Now that we’re going into the final part of Preacher’s first season, it’s easier to see what this show is really about. The pilot, and second episode, would have us believe that Preacher was going to be a high concept adventure show, full of creative action set pieces, coffin black humour, and larger than life characters. Since those first two episodes the show has kept two of those aspects. There’s a slight whiff of budgetary concerns over the reason there’s been less action than first thought, but in its place we have been given a, slightly askew, study of three characters (four if you count Eugene) who once prided themselves as being outsiders, but are now looking for a connection.
Why else would Cassidy stick around Annville, become hopelessly in love with Tulip after one eventful encounter, and be the worst (and this week, the best) surrogate for Jessie’s conscience? Why else would Tulip stick around Annville, help out at the church, and put her plans for vengeance on pause as she waits for Jesse? Finally, why else would Jesse stick around Annville?
He Gone finally gives us some clues to Jesse’s connection to, as Diamond Joe Quimby would put it: this jerk-water burg. Last week’s excellent Sundowner ended with Jesse hitting rock bottom, using the word of Genesis to send Eugene to hell. A slip of the tongue, or hubris? Now that he’s hit rock bottom he spends the entire episode rolling around in it. Instead of trying to deal with what he’s done to Eugene, Jesse goes ahead with his plan to cure the town, and in a very neat piece of direction, in an episode full of them, he walks out of the church as the light from under the door transforms into a cross as he passes through. This is an action that defiantly says “damn the consequences, this is surely Gods plan”. Except when he has the undivided attention of his flock, both inside and outside the church thanks to the nifty new PA system, he holds back. Sure he tells everyone to serve God, but his words don’t have the power of Genesis behind them, and now the rot starts to set in. As this very long day continues, full of bible plays, and hash browns with vanilla extract (more on that later), all of Jesse’s plans go sour.
Just like last weeks episode, He Gone is concerned with communication and the power of words, and their effect on who hears them. Everyone was talking last week, but no one was communicating. A few wrong words sent Eugene to hell and, as week see this week, Jesse’s got a bad history with this.
It turns out Jesse blames himself for his father’s murder because, after his father sends a young Tulip into foster care, Jesse prays that God kill him. As if right on que his father dies at the hand of someone who has the same tattoo on his arm that Jessie has on his back in the present. In Jesse’s mind he’s done the same thing again, damned someone he cared for through a few angry, but powerful, words.
At the end of this episode everyone seemingly knows where they stand but it’s Jesse’s guilt and judgement that gets them there. Tulip, who enjoys a free-running sequence in order to get her uncle’s pants back, continues to help out at the church, and rebuke Cassidy’s advances. She’s here for Jesse, and Jesse makes clear, at an uncomfortable dinner in which The Big Lebowski is dragged through the mud again, that he doesn’t want her.
Cassidy finally reveals his supernatural origins in a typically weird scene that begins with him hitting Jesse with a fire extinguisher. Cassidy saw what happened to Eugene, and after Jesse’s half-hearted attempt to justify his rash behaviour, Cassidy proves that Jesse is not fit to decide who is judged by walking into the sun and setting himself on fire. It’s unclear exactly what happens to Cassidy, but it’s safe to assume that Jesse saved him thus proving Cassidy’s point.
Now to the case of the vanilla extract which, as it turns out, is very flammable. It’s quite fitting, especially for this show, that something so mundane as a cooking screw-up perfectly encapsulates the philosophical problem of its lead character. The power of Genesis has given Jesse an opportunity to be one of the good guys, a mantra that has an all new meaning after the circumstances of his father’s death are revealed. Tulip keeps saying that Jesse is really a bad man, but he’s been trying so hard to be good. You could even say that he is trying to be vanilla. But his best intentions go up in flames, just like those hash browns, with Jesse frozen in contemplation over the sins he has committed. The path to hell is paved with good intentions, intentions just as flammable as that vanilla extract.
This is particularly felt through Eugene’s absence, whether it’s his empty room, or the empty seat his father keeps for him in church. Sure he shot the Loach’s daughter, and then himself, but his path to redemption was on his own terms. In the last few weeks Jesse took that path away from him with an easy fix, and then damned him when Eugene confronted him. The penny has dropped for Jesse. Despite the fact that he still won’t give Genesis up, he is beginning to repent for what he’s done to Eugene. Although, ripping up the floorboards, and trying to dig into hell yelling “come back” seems like another accident waiting to happen.
8/10 He Gone doesn’t have the fireworks of last week’s episode, but the way this episode, and the show itself, is tearing their hero down has to be commended. Now with Quincannon on the warpath, and Jesse turning a corner, the end of this first season is looking to be an exciting prospect.