Like the previous episodes, “Monster Swamp” doesn’t reveal Preacher’s main narrative, but the episode successfully brings the cast of characters together and sets them on a collision course.
The episode has the best cold open to date. It’s shot like a slasher film with low-key lighting, dense fog and the “hot girl” running from an unseen assailant. Other girls are shown also hiding and running from a group of armed men that are hunting them for sport. Think John Woo’s Hard Target. We then find out that this is a bizarre game of paintball that accidentally turns deadly after Lacey (Barbie Robertson) plummets to her death via a sinkhole. Sheriff Root (W. Earl Brown) watches Lacy’s body being pulled out from the ground, we believe he’s investigating her death. But in reality, he’s acts as a bodyguard to Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) during his speech. The men of QM&P receive a slap on the wrist for their “roughhousing” and the women are reprimanded: “ …watch where you’re walking.” The scene shows the level of power Odin has over the town as Root helplessly looks on and hypocritically and condescendingly says, “This world.”
Tulip (Ruth Negga) blames Clive (Alex Knight) for Lacey’s death and is outraged by the lack of justice, so she takes matters into her own hands. By beating a man who she believes is Clive until he falls through a window, which turns out to be Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun). The scene cuts to the two of them being rushed to a local hospital. At the hospital, Cassidy slinks away while Tulip tries to get medical attention for him. She follows a trail of blood that leads to the blood bank where she finds a rejuvenated Cassidy sucking down a couple bags of blood. I love this scene mostly because of Negga’s concerned performance.
She pleads with God with a childlike mentality, “I know we hate each other but please, please, please just this once do the right thing here. I’ll be so good… I swear I’ll be so damn good you won’t even know it’s me.” And like Squints in “The Sandlot,” Cassidy takes advantage of the situation and steals a kiss from Tulip.
In addition to the dynamic between Negga and Gilgun, the scene is also great because this is the first time a human, non-vampire-hunter character encounters the vampire. Sure, Cassidy told Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), but Jesse blames Cass’ drug usage for all the nonsensical things Cassidy says and does. Tulip seems more confused by the discovery than alarmed. But vampires aren’t the weirdest thing on this show when you consider that a couple of angels are after an “alien” entity that resides in Custer’s body.
Also in this episode, Jesse is inspired to pack the church with the Annville citizens like the days when his father John Custer (Nathan Darrow) filled the pulpit. So he hatches a plan to make an example out of the one person Custer Sr. thought couldn’t be saved: Odin. The preacher and the meat-processing plant owner have a theological debate while painting metal miniature figures, which brings to mind an image of God and the devil playing chess and making some kind of wager. It’s a convenient picture because Jesse makes Odin a tempting offer. If Odin is able to leave the next church a non-Christian, then Jesse is prepared to offer up the land the church was founded on – real estate Odin has been trying to acquire since the days of Jesse’s father. Of course Jesse cheats and uses his divine influence to make a believer out of the influential figure. This decision shows us how arrogant Jesse has become. Even though he’s using his ability for good, it will more than likely backfire. Either Odin will escape the preacher’s control (assuming the angels are able to remove the entity from Jesse) or as the preview for next week’s episode suggests people like Donnie Schenck (Derek Wilson) or Miles Person (Rickey Mabe) will try to expose and/or exploit Jesse’s abilities.
And finally, we get to the poor angelic duo Fiore (Tom Brooke) and DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef). They continue to wait – like the rest of us – for Cassidy to deliver the preacher to them. The plan is simple: extract the being from Jesse’s body. Hopefully without the chainsaw. Fiore wants to call in reinforcements by using a phone that can somehow contact Heaven. Except they can’t use it, because the renegade angels are in hot water not so much for being on Earth but why they’re on Earth, which I’m guessing is the series’ main narrative. The episode ends with a close up of the mysterious phone ringing.
Again “Monster Swamp” does little in way of moving the main story forward, but I imagine that we’re nearing the end of the exposition and moving into the rising action where characters and their problems can being to overlap and cause further complications, which is sure to provide audiences with the drama and violence they expect from AMC programming.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511