Throughout the season, Preacher has been shy with details about the past – about Jesse, about Tulip, about Eugene, about pretty much the entire town of Annville.
This episode returned to the quiet form that punctuated much of the middle of the season. Over the course of “He Gone”, however, some powerful truths (or, at the very least, perceptions) about the world this show lives in were revealed, which helped a little to make up for a lack of action.
First, there was Jesse. While, on the surface, it looked like he was blasé about sending Eugene to Hell with the power of Genesis, in truth, it ate him up inside the whole day. Nowhere was that more true than during the climax of his sermon. As it reached its high point with the overflow crowd in rapt attention, Jesse doubted this power for the first time and his voice cracked when he said “serve God” rather than let the thunder of Genesis save the souls of the town. What should have been Jesse’s moment of triumph fizzled out and reminded Jesse of the moment his faith was first shaken to the core.
Tulip and Jesse have been thick since they were in grade school. They’ve always had good intentions and terrible judgment. Jesse’s father tried to look after Tulip for a few days while her mom was in jail, and her uncle was drunk as usual. Jesse comes by his flaws naturally because his father had tried to do the right thing for all the wrong reasons by calling protective services to come pick Tulip up, not because she was unruly, but for the most typically small-town terrible reason there is: she’s an O’Hare and O’Hares are, by their very existence, trouble (judging by her uncle’s neighbors, a thought that still carries on in the present).
Of course, young Jesse is upset by all this and prays that God strike down his father. Not a night or two later, we again see the scene where Jesse makes that promise to his father, but it has further depth. Not only is modern Jesse now trying to fulfill his father’s dying request, Jesse is doing so under the impression he’s responsible for his father getting killed.
A mealtime (vanilla hash browns flambé, anyone?) visit by the Sheriff, who is trying to retrace Eugene’s steps, finally makes the rubber band of Jesse’s soul snap. After he runs off Cassidy, Tulip, and Emily in various ways, Jesse furiously digs under the floorboards of the church, using Genesis in a fruitless effort to bring Eugene back.
Speaking of Eugene, a version of his story was filled in during a verbal confrontation between Cassidy and Jesse because Cassidy took pity on the kid. The story around town is that Eugene was infatuated out of his league, couldn’t handle the rejection, tried to blow the homecoming queen’s head off with a shotgun, then shot himself after. It’s all a little too small-town tidy and nothing we’ve seen so far on the show leads you to believe that Eugene has that kind of malice or passion inside of him. There’s more to this story for sure.
Of course, no episode of Preacher can end without a little weirdness. So Cassidy walked into the sun without a shirt on to prove he was a vampire. Tulip bit a nipple off in a fight as a kid. Donnie only has one nipple now. Tulip did a convincing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off neighborhood dash to track down her uncle’s stolen pants. Odin is resistant to Genesis, believes he won the church in that wager, and is calling out the Power Company infantry to take Annville’s Alamo.
It was disappointing that Preacher took a step back into the land of exposition after such a well-balanced episode last week. Having all those gaps filled in (and that tense dinner scene) mitigated the realization that, at its heart, this was another setup episode. It’s not great for fans when shows get into patterns like this; thankfully this cast has the chemistry to make up for it and there’s so much yet to learn that it makes droughts like this easier to take.