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Preacher 2×5: Tulip Plays Pretend on the Latest ‘Preacher’

Preacher 2×5: Tulip Plays Pretend on the Latest ‘Preacher’

Late in this episode of “Preacher,” there’s a moment when Jesse tells Tulip, “I’m so bad for you.” Tulip replies, “We’re bad for each other.” That is the thesis statement and this episode is the proof.

We pick up immediately after the end of last week’s episode. Jesse is consumed with anger. The show does a good job of conveying that kind of irrational anger with blurry shots, the focus on the wedding picture over everything else, the slow speech. It’s the Viktor’s statement — “She’s my wife” — that sends him over the edge. Tulip’s hinted at Jesse’s possessiveness before and the dark consequences that could stem from it, but this is the first time we’ve truly seen it. Jesse drags Viktor down to the torture chamber and strings him up in the torture harness. He is so single-minded in his anger he only seems to notice Tulip when she physically tries to stop him. Then he uses Genesis to force her out of the room.

Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer, Ruth Negga as Tulip O’Hare, Paul Ben Victor as Viktor – Photo Credit: Skip Bolen/AMC

This episode is mostly a contained exploration of the dynamic between Tulip and Jesse — how they see themselves and how that affects the relationship between them. We flashback to when they lived in Dallas after their botched job with Carlos. They’re working normal, crime free jobs. Trying to get pregnant again. It’s seemingly everything they wanted. They should be happy but they’re not.

In a montage that fittingly begins with Glenn Morris’ “I’ll Pretend,” Jesse goes through the motions of his pretend life. He becomes a series of actions — drinking, buying pregnancy tests, smoking, sleeping with Tulip, watching John Wayne. He carries on because he thinks it’s necessary, but everything is played as meaningless. The sharp contrast between the version of Jesse we met in Annville and this one is never more evident than when we see the lack of care with which he treats the Bible. Meanwhile, Tulip dresses in her professional clothing and goes to play assistant at a realtor’s office.

Eventually, the charade ends. Jesse finds out that Tulip has been lying to him. She tried to pretend but ultimately this shaky imitation of normal wasn’t something she could sustain. The realtor job only lasted 3 weeks. She started taking birth control so all the pregnancy tests were unnecessary. They both are lying about wanting this life but in different ways. Jesse falls into a depressive state. Tulip went back to what she knew best.

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Ruth Negga as Tulip O’Hare – Photo Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

They are both constrained by these ideas of what they think they should be — Tulip by what it means to be an O’Hare and Jesse by what it means to be a Custer. They have given too much power and meaning to these roles to easily throw them off and that will always cause conflict between the two. They know each other’s soft spots and what to say to cut the most.

Viktor hadn’t hurt or even threatened Tulip but Jesse still wanted him dead. “You want to take it out on someone, take it out on me,” Tulip told Jesse as he dragged Viktor down the hallway. He takes his anger at Tulip and her lying, even by omission, out on his friend and then on Viktor. That level of menace hanging over Tulip during the past few episodes wasn’t fear of Viktor or what he would do to her. She was afraid of Jesse finding out. That he would leave her again like her left her in Dallas.

Tulip seemed if not happier, then at least more settled when she was married to Viktor —  as did Jesse when he was playing Preacher. Ultimately, this episode emphasizes they will always be drawn back together, even if it’s not in anyone’s best interest. Till the end of the world, they promise each other. Right now Cassidy is playing the long con to break them up. It didn’t work this episode because Jesse ultimately doesn’t kill Viktor, but it’s more evident than ever that this relationship between the three is a ticking time bomb.

The episode ends with the Saint attacking Viktor’s stronghold and killing everyone but his daughter. Not because he found a shred of conscience but because she was the first person willing and able to give up Jesse’s location.

It’s time for our trio to find out they’re still being hunted.

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