Midnight Texas, Preacher and the power of found families

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The lasting appeal of supernatural stories is right there in the name. Tales about larger-than-life characters, inspired and perpetuated by legend, lore and myth, have carved out a lasting place in fiction throughout the years, and audiences continue to show up in droves for them. The success of stories about creatures such as vampires and werewolves and witches is only in part due to their fantastical origins, their powers that elevate them above the rank of mortal being. In truth, what really makes for a successful supernatural narrative has as much to do with what makes these beings human, and therefore relatable, as what makes them otherworldly.

Several famous monsters over the years have been secretly if not outright driven by their attempts to forge connections with others -- and most of the time, the chaos and horror they leave in their wake is simply incidental, a byproduct of their inability to function in the normal world. So what’s a monster to do when they don’t fit in anywhere? Interestingly, that’s been the undercurrent of two shows currently airing: Both Midnight, Texas and Preacher follow the stories of characters who can’t conform to society’s norms but stumble upon other misfits who don’t fit the mold -- and, in the process of seeking a place of refuge, manage to form something resembling a family.

Sanctuary is what brings us to Midnight, Texas to begin with; while trying to outrun the ghosts of his past, psychic Manfred (Francois Arnaud) is guided by none other than the spirit of his dead grandmother Xylda to the small, strange town of Midnight, which hosts a wide range of inhabitants in possession of some unique abilities of their own. Among them is Lemuel (Peter Mensah), the vampire who feeds on energy for nourishment rather than blood; Fiji Cavanaugh (Parisa Fitz-Henley), a witch whose kind energies don't even begin to hint at the true depth of her powers; Joe (Jason Lewis), an angel cast out of heaven who has foreseen the coming of bigger evil; and the Reverend (Yul Vazquez), who just so happens to be a weretiger. (Oh, and let’s not forget the talking cat.)

Given that all of these “Midnighters” are regarded with suspicion by some and outright derision by many, it would be understandable for them to circle the wagons, to close ranks without letting Manfred in -- and at first it appears that there’s every possibility of that happening. A few of the locals -- like assassin Olivia (Arielle Kebbel) -- are more than happy to get the answers they need from Manfred via questioning under duress, but once they realize he isn’t an enemy, it doesn’t take long for the citizens of Midnight not just to welcome him in but to make themselves available to assist him when needed. When Manfred finds his rental home is being overrun by demonic entities, he enlists Fiji’s help to perform an exorcism, and in one instance it’s actually Olivia who fronts Manfred the remaining cash he needs to pay off Hightower, a dangerous man he conned out of a lot of money.

Occasionally, the vigilance of Midnight’s locals does have a more deadly side -- but it rears its ugly head with the intention of securing a safe future for everyone who lives there. After the revelation that they have a murderer in their midst -- and a human one at that -- Lemuel chooses to snap his neck rather than to let him flee the town limits on foot. It’s evident from the scene that this is something of a last resort -- but up until this point, Midnight has been a safe haven for those who don’t belong anywhere else, and so the idea that an unrepentant, human serial killer could uproot that is what’s more unsettling than any form of frontier justice. It isn’t the supernatural beings who are the biggest threat; it’s the ones without any extraordinary abilities at all. As we’ve seen over the past seven episodes, however, the citizens of Midnight, Texas have forged more solid allegiances in the face of rising dangers. Thanks to Joe’s prophetic paintings, they know that older and powerful evil is on the way, but fortunately the Midnighters as they currently stand are equipped to deal with what lies ahead -- not to mention what lies beneath.

Unfortunately, even the strongest bonds between found families are prone to fracture -- and that’s where Preacher’s main trio has found itself heading into the final episode of its second season. The unlikely triumvirate consisting of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a preacher with a not-so-God-given gift; Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga), his girlfriend with a penchant for fast talking and faster cars; and Cassidy (Joe Gilgun), a vampire with as many vices as tattoos, has an atypical beginning that kicks off when both Tulip and Cassidy stumble into Jesse’s life.

For Tulip, hers is a return to the long, complicated past she shares with Jesse -- first as a childhood friend, then later as a romantic and professional partner while they’re working as criminals for hire. Cassidy’s arrival, on the other hand, could be characterized as something akin to the puppy that shows up on the back doorstep and refuses to leave. At one point, Jesse is unceremoniously informed that Cassidy is living in his church working small maintenance jobs, but he never gets around to kicking the vampire out even once he discovers what Cassidy really is, and from then on the two of them form one of the most surprising and non-traditional friendships on screen.

When the three decide to leave town at the end of Season 1, it’s primarily for the purpose of a divine mission: to find God, who’s gone missing. Yet one gets the sense that Tulip -- and Cassidy, to a larger degree -- are mostly in it for the prospect of a long road trip rather than any grand journey. Next to Jesse, who is committed to what he believes is his new purpose, it’s clear the other two would much rather spend their time playing tourist in New Orleans, the city they eventually end up in. Only after the more dangerous aspects of Jesse’s undertaking catch up with them -- like the unstoppable, Terminator-esque Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish) -- does their situation become much more real, for Tulip especially. Plagued by insomnia after her near-death encounter with the Saint, Tulip’s relationships with Jesse and Cassidy begin to splinter, but she’s hardly the sole one at fault when the group as a whole drifts apart.

What we have here, in other words, is a failure to communicate, and it’s that breakdown that creates the rift that eventually leads to both Tulip and Cassidy pulling away from Jesse as he continues on what he believes to be his sole calling. For Tulip and Jesse alone, there’s years of unspoken truths and resentment bubbling up between them to the boiling point -- but with Cassidy now in the mix, the number of secrets reaches new heights. Not only is Jesse unaware of the one instance in which Tulip and Cassidy slept together, but Cassidy himself harbors something else he’s kept hidden from the other two-thirds of the group: He’s in love with Tulip. As of now, the future of the group looks rather uncertain, but if the epic car chase in the Season 2 premiere demonstrated anything for us it’s that this unorthodox group of friends is continuously stronger together than they ever were apart. It just might take an actual force of nature -- or even God -- to get them to admit it to themselves as well as each other, but in the meantime Jesse certainly seems positioned to tackle some of the biggest threats of the series alone.

At surface level, Midnight, Texas and Preacher don’t share too many similarities, but the throughline of their stories is analogous: The family you create with others who aren’t necessarily related to you can sometimes forge bonds that are even stronger than those within your own blood. Supernatural narratives lend themselves to fantastical happenings, but without those more grounded elements they don’t turn into the types of episodes that linger with us long after they’ve aired. In Midnight, Texas and Preacher alike, it’s the power within those found families that elevates the story -- and leads to surprisingly compelling television as a result.