After an eventful nine episodes (detailed here), the season 3 finale of Preacher closes some chapters…and, of course, opens up a few others. Now with full control over Genesis once again, Jesse finally faces off with his family at Angelville, first defeating Jody in hand-to-hand combat in The Tombs…and beating him to death. Jesse then burns down The Tombs with Jody’s body still inside, and TC opts to stay behind and die as well; though Jesse would have spared him, TC knows that his time at Angelville is over…and that he has nowhere else to go. Then moving to the main house, Jesse has his final showdown with Gran’ma, using Genesis to force her to break the blood compact and untie Tulip’s life from her own. However, Gran’ma reveals that she made a new deal with Satan: she will go to Heaven when she dies…and, if Jesse kills her, he will go to Hell in her place. Frustrated, Jesse makes the decision to use Genesis to force Gran’ma to destroy the souls from Osaka, which she would have used to keep herself alive for at least 100 more years (according to his estimates). But Jesse is not satisfied with this…and knowing that he is risking sending his own soul to Hell, he ends up choosing to strap Gran’ma to her own soul-sucking machine, extracting all of the souls she had consumed throughout the years – and thus killing her.
Meanwhile, Tulip faces off with the Nazis on the Hell bus, as Eugene faces off with Hitler, and the Saint and the Angel of Death face off with…well, each other. Just as it seems that Tulip and Eugene are going to get away, the Angel of Death catches up to them…but God intervenes, removing Tulip from the situation while leaving the rest to continue their journey to Hell. Taking Tulip to a scenic area somewhere by the water, God claims that he will clear the O’Hare name of its curse if she agrees to tell Jesse to stop looking for him…but Tulip refuses and tells God that she doesn’t need his forgiveness. However, he then warns her that Cassidy is in danger…and though Tulip believes that there is a chance that God is bluffing, she heads off to check on Cass anyways.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Cassidy manages to convince Eccarius that he will join the “dark” side…only to overpower Eccarius shortly thereafter. Cass reveals that he had turned Kevin’s grandmother into a vampire when she found out what where all the “flown children” had really gone…and she then turned the remainder of Les Enfants into vampires as well. The group feeds on Eccarius, as he had done to the others before them…and Cassidy is left in charge. As the group contemplates what to do next, Cass receives a phone call from Tulip, who is checks to see if he is in danger and decides that she is coming to pick him up. Cassidy is touched by this, and he seems to realize that he might actually belong with Tulip and Jesse…maybe they are his family. But Hoover then arrives, claiming to be leaving his position within The Grail in exchange for life as a vampire. This is, of course, a ruse…and The Grail blows the place apart, capturing Cassidy and killing the majority of Les Enfants in the process. By the time Tulip arrives on the scene, Cass is gone…but Kevin and his grandmother managed to survive the attack, and they inform her of what has transpired.
In Hell, the Saint delivers Eugene and Hitler to Satan…but as he receives his weapons for a job well done, he turns his guns on Satan, asking if he had any part in his daughter’s death. Satan reveals that it was all God’s doing…but the Saint kills him anyway, fittingly leaving Hitler in charge of Hell. Knowing that the rules no longer apply with God gone from Heaven, the Saint asks Eugene to join him as he leaves Hell, as Eugene never belonged there in the first place. Realizing that the Saint is headed after Jesse, Eugene decides that he will accompany him on the trip; after all, Jesse is the one who sent him to Hell…and left him there.
In the end, Tulip picks Jesse up from Angelville, and they seemingly head off to rescue Cassidy. Cass, meanwhile, is stuck in a cell at The Grail’s headquarters in Masada…with an angel hanging from chains high above him. Outside, Herr Starr starts discussing his plans with Hoover; he is calling in a professional to torture Cassidy. Soon realizing that Hoover is *actually* a vampire (he wasn’t “just kidding”), Starr seemingly kills him by removing his umbrella hat and allowing him to burn in the sun, telling Featherstone that they will need a “new Hoover” as she arrives on the scene. He then reveals to her that by using Cassidy as a trap, the plan is no longer to lure Jesse in and convince him to be their Messiah; the new plan is to kill him. As Starr and Featherstone put on soundproof ear protectors, the camera zooms out to reveal The Grail’s troops, prepared on both the ground and in the air. In other words: we are left on a major cliffhanger that teases a major storyline from the comics. Is it time for season 4 yet?!?!
Personally, I thought this season was fantastic overall; in fact, storyline-wise, it has probably been my favorite season of Preacher so far. The Angelville plotline was one of my favorites from the comics, and I thought that it was adapted so that it translated well on screen – not to mention the fact that several other plotlines from the comics were cleverly woven into the story (i.e. Satan and Hell, Eccarius and Les Enfants du Sang, the Allfather, John Wayne, etc.). This made the season highly entertaining for comic fans like myself, as it was intriguing to see how they played out on television (and to see how those not familiar with the comics reacted to those particular moments).
Furthermore, the storyline showed the audience a side of Jesse that we hadn’t really seen before, as he spends the majority of the season struggling to deal with his family without having control of Genesis. To me, this really helped to make Jesse a more sympathetic and relatable character. While it can be argued that the presence of Genesis often clouded his judgment in the first two seasons, its absence from the majority of the third allowed for us to see Jesse handling himself without it under extremely threatening circumstances; in other words, he was forced to troubleshoot through each and every situation at Angelville on his own. As a result, we see a less confident and less judgmental version of Jesse and instead see someone who is resourceful in moments of crisis and who is willing to do anything to protect those closest to him – even though he is simultaneously facing off against the people that he fears the most. In my opinion, this is exactly the side of Jesse that we needed to see after season 2, in which he seemed to basically push Tulip and Cassidy away in favor of his mission to find God. The events of season 3 force Jesse to consider what is truly important – and, as a result, we get a more well-rounded view of his mindset, which I believe is an essential element in good storytelling.
Another element that made this season extremely enjoyable to watch was the well-crafted balance between the humorous, more outrageous elements of the show and the softer, more nuanced moments. This is something that Preacher has excelled at in the past, and season 3 was no exception; in fact, I feel that this balance has only continued to get better with the series’ time on the air. Many of the newer storylines this season are proof of this; for example, the Angelville plot instilled an effective amount of fear in the viewer (i.e. by establishing Gran’ma’s dominance) while frequently being simultaneously hilarious (i.e. any scene with TC in it – like when he is discussing his “dingle” with Tulip or running pantless through the street with a goat from the petting zoo). The Grail’s plotline is another area where this can be seen; while the amount of power they hold and the threat of Humperdoo taking over the world is still very present, the comedic elements of that storyline are also very well-balanced in season 3 (i.e. the Allfather’s menacing presence being coupled with his grotesque size and eating habits, or the Humperdoo clones being used to perfect a serum for the transference of Genesis…only for all of them to be set free upon the world by Jesse).
However, one of the best examples of this may be Cassidy’s storyline, which has been developing since the first episode of the series and has gradually become more and more fleshed out in terms of its tone. By season 3, the true focal point of Cassidy’s story has shifted to a softer look at human loneliness – and though Cassidy is still entertaining to watch and much of his humor remains intact, the viewpoint is still a stark contrast to the wild, hilarious shenanigans of his that took more of a front seat in the first season. For instance, take the scene in 3.04 (“The Tombs”) where Tulip drives Cassidy to the bus stop. What starts off as hysterical and demented because Cassidy is literally wearing another man’s face to break out of Angelville shifts into something completely heart-shattering by the end when Tulip must tell Cassidy that she doesn’t love him in order to finally convince him to leave. The first time I saw the scene, I remember laughing at the ridiculousness presented at the start…and by the end, it was the only scene in Preacher that has ever made me cry. This just goes to show the refinement in storytelling over time, making an already fantastic series better and better as the seasons progress.
This leads me to my last point of what I believe made season 3 of Preacher so effective – the incredible cast bringing these characters to life. For instance, the shift in Cassidy’s character over time is completely organic, which is not only a testament to the writing team, but also to Joe Gilgun’s brilliance as an actor. Gilgun not only has the ability to deliver outrageously comedic lines with a sense of wit and charm, but he also shines when handling more dramatic material; he can convey an incredible amount of emotion with just his eyes, often making it feel like you are seeing all of the pain, sadness, and loneliness in the world with just a single look. This truly makes him fascinating to watch from week to week, and I believe that he is one of the most underrated actors on television right now (I will expand more on Gilgun’s influence on my own life and career in an upcoming article reflecting on my personal experience with Preacher and fandom; however, if you are a Cassidy fan, you can read more about my interpretation of his character here for the time being).
Moreover, when you combine Gilgun’s performance as Cassidy with Dominic Cooper’s performance as Jesse and Ruth Negga’s performance as Tulip, it is easy to see what makes this series work so well. Not only do the three have amazing chemistry when they are on screen together, but the work that they do on each of their individual characters grounds them in reality, making them relatable in a world that could otherwise be construed simply as outrageous – and season 3 was no exception to this. Like Gilgun, Negga is an expert at navigating between the subtle and the more outspoken material, and this season continued to expand on both elements of her character. From the crazier moments like beating up Featherstone in the woods or robbing the Boyds’ bank of souls to the softer moments like internalizing her childhood or confronting Jesse about their relationship, Tulip is a confident badass while also simultaneously being a damaged individual who frequently feels lost, and Negga has a way of making it look effortlessly realistic. To me, this is extremely important, as having a flawed female character who can handle herself and still be so grounded in reality is crucial to society’s outlook on women nowadays (I expand more on this viewpoint in my character study on Tulip, which you can find here). And in Cooper’s case, the storyline this season really allowed for him to thrive as an actor; seeing a softer, more fearful, and more introspective side of Jesse allowed for further expansion into the character’s psyche, resulting in what I think is some of Cooper’s best work within the series.
In addition to Cooper, Gilgun, and Negga, the supporting cast of Preacher has always been incredible, and their work in season 3 was top-notch. Many new characters were introduced this season, bringing an array of new talent to the show. Casting Betty Buckley as Gran’ma was a completely brilliant decision; I distinctly recall my excitement upon first hearing that she was cast, and her performance did not disappoint. Her take on the character was both terrifying and realistic, something that I think was a necessity to adapting her for the screen. Colin Cunningham as TC was another fantastic choice because while I found myself mostly disgusted by the character in the comics, Cunningham brought both humor and a level of innocence to TC that made him extremely likable (despite being a “villain” in the grand scheme of the story). Other standouts include Jeremy Childs as Jody, Jonny Coyne as the Allfather, Adam Croasdell as Eccarius, and Jason Douglas as Satan, all of whom did an amazing job at bringing to life their respective characters from the comics. And, of course, the returning cast members Ian Colletti (Eugene/Arseface), Graham McTavish (the Saint of Killers), Pip Torrens (Herr Starr), Julie Ann Emery (Featherstone), Malcolm Barrett (Hoover), and Noah Taylor (Hitler) all continued to do spectacular work as well.
To summarize briefly, this season of Preacher has been a wild and emotional ride, and I enjoyed absolutely every second of it. Congrats to Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Sam Catlin, and the entire cast and crew on an amazing third season, and I await on hopeful bated breath to see if AMC renews it for a fourth.
Missing Preacher already? Be on the lookout for my personal reflection discussing the effect the show has had on me as both a professional and a fan, coming within the next few weeks. In the meantime, you can discuss the finale by joining the conversation on FoCC!