Preacher is confusing. Not because of its story about demons and superpowers, but because it whiplashes between satire and harmless negging of religious institutions. The show is at once funny and sharp without saying anything important. “El Valero,” the eighth episode of AMC’s comic book show is Jesse Custer’s (Dominic Cooper) last stand against atheist mogul Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley), who storms Jesse’s church property like it’s the Battle of the Little Bighorn with Donny (Derek Wilson) in Confederate cosplay. Within 40 minutes “El Valero” encapsulates Preacher’s inconsistent approach to, well, everything Preacher wants to talk about.
It’s summed up in one line before commercial break, when Arseface (Ian Coletti) — still damned to hell — returns as Jesse’s conscience and Jesse brandishes a molotov cocktail: “This is sacrilege,” Arseface pleads. “This is my damn church,” the good preacher replies. Damn right it is.
Kevin Smith got the ire of church-goers for Dogma, a 1999 comedy that had a poop monster from Golgotha and Ben Affleck, whereas Preacher is infinitely liberal in its Christian mythology. Yet no one from the church has made a peep. Westboro is more concerned about Pokémon Trainers on their property than they are about a hard-drinking Baptist minister shooting penises off on TV. Bizarre and venomous Preacher may be in its content, somehow it’s agnostic, avoiding the centuries of skeletons in the Vatican’s closets. A show like Preacher could make mincemeat out of institutions in a story about a super-powered minister, but that hasn’t been the show’s concern.
And that’s Preacher’s game. Jesse Custer will preach however he pleases. The storming of Jesse’s property is less a plot point resulting in a fun bottle/seige episode and more like Preacher making a statement: After South Park, after Kevin Smith, this is how we satire. Not with juvenile humor or affectionate mockery (as in The Book of Mormon), but with a straight shot to the balls, all for the right to preach its way.
Jesse actually “loses” the siege. Donny, in a poetic and metaphorical gesture, shoots his ears off to safely approach Jesse (thus avoiding Genesis) and curry favor back with his boss — even though Odin doesn’t give much of a shit. Jesse is forced to surrender, not before asking for one final Sunday with his church. It’s been a long time coming, but what gets Preacher on its road trip — the main story of Garth Ennis’s comic series — is the holy slaughter of Annville at Jesse’s congregation. Expect another bloody Sunday.