Preacher’s Annville is a city in denial. The people of the city know strange things are happening, but they treat them like nothing. “Monster Swamp” makes this quite literal, opening with a young prostitute falling into a sink hole and dying. Instead of mourning the woman, or taking the owner of the land, Odin Quincannon, to task, the blame is quickly shifted to the reckless young people of the town, without giving a second thought to the evident horror of it all. It doesn’t stop with the townspeople themselves, either, as even Jesse doesn’t seem affected by the strange goings-on. When Cassidy warns Jesse of the Angels, and their plans, Jesse writes it off as drug-fueled delusions, despite seeing proof for himself on the hood of his van.
A large chunk of the episode is devoted to pulling back the layers on Quincannon, and showing how his power keeps him free of any sense of responsibility. Throughout, Odin shows how little he cares about those around him, whether it be the girl in the opening scenes, his own workers or the city itself. When the mayor brings in a plan that might better than city, Quincannon’s first thought is to literally piss on them, showing a distinct disrespect not just for the mayor, but for Annville. This builds to a pivotal scene with Jesse, who asks “what if there’s judgement? What if there’s fire?” Of course, there would never be, not in Annville.
Indeed, Annville is a city of sinners. Even without taking into account the major players like Cassidy, whose tendency towards violence and drugs is only compounded in this week’s episode, and Tulip, who brings plenty of sin in her wake, the city is brimming with denizens partaking in their own deadly sins. Most of the action of this episode takes place in a whorehouse, and there’s no sense of shame felt by anyone involved. People don’t seem to suffer major consequences for their actions in Annville, but it looks like that may all be beginning to change with some help from the titular preacher.
It’s the denial, the lack of judgement and the lack of consequences that run so rampant in the city which make the episode’s climax so powerful. Jesse dresses down his congregation, which has grown thanks to the presence of Quincannon and the promise of a big-screen TV, informing them that they’re all sinners, and nothing, not money, not sex, not even their own families, is going to save them from damnation. It’s a jarring moment, and the show’s most successful so far, as it finally shines a light on everything wrong with this city, and holds Annville’s population responsible for their actions. This all builds to a huge moment, where Jesse uses his powers in the most impressive way yet: to steal Quincannon’s power. If he can turn the most powerful, sinful man in the city into a follower of Christ, there’s no telling how far he can go. As Quincannon warns earlier in the episode, however, forcing someone into believing wouldn’t be very Christian, now would it?
Ryan E. Johnson (@atxtheaterguy) is a theatre and film critic from Austin, TX. He enjoys the films of Sion Sono, Wong Kar-Wai, Ingmar Bergman and loves experiencing films told from bold, new perspectives.