In many ways, the first season of AMC’s Preacher has led to a slow descent into damnation for its characters. And in “Finish the Song,” many of these characters reach their lowest possible level. Lives are lost, bad decisions are made, and an actual trip to Hell takes place, all leading to one of the most spectacular reveals of the season.
Following the events of the last episode, Jesse quickly escapes Sheriff Root’s custody, finding himself once again on the lam from the law. This is the first of many bad decisions Jesse makes in the episode, which will eventually end with a death cover-up. The pious Jesse from earlier in the season is no more, as he’ll stoop to just about anything to keep his church. The episode ends with him not just the disposing of a body, but also robbing angel corpses for their limbs, an ultimate act of sacrilege, simply so he can save his father’s land.
In “Finish the Song,” Jesse is not the only person who finds himself on the road to the inferno, as Emily is on her own path to perdition. Left in charge of a feral Cassidy after Tulip attends to other business, Emily realizes she can kill two birds with one stone by serving up her beau, the Mayor, to the crazed vampire. What results is one of the most bone-chilling scenes of Preacher so far, as the Mayor screams from beyond the door and Emily looks on terrified. Worse than this, however, is how ambivalent she seems afterwards. As Emily sets a group of animals free — saving them from a horrifying death as vampire lunch — she reacts stoically, as if she hadn’t just sent a man to his gruesome death. It’s wildly out of character for Emily, who never before showed any signs of violence or a lack of compassion. And so, character motivation is an issue throughout the episode.
“Finish the Song” is capped off with the true paragon of damnation himself: The Saint of Killers. In his last appearance, he had found his wife and child dead, reaching for his guns and heading back to town. With his return to Ratwater, he takes his vengeance in the bloodiest of ways, bringing down the entire town in violent gunfire, beginning with the preacher who killed his horse and delayed his return home. The series creators intelligently pull the rug out from under its viewers by revealing that this hasn’t been some large, unconnected story, but instead a view into this universe’s Hell. The Cowboy is forced to live his final moments repeatedly until the end of time. This is brought to a halt with the appearance of DeBlanc and Fiore, whom had booked a literal trip to Hell through a shady travel agent, offering the cowboy a chance to escape this nightmare, if he’ll kill the preacher.
The last few episodes of Preacher have dealt with characters finally facing the consequences of their actions, and it looks like the worst is still to come. With The Saint of Killers pulled from the pit, and each of the characters showing their darker sides, it’s looking less and less likely that Annville and its denizens will survive the season.
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.