the show--had given me no reason to believe that people could come back from the dead. Tulip does just that, and in a spectacularly unexpected way that somehow manages to both tie back into the books' main storyline and reinforce some of its central themes. It's really genius. I wholeheartedly recommend reading it.
I recommend watching Preacher, too! I'm frustrated with the show's shortcomings, but as a fan, I find it worth sticking with for its moments of fun, crassness, and blasphemy. Herr Starr, one of the best characters from the source material, was perfectly outrageous in Season 2, and easily the show's current best feature. I doubt it's a coincidence that Starr is also closest in the show to his comics counterpart.
When the Preacher and his friends set out on the open road at the end of Season 1, fans hoped the show would find its footing and get to the good stuff after a fun but drawn-out first season. But throughout Season 2's 13 meandering episodes, that never happened. Preacher can still be fun, like when it spends one episode catching up with the depraved angel Fiore, or when another opens with a ridiculous, minutes-long graphic sex scene starring none other than Jesus Christ (seriously, that was brilliant).
I'll keep watching Preacher as long as it's fun. But it's looking more and more like that's all it will ever be.