Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of Preacher! Proceed with caution. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched “He Gone”, we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.
After last week’s season-best teaser, Preacher returns with a much more contemplative opening scene. And it damn well should–since Jesse accidentally sent poor Eugene to Hell at the end of “Sundowner.” At least we thought it was an accident. Of course we also thought Eugene was entirely deserving of our sympathy. But both of those notions are challenged by Preacher Custer in this week’s climactic scene, which pits him against Cassidy, the heathen who has emerged as the holy man’s conscience. Jesse tells him he believes Genesis is part of God’s plan for him, though it’s pretty obvious he’s lying to himself in an attempt to relieve his guilt. The truth that does emerge, however, is that Eugene was fully responsible for putting Tracy Loach in a coma: when he shot her in the head moments before trying to kill himself.
It’s another reminder of how radically the show differs from its source material, since the Eugene of Garth Ennis’ comic book was less dangerous to others. Though he was equally mixed up, with his suicide attempt primarily carried out in imitation of his hero Kurt Cobain. The other big difference highlighted in “He Gone” is one we were already aware of–that Jesse’s late father was also a preacher, as opposed to Ennis’ haunted Vietnam vet. It’s possible, however, that the reason for his murder matches that of his print counterpart. (The presence of a baseball bat will be familiar to readers.) Though here that murder is shown to be the source of Jesse’s lifelong remorse, since we see, in one of a series of flashbacks, his younger self praying for his father’s death, and, in shades of what happened to Eugene, banishment to Hell. As revenge for his turning a troubled young Tulip over to the state.
“He Gone” ultimately reveals just as much about Ms. O’Hare’s past as it does Jesse’s, though with less dialogue. The product of a very broken family, Tulip is revealed to have been a childhood chum of kid Custer who, unlike her future beau, didn’t at all have the love she needed during her formative years. “He Gone” also makes clear that race–an element absent from their relationship in the comics, in which Tulip was a blonde Caucasian–plays as much of a role in dividing them as anything else. It’s all too evident when the adult Tulip returns to her family’s home in the part of town populated largely by African Americans. And it’s almost impossible not to be reminded of this past week’s real-word events, in which the country’s racial differences, including those in Texas, were again made clear to a horrified nation.
As for the show’s central dilemma, and the issue of Jesse’s newfound power versus the free will of his congregation, “He Gone” finds him facing the limits of that power when Odin Quincannon (who’s wrestling with his own father’s legacy) tells him he was not made a Christian by attending his church service, and is therefore coming to claim what he believes was promised him for his “Meat & Power” company. Having driven away both of the women who love him, a distraught Jesse tears the floorboards out of his church looking for Eugene, with the question of just what happened to Cassidy still hanging in the air, and a hateful army marching on his home. It might not match the shock of last week’s cliffhanger, but it’ll do.
Preaching to the Choir
— Young Tulip bit a boy’s nipple off? Damn. That girl was always vicious.
— “Oh. Busy. Corleone-family-wedding-day busy.”
— Cassidy really needs to have Emily over for a Coen Brothers marathon.
— So why doesn’t young Jesse have a Texas accident?
— If Bible belt churches really do stage theatrical productions based on the Old Testament story of Abraham, I’m genuinely curious as to how prominent a role bongos play.
— As God is my witness, I didn’t know vanilla extract was flammable either.
— The funniest part of The Most Awkward Dinner Ever occurs when the oven erupts flames in response to Sheriff Root’s inquiry about Eugene’s whereabouts.
— Okay, one last question… Can’t Jesse simply command someone to go to Hell and come back with Eugene?
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).