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Preacher - Masada & Last Supper - Double Review

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Preacher 4.01 "Masada":

During Preacher's final comic con panel at this year's San Diego Comic Con, which followed Game of Thrones' panel, Seth Rogen pointed out in regards to the series that “There was a world where we could have maybe extended it longer... but to us it felt like [it was good] having a show where nearly every episode was propelling the story forward, and moving towards a final conclusion… in a plotted-out way that was hopefully fast-paced and satisfying – you know, like the end of a TV show.”

Based on this, and the jokes that were made at Game of Thrones' expense during the panel, you get the assumption that they're fairly confident with how things are going to play out, at least confident enough to show their faces at panels, and that the creative team wants the ending to be a satisfying one and will pull out all the stops to do so. It's a show that hasn't been afraid to offer up more irreverent humour when it needs to and Masada is a reminder that it hasn't lost any of its touch, dipping back more into the absurd than ever as the show now comes with added agency that it hasn't really had before, even in its excellent third season which was the best to date, and even more creative freedom ushered in the writers room for them to go balls to the wall.

The series is ending this season. There will be no more episodes after the finale, no renewal, no rescue from another network, and that means there's a lot of stuff to wrap up but at least the show gets to end on its own terms without fear of worrying about cancellation. Herr Starr. Jesse's search for God. The Saint of Killers. Eugene. The Grail. Humperdoo. The Tulip/Cassidy/Jesse sort-of but not really love triangle. It's a heck of a lot of material but given the way this season opened, I have faith that things will be wrapped up on a strong note.

And where else do we start but with Jesse and Tulip at the peak of their powers? Driving down the Middle East in a sun-drenched desert intent to take on The Grail HQ - the Masada - almost single handedly to rescue their friend Cassidy, interred and used as an experiment by teachers to show future Grail students the best methods of torture, handy as no matter what limbs Cassidy loses he'll grow back. It's into this season that Frankie Toscani makes his debut, played by Lachy Hulme - who's clearly having fun in his role like most of the cast, demonstrating an immediate affection for a .303 Lee-Enfield that his character shares with his comics counterpart. For everything that Cassidy has had done before to him he soon learns that that for someone as creative and twisted as Frankie is, there will always be new ways to torture that won't have always been tried on him in the past. It's hard not to feel sorry for Cassidy (who would probably have preferred Comparative French Literature).

Although we're in season four the characters are still left in season three and feeling the scars of it. Cassidy and Jesse aren't exactly on the best of terms, not helped by Cassidy's affection for Tulip, punctuated by an opening scene where we see him and Tulip sharing a bed together after a drink and a smoke. After using the word of God to influence a bunch of fascist Grail soldiers to turn against their allies and aid Jesse and Tulip to help sneak into the HQ, Cassidy and Jesse's escape is thwarted by a closed door - albeit one where a Grail soldier loyal to Tulip - has unceremoniously been smashed to pieces in a desperate, devout bid to keep it open. Of course it's Cassidy who provokes Jesse into a fight, not backing down, and the two brawl until the door opens. It's something that they've been wanting to do for a while and the tension between them whilst they were marching out of the HQ was palpable.

This episode did a good job at establishing the direction that Jesse and Cassidy are headed in this season, moreso Jesse than Cassidy, but offering hints what might be in store for them on the way. Tortured by visions of an apocalyptic future, voices from his father and nightmares of him torturing Tulip, Jesse sets out off on his own, renewed on his quest to find God. Cassidy however, after warning Jesse that he was cooking up his own escape attempt before he turned up, tells him that he'd rather remain behind - with the torturing and the caged angel - because he has some sort of plan in mind. What that is, we don't know. But keeping Cassidy where he is means that it won't be the last time we return to the Grail HQ this season.

We don't know much about where Tulip's arc will take her this season, but her fight with Lara on top of the Grail HQ was pulpy, fun and joyful to watch. Lara BASE jumping to safety was an unexpected surprise - and as someone who was worried that they'd kill her off this early, it's good to know that there's going to be more of her in store. I do love what the Preacher effects team have been able to do with a comparatively small budget, and little touches like the metal detector in the middle of nowhere - not it seems, set up not just for Jesse but established as permanent Grail fixture and a party set up for the return of Cassidy no longer going ahead add little touches of comedy that this show is known for sneaking in when it can.

There are dangers presented in the premiere that the show could perhaps fall back into its old ways, the trio of characters work best when they're together and separating them this early on in the series could lead to storylines that aren't as interesting as the other, but the writers have showed that they're capable of learning as they go along and it's been no coincidence that each season of Preacher has been better than its last. Hopefully season four will continue in that mould.

God is determined to see Jesse suffer it seems, and it's enough for Starr to listen and avoid shooting him when he had the chance to do so. Pride comes before the fall, and there's a very real chance that this last season could be the most personal one yet for the characters.

Preacher 4.02 "Last Supper":

If these two episodes showed then the series has lost none of its steam, continuing to build on the what was laid down in season three. Jesse, Cassidy and Tulip's separation thankfully didn't lead to a decrease in momentum, with the series firing on all cylinders.

Cassidy left off the last episode opting to remain behind in the Grail HQ and we catch up with him as a torture subject inside Frankie's lecture theatre. They start off by having small talk and we're shown another reminder that Cassidy can get on well with anyone when he wants, even if he's only biding time before he can escape. He senses an importunity, and although we don't know what the show has in store just yet, we know that despite proving that he can escape on his own without the help of Jesse or Tulip if he wants to, he'd rather remain indoors. And there's the big fat, sun-drenched desert that is going to make his escape route all the more difficult. His first attempt was actually alright to be fair, as he pulled off something that Steven Soderbergh would have been proud of. He then decides to return, getting cold feet, and although he eventually escapes again, he's covered in bullet holes, and Frankie is there, waiting for him. He's been warned that Cassidy will come for him if he escapes, and he's on edge. Nobody wants a vampire roaming around the corridors with a vendetta. To make matters worse, Cassidy's torture is starting to get to him. Frankie realises that there's a chance that Cassidy might believe it's justified for his past actions.

Tulip doesn't know of Cassidy's predicament - although she's got a pretty good idea of what's happening to him and it's safe to say that out of the three storylines in this episode, I had the most fun with her arc. I mean, a Vanishing Point-inspired car chase through the desert certainly helps, and after baiting Lara out of the Grail HQ with an army of reinforcements in small cars, they're dispatched one by one. Tulip is playing up Lara's hatred of her and there are no lengths that Lara won't go to to track her down. But we need to talk about that car chase that helped Tulip sneak inside the Masada with the help of Kamal (Miritana Hughes), in an an excellent display of subversion of the audience's expectations. It was easily a highlight of the two episodes for me, and it's going to get a scene of the week nomination. The action is coming thick and fast, and seemingly, there's no stopping it, no matter what the characters try to do, and although there's not much time left in the series, it's good to see that Preacher is continuing to experiment and try something new each episode within its genre. One second it's a heist film, the next a car chase epic, and then it's an existentialist Ingmar Bergman-esque questioning of faith melodrama.

Okay, maybe Bergman if he'd been raised on a healthy dose of Fast & Furious movies, but still. There's plenty of thought provoking discussion to be had when it comes down to Jesse's arc. Tulip believes that he's not coming back, and it's hard to see that there's a way where he reaches the end of the series alive. After all, how do you stop God? God, who we just saw at the beginning of the episode, destroy the dinosaurs and wipe them out to the point of extinction? God, who in Preacher, is presented as the ultimate puppetmaster? It's going to be a challenge, and even if it's a God who hasn't been at the top of his game lately, it's still God. Jesse almost seems like he's on a suicide mission.

He's even hesitating to rescue a child from Jesus DeSade's building. "It's a pilot code", his new friend tells him before storming off into the building. Jesse eventually enters, but it's something that is no longer done instantaneously, as it would have been a couple of seasons ago. Sure, had Cassidy or Tulip been there they would have jumped at the chance to help, but putting Jesse in that situation makes for an interesting development.

These two episodes served as a reminder that the only person Jesse is looking out for is Jesse, despite random acts of kindness shared to the kid who would later end up in DeSade's building, giving her his wallet after an attempted robbery but it's only after her dog dies, in another demonstration as to every action that comes with using his powers has negative consequences attached to them. He used them in the truck full of chickens to stop it, only to leave he left his lighter behind. He used them in the desert, and the two men on camels died as well as the camels themselves. It's hard to like a character as unsympathetic as Jesse is and has been in the past, but Dominic Cooper is doing a brilliant job at adding depth to his persona. One of the best assets that the series has to offer is its trio of leads, and once again, this was another round of perfect performances for Cooper, Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun.

The supporting cast continues to delight too, and I loved Pip Torrens as Starr, positioning himself as the new Allfather this week to a group of doubting representatives. His handling of the New Zealand representative was a novel solution, and served as a testament to his ruthlessness. They may not have found the right Humperdoo yet, too busy with cleaning up the amount of clones that were let free last season, but it's only a matter of time. And between the schemes of God and the vengeance of The Saint of Killers and Starr, Jesse - even though he's traded America for Australia, is caught between a rock and a hard place.

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