‘The Tombs’ continues season three’s success and offers a huge improvement to Jesse’s characterization, which fixes some of the problems found in season 2.
Before we get to the critical portion let’s do some recap. Jesse continues his role as the ringmaster of a twisted fighting arena that uses people who have lost their souls. Tulip is trying to save Jesse from his dark past and the machinations of his grandmother. Cassidy has been outed as a vampire and is fighting in the Tombs, all the while holding his torch for Tulip high and alight. All this occurs as Jesse’s grandmother holds all the cards… at least for now.
The Tombs itself was the epitome of what Preacher does best, presenting the grotesque is a humorous way — though always for a reason. Cooper’s charismatic performance and the desperation in each of the soulless mob’s voices reveal a dark truth about the world, some thrive on the misfortune of others. The crowds at these horrific events that feed the L’Angelle family their souls represent the human capacity for cruelty, something the characters in this series struggle with on a daily basis.
This season has really delved deeper into Jesse’s character and has explored where the darker aspects of his personality derive from. Jesse has, especially in the last season, proved himself to be of questionable moral fiber, frequently making decisions that have generally horrific consequences for himself and those close to him. By contrasting Jesse’s present with his past, we see that environment he grew up in and the obvious struggle he endured to remain even close to being a good person. Jesse pushes people away to protect them, acts like he’s worse than he is because deep down he knows that to be the truth. Season three is about rescuing Jesse’s soul in more ways than one.
Tulip’s role in the season is very interesting as and builds off of her limbo influenced flashback of sorts in the premiere. While her motivation is ostensibly due to her love of Jesse, I can’t help but feel that her saving his soul is some way of coping with her troubled childhood. Tulip’s father was trapped in a cycle of mistakes that had major repercussions for his family, something Tulip doesn’t want herself or those around her to fall into.
Cassidy proves to be the most sympathetic character this week with the vampire showing substantial character growth. He is angry at Jesse and he wants to be with Tulip but Cassidy is willing to put her first. It is an unselfish love that is a deviation from the source material but makes for a compelling re-interpretation. This makes Cassidy a somewhat tragic figure, but his feelings for her may curb his darker instincts, though an addictive personality is a tough thing to battle. Only time will tell.
Preacher season three is really tying these three damaged individuals together into a storyline about whether cycles of pain and violence can ever be overcome. They just want to be better or they’re not sure if that is even possible.
Love triangles can get very tricky and often fall into cliche, but I appreciate that Jesse still cares for Cassidy despite some anger towards his feelings for Tulip. There’s an undercurrent of resentment but it doesn’t dominate the character dynamics.
Featherstone’s presence on the bus is most likely an attempt to capture Cassidy, with my reasoning being that she can’t monitor him discreetly now that her identity is known to the entirety of Team Preacher. The Grail seems to be more active in Jesse’s life at the moment despite Herr Star’s earlier suggestions in the second episode of season three. This along with the next paragraph’s subject shows plot progression that the series has lacked since the premiere.
The episode opens and closes with a trip to hell, the scary part that most people imagine when they think of the darker side of the afterlife, something not yet shown in the series. The conversation, which we only see the end of in the scene, shows a connection to the Grail which fits the larger themes of Preacher. Abstract concepts of good and evil are not completely accurate. Heaven and Hell are more like corporations, each working with the Grail when it is necessary. The juxtaposition of the devil’s outlandish appearance and his well furnished corporate office was visually entertaining, while also adding to the larger themes of the series.
The Saint of Killers was a frightening antagonist and by far the most engaging part of season 2, so seeing him return was a delight. He was essentially the Terminator hunting our protagonists and it was his determination that proved to be the most intimating aspect of the Saint. That raw will-power is on display when he takes an incredibly brutal whipping without a so much as a whimper and then he confidently strides out to finish his mission. Both scenes were well executed and set up some interesting stories for future episodes.