Did you ever say something then immediately regret it? Asking a co-worker if they’ve spent Thanksgiving with their folks before remembering their parents are dead. Or maybe it’s inviting a friend to a party on reflex despite knowing that they turn into a complete a-hole after 2 1/2 beers. Well, Jessie Custer may just have taken the title last week as he didn’t so much kick the show’s puppy, Eugene, he sent him into the fiery torturous damnation of hell. It’s time to see if his newfound powers come with a do over.
He Gone – As Jessie deals with Eugene’s shock disappearance but becomes increasingly distant with those around him. Meanwhile, Odin Quincannon shocks Jessie by calling to collect on their wager over the church’s land.
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away (eth?) seems to be the message as the title becomes a double meaning. Rather than the actual sense of Eugene’s departure, this is a story that revolves around Jessie losing himself to the entity inside him. For all the strong dramatic material we get as this develops, it’s the first setup that really puts so much weight behind this by building on Jessie’s gradual successes in recent episodes. We see him becoming everything he’s been working towards, being an inspirational figure of salvation to the community that now requires his sermons to have an overflow seating section... only to throw it all away bit-by-bit. Like an angel falling grace into the depths. Like sending Eugene to the bowels of hell has become an anchor slowly pulling him there too. Not only does Dominic Cooper deliver some of his best work on the show to date as he becomes bitter and closed off, but the story uses each of its core characters incredibly well in keeping with both their individual personalities and greater group dynamic. It even gets wrapped up in a good old dysfunctional family dinner no less. Tulip, knowing Jessie better than anyone, is the first to sense the problem. Cassidy, in his direct blunt approach, is the first to call Jessie on the sacramental shit he’s shovelling. While Emily, as his most devoted and caring believer, is the last to be driven away. Every leg to table is kicked away in just the right order to make us see Jessie as anything but his former self. Although if there’s one standout moment here above the rest, it’s the return of Cassidy’s scene stealing after a few weeks off. After setting up the idea that our favourite drunk Irish Coen brothers fan hasn’t told Jessie about his nosferatu state of being, the ultimate reveal becomes an incredible and surreal moment as Cassidy forces Jessie to gaze upon the consequences of his actions. The effects look great too.
The episode also impresses by the way its flashback scenes reverberate back to the present rather than being merely indulgent or their own side story that isn’t overly appreciated (sorry Arrow, we’re looking at you). Firstly, there’s the deep friendship bond between the young Jessie and Tulip as she becomes a Custer resident when her family goes AWOL. It leads in well to Tulip’s pledges of knowing Jessie better than anyone. It packs some great laughs too, like their opening fight description. Then there’s the main theme of adult Jessie’s descent into evil as we see his younger self being a beacon of righteousness, embodied by his father’s influence. It allows us to imagine this younger Jessie still within the older version, getting pushed further and further away from driver’s seat as Genesis takes the wheel. There’s also good use of existing story knowledge to draw a parallel of regret and being careful what you wish for. The Odin Quinncannon subplot is the weakest point of the episode as it suffers from too much obscurity. The meat and power man appears to have resisted Jessie’s influence to some degree but we’re in the dark over and why. Not to mention that his epic shotgun spree (<deep voice> U L T R A K I L L!) still feels rather unexplained. However, this is more than redeemed in the climax it delivers, forming a superb cliffhanger for next week.
Last week saw Preacher finding its best form to date, and this episode sees that sustained despite not having the same action presence. An episode about the bonds of family being tough to break but they can still be shattered. It is notably lighter on the laughs than usual so that might not suit all viewers but if we’ve been drawn to the show’s dramatic chops this will probably be your favourite episode so far.
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