Preacher: Dallas

"This is America. Nut up or get out."

We take a break this episode to recount, through the use of flashbacks, the tale of how Jesse and Tulip broke up.

This is maybe why I found myself bored with Dallas. I don't really care about Jesse and Tulip's backstory, and what I saw here didn't make me care about it any more than I already did. Which, I reiterate, is not a lot.

In the telling of this tragic falling out, we retread over a few things we already knew. The first: back in their freewheeling outlaw days, Jesse and Tulip were betrayed by their partner in crime, Carlos. Jesse ended up killing an innocent man, and Tulip miscarried their child.

We see the aftermath of this. The two had given up the life of crime to be regular, tax-paying citizens living in Dallas, Texas. When he's not sulking on the couch watching John Wayne movies, Jesse works as a bartender. Tulip works in real estate. They live a monotonous existence, going through the motions of normalcy and repeatedly trying to have another baby. After Jesse finds out Tulip has been moonlighting criminal work and taking contraceptives, they have words and Jesse takes out his violent anger he feels towards her on his stoner friend. Jesse decides he's going back to revive his father's church in Annville, while Tulip goes back to her old ways.

I've written before about my dissatisfaction with the way Jesse and Tulip are portrayed. I really am not feeling this modern day Bonnie and Clyde angle, with the couple being master thieves and assassins. In the comics, they're petty criminals at best (which is all in the past, too, as I recall). They boost cars for joyrides and occasionally beat up really abrasively mean people, but are otherwise cool, good-natured people with believable flaws. The actors do a decent job of displaying that general mystique, exuding coolness and being generally well-intentioned, but changing them to "the best there is" at crime just makes them a shade too dark.

The changes made to their backstories does not help. Tulip is practically a different character; I really have never liked that they made her the daughter of a prostitute born into a family of degenerates, and thus feels she is naturally predisposed to be a violent criminal. On top of that, her new characterization has been skewed from the very beginning; she starts out as a zany borderline psychopath who is smart enough to build bazookas out of arts and crafts on the fly, and slowly became little more than a sassy stick in the mud with dependency issues and forced quirky dialogue. And Jesse's far too brooding and unstable. I know there's bound to be a lot more to each of their backstories, but what we've got right now is all incredibly flimsy.

I get that we live in a time where it is very popular to glamorize the serial misadventures of dark, melodramatic anti-heroes. Still, is a righteous, likable, true-blue hero too much to ask for? Does every television protagonist have to strive to be the next Walter White?

Maybe they're just preparing us for the nightmare that is Cassidy's backstory, which is alluded to a couple of times here. Cassidy states that he once was a very wealthy man and enjoyed it quite a bit, and expresses, once again, the very low opinion he has of himself.

Anyway, on to the rest of the episode.

In the present, Jesse is thinking about murdering Viktor, Tulip's surprise husband. He orders her away, while he beats around the bush trying to decide. Eventually he has to face the fact that he drove Tulip away with his callous treatment and grief. After Cassidy makes him realize that Tulip has always loved him, Jesse spares Viktor and makes him sign the divorce papers. So that big problem is easily resolved offscreen, much like Carlos last season. In fact, Tulip's whole impetus for running out on Viktor was to track down Carlos, which takes the drama right out of that since she ultimately decided to just let Carlos off with a beating he was able to walk away from.

I did end up kind of liking Viktor and his whole crew. He seemed like a nice guy, aside from the casual torture and other gangster shenanigans. And it seems that when I'm just starting to like a new character, the Saint of Killers will show up and mercilessly gun them down. Which is what happens to Viktor and his crew in the end. RIP Viktor, you big softie. Fortunately, Viktor's daughter is wise enough to simply tell the Saint what he wants to know.

So it looks like we have a face-to-face show down between Jesse and the Saint to look forward to. That's got to be exciting.

Bits and Pieces:

* My favorite part of the episode was the supercut of Jesse and Tulip's maddeningly repetitive routine in their normal life. The way it was edited made the montage seem eerily reminiscent of the Hell simulators in previous episodes. It was a nice touch.

* The flashbacks re-establish a couple of running jokes from the first season: Tulip is terrible at cooking dinner, and Danny's attempts to persuade Tulip and Jesse to murder her husband.

* Another thing that seems to be a trend on this show is the fact that Jesse and Tulip's relationship can't seem to function without a third wheel to bat their issues off of. It seems Cassidy is one of many. We had Carlos, who betrayed them out of greed and jealousy. Danny, who doesn't seem interested in friendship unless they are helping her commit major crimes. Viktor found himself unexpectedly thrust into this position. And Dallas reveals Jesse kept an annoying college stoner named Reggie around to pass the time in his mundane life.

Quotes:

Cassidy: Long day, huh? I just poked my head into the little torture room downstairs, met our man hanging from the ceiling. He's alive, which is nice. It's fair. It's very restrained.

Jesse: Why should I trust a lying, junkie, vampire who thinks everything's a joke? Why in the world would anyone trust you?
Cassidy: ... Ah, you're right. I-I am, I'm a right bastard. I try to tell people all the time, but sometimes I think they just don't believe me. But you're right. I'm greedy, selfish, destructive, you name it. Jealous.

Viktor: You wanna know why Tulip married me?
Jesse: I know why.
Viktor: Oh! Tell me.
Jesse: Because this is what she wanted. To be a criminal, have money, this lifestyle.
Viktor: That's not why.
Jesse: Why then?
Viktor: 'Cause you're an asshole... asshole. And I was nice to her. Just thought you should know.

Two and a half out of four Bible page joints.

2 comments:

Sam Smith said...

As someone who's never read the comics, I am loving this show. I was going to start on the comics, but you've convinced me that they would just sour the show for me. I've always thought that Jessie needed to be a dark character, as Genesis would only accept someone half good, half evil. Still, these reviews provide some excellent juxtaposition, so keep up the good work! I've been wondering, have they softened Cassidy at all for the show? For all we've seen of him, he may be the nicest character (barring Eugene).

Logan Cox said...

Sam Smith,

I'm glad you're liking the show. I do try to enjoy it on its own merits and try not to harp on the comic too much. There are just certain things that annoy me.

But yeah, it's a weird inverse they've done now. Where Cassidy is a light-hearted, sensible, nice guy, and Jesse and Tulip are the ones who are creepy and morally ambiguous. It's the other way around in the comics, which I still highly recommend.

It's not to say that Jesse and Tulip don't have their dark moments in the comics. I just feel like in the show they're trying to remind us every episode that these are legitimately deranged people.