[This is a review of Preacher season 1, episode 7: 'He Gone.' There will be SPOILERS.]
Last week saw Preacher answer some key questions for its main characters and seek to get them all on the same page. For too long, Jesse, Cassidy, and Tulip had been circling the same narrative but as long as it remained unexplained for any of them – or in the case of Cassidy, wildly misinterpreted – the show seemed destined to keep spinning its wheels as it worked out a way to keep the story moving, while also keeping it situated in Annville. But as the crazy early events of 'Sundowner' demonstrated, there was a way to elucidate the characters and still have them make a choice in terms of the path they were on, even if it was the wrong choice or one motivated by selfish concerns.
Jesse's fateful meeting with DeBlanc and Fiore may have provided him with an explanation as to what was giving him the power to make others do as he commands, but it did little to sway him to the plight of the two wayward angels or to keep him from digging in his heels as far as his quest to "save" the people of Annville was concerned. 'Sundowner' felt very much like the beginning of the second act in Jesse's story and 'He Gone' seems ready to continue exploring how the character has changed, knowing what he does now. With Eugene having vanished after Jesse commanded he go to hell – which suggests the ability Jesse has gained as a result of Genesis hiding out in this body may be more powerful than anyone previously thought – Jesse is at a crossroads of sorts, fully equipped to make a decision regarding his future, but still answering to the call of past demons.
As such, 'He Gone' faces the challenge of illuminating Jesse's past and explaining the source of his guilt, as far as his father, Odin Quincannon, and Annville in general are concerned. The series has offered up some snippets of Jesse's past before, and a glimpse at his father's dealings with the murderous meat magnate, but so far they've only had an impact on one or two immediate choices made by Jesse. Will there be enough in these flashbacks to give a clear understanding of why Jesse sees saving Annville as his top priority, or is it simply a case of hubris, now that he can cheat his way into turning the denizens of his hometown into devoted servants of the Lord?
Another title for the episode might have been 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People' but since that was already taken, 'He Gone' will have to suffice. After the wild and kinetic events of last week's installment, Preacher goes for a more introspective hour this time around, hardly moving from the church at all, in order to give a great deal of background on Jesse's life growing up, his connection with Tulip, and what was going on with those men who murdered his father right in front of him. You can see where the hour is trying to make a connection between Jesse's command that Eugene go to hell and his childhood wish that his father die and he, too, wind up in the bad place, but it doesn't entirely work. The emotional association is mostly paid off by Jesse's standoffishness and his refusal to engage in anyway whatsoever with Tulip, Cassidy, and Emily, but there's a sense that his growing guilt over Eugene is too reliant on the events from the past. This underlines how underdeveloped Eugene is, and how the character exists to service the plot but has no larger function or arc so far. Hopefully that will change at some point down the line, as this experience – if he truly is in hell – may put Eugene on an interesting path that deviates even more from the source material and defines the character in terms of him having greater agency and impact on the story than just facilitating various emotional changes in Jesse.
As far as 'He Gone' is concerned, the same is true of almost everyone else in the series. This is the most Jesse-centric episode since the premiere. The hour meanders at times, as it attempts to connect the past with the present and to tease a larger story that expands Preacher's scope beyond Genesis and Annville. The focus (again) on men with tattoos (which are the same as the one on Jesse's back) is the first time the death of John Custer has been addressed since early on in the season, and given all that's going at the moment – i.e., Jesse being told about Genesis, finding out there are two angels looking to take it back to heaven with them – the teasing of his twisted past seems to be another thread that's destined to stay hanging for the foreseeable future. As interesting as Jesse's past appears to be – especially in terms of answering the question: Who raised him after his father was murdered? – it doesn't do much to alleviate concerns that the series is moving in circles. And while readers of the comic will already know the answer to the question of where Jesse goes from here, the addition of another mystery this late in the season doesn't spark much in the way of confidence that season 1 will successfully tell a complete story from start to finish.
Still, like the series as a whole, 'He Gone' manages to be entertaining enough, despite its table-setting qualities. The hour demonstrates Preacher can make an uncomfortable scene set around a dinner table with the best of them. The fact that it goes south in a hurry and leads to Cassidy finally revealing his true nature to Jesse suggests the series is even more committed to getting its characters on the same page, even though it's not as committed to demonstrating how and why any of it matters right away.
Preacher continues next Sunday with 'El Valero' @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview below:
Photos: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC