We’re rolling in backstory in this week’s episode of PREACHER. Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t really have a lot else going for it. With all the previous episodes being as good as they were, it’s no surprise that there was eventually an episode that didn’t quite stack up. That’s not to say that it’s bad, only that there it’s not as exceptional as the others.
The episode starts off immediately after the end of the last one, and Jesse is clearly struggling to reconcile what happened to Eugene with his own feelings about his powers. Maybe some of the tension and discomfort that he’s feeling is coming through to the audience because it’s clear that he’s having some real issues with the situation. He tries to lead service, though there’s one seat that’s glaringly empty, and he tries to handle his other church responsibilities, though his mind is obviously elsewhere. When Quincannon comes to visit him to make good on their deal and transfer the deed to the church, Jesse is closer to his breaking point than we’ve seen him yet. He’s sure that he has won their wager, but to his surprise, Quincannon asserts that he’s still not a Christian and he’s not serving God. So what happened? Why didn’t the Word of God work on him?
This shock only serves to turn Jesse’s foul mood fouler and he takes it out on those around him – first, going on the defensive when Cassidy tells him that he saw what happened to Eugene, and then chasing both Tulip and Emily away from the dinner table. It’s in the first of these moments that we learn exactly what happened to Eugene to make him look the way he does. According to Jesse, Eugene had been in love with Tracy, the girl in the coma, and when she had rebuffed him, he shot her in the head, then turned the gun on himself. Both survived, to varying degrees, but Jesse tells Cassidy that Eugene isn’t as innocent as he seems, and better men than him had been cast into Hell. Hurt by Jesse’s attitude towards the situation, Cassidy steps out into the sun to see if Jesse would care enough to put the fire out when it’s his best friend dying in front of him. We don’t see what happens, but a lot can be inferred from the resulting conversation between him and Tulip.
Dotted throughout the episode are scenes of Jesse and Tulip as children, their intensely close relationship then juxtaposed against their ire towards each other now. We see young Jesse defending Tulip from bullies at school, and begging his father to help her when she has no other place to go. For a while, the two are inseparable, until Tulip overhears Jesse’s father calling children’s services. When they come to take Tulip away, Jesse is distraught and that night prays that his father would die and be sent to Hell. It’s unclear how much time passes, but the next time we see young Jesse, his father is telling him to hide as he fights off unknown assailants. His efforts are ultimately in vain because the men take Jesse outside and make him watch as they kill his father not feet from him. Jesse blames himself for his father’s death, believing that it had only happened because he prayed for it. A lot of Jesse’s current attitude towards Genesis and his new power suddenly makes sense after seeing this scene play out in full (we saw a glimpse of it in a previous episode).
After everything in Jesse’s life has gone to hell, some things more literally than others, the only thing that could make it worse is Quincannon and a battalion of Civil War reenactors heading towards his church with a bulldozer.
The episode isn’t quite disjointed as some of the others have been, the structure is actually really solid with the past giving context to the present. However, there’s an overwhelming feeling of something off about the entire episode. It could just be really good acting, or it could be the sudden wild divergence from the comic book plot that leaves a fan of both the show and the books feeling uncomfortable. The episode is undeniably tense and incredibly awkward, but I feel like the intention might have been to make the audience feel what the characters are feeling – and if so, bravo because it worked on me. For all the strangeness, however, I have to applaud the absolutely incredible special effects when Cassidy is struck by sunlight. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in vampire media and looks so real that I actually had to look away from the television for a moment. Ultimately, I’m torn over this episode. When it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, it just sucks.
You can watch Preacher on AMC, Sundays at 9/8c with an encore episode following at 11/10c, and check out the official website for some great behind the scenes features.
It's never too late to change.
Jesse is forced to face the very serious repercussions of using his powers, and his attitude towards Genesis starts to make sense as we see more of him as a young man. Things are not going well for him.