Preacher season 4 has seen Jesse Custer transform from heroic leading man to an accidental villain. Currently on its final run, Preacher is going out kicking and screaming, with anti-aging cream made from vampire foreskin, Jesus smoking a joint and the shocking reveal that God wiped out the dinosaurs as punishment for eating their own fecal matter. Back in (relative) normality, Jesse is once again in full control of his Genesis power and sets out with Tulip to free Cassidy from the Grail. The plan takes an expected turn when Cassidy refuses Jesse's help and the preacher later has a vision of the apocalypse, convincing him to set out on his own in search of God once again.
Even in its very first season, Preacher wasn't afraid to delve into the inherent darkness of Jesse's character. It was a fit of anger that saw Jesse accidentally send Eugene to hell in season 1's "Sundowner" and the preacher's decision to go back on his deal with the Saint of Killers in season 2 backfired massively, still coming back to haunt Jesse in the present. On multiple occasions, the power of Genesis has gone to Jesse's head and sent him on an ego trip, but Dominic Cooper's character has always managed to step back from the brink, and is driven by a genuine desire to do "the right thing" whenever possible.
Unfortunately, it's this noble goal that has caused Jesse to become more villainous than ever before in Preacher season 4. After leaving Tulip behind, Jesse heads to Australia to prevent the apocalypse and his journey is beset with complications. In each scenario, Jesse tries to take the moral choice but thanks to Genesis, the use of violence or his own hubris, these actions have resulted in dire consequences. The pattern begins when Jesse is tricked by a young boy thief pretending to cry over a dead dog at the roadside. After going over to investigate, Jesse is held at gunpoint by the child but forces him to drop the weapon. Upon hitting the ground, a bullet is fired and kills the boy's pet for real.
This scene triggers a chain of increasingly tragic misfortunes. Jesse later tries to save the child from a house of perverts, but the boy is accidentally shot during the melee. Later on, Jesse is involved in a plane crash and is stranded on the ocean with the craft's pilot. Jesse's earlier Genesis command that the pilot should forget his pants means that man is badly sunburned out in the open, so Jesse commands him to feel no pain. Subsequently, the pilot doesn't notice when a shark chomps off his hand. Despite Jesse's best efforts, his companion dies.
Even though Jesse has generally only ever tried to help people, his use of Genesis continues to have grave, unforeseen consequences and this trend comes to a bloody climax when Jesse puts himself at risk to save Eugene from the Saint of Killers, only for the boy formerly known as Arseface to shoot the preacher in revenge for sending him to hell.
Jesse's troubles are at least partly of his own making, but there also appears to be a celestial influence at play. Previously in Preacher season 4, a conversation with Herr Starr revealed that God was actively out to punish Jesse and make him suffer. Some of the coincidences that have befallen the protagonist since, such as the plane's raft suddenly arriving at a beach immediately after the pilot died, feel distinctly like a trick from God's hand. Additionally, Preacher has shown God with a board of Jesse's life, teasing some level of control from the bearded deity.
But is mere punishment God's ultimate goal for Jesse? One of Preacher's recurring themes has been enduring trials, whether from the heavens or otherwise. It's possible that God is gradually pushing Jesse towards villainy to test the extent of his morality, or his suitability for some unknown task. Of course, anything can happen in the world of Preacher, and maybe God is just repeatedly poking Jesse to see how long it takes to break him.
Preacher season 4 continues September 1st on AMC and Amazon Prime.