Forward momentum seems to be a constant cocktease on Preacher. In “The Possibilities,” we get total confirmation of a step forward in the story yet at the same time a step backward for our lead. It’s this kind of back and forth that makes me incredibly worried for the future of the series. One can see that Preacher is starting to take risks with their storytelling and potentially expand into dangerous territory, yet we’re still tied to the anchor that is Annville when the boat is trying to move off to uncharted waters. The testament to their potential – or rather their “Possibilities” – starts with Tulip attempting to take a job from a woman named Danni in a park. Danni asks Tulip to do her a solid and kill her husband. Tulip refuses, showing that she has a certain sense of moral high ground with her work. Danni then has a meeting with a mysterious white suited man in a hat who’s watching snuff films, indicating that he may be more perceptive towards Danni’s pitch. Much like the opening of last week’s “See”, this seems to be another tease for a comic book favorite character, namely German head operative of secret Grail society Herr Starr. The outfit seems to be directly copied from the comics, but episode director Scott Winant does a solid job of hiding his face, but showing off his implications. Still, I really hope this isn’t a constant element during the series, vaguely teasing comic book characters at the top before doing anything else. Let’s see some actual integration sooner rather than later.
At this point, Tulip is probably the most consistent element of Preacher. One of the better scenes in the show so far is her confrontation with the cop. She gives what feels like a speech from a romantic comedy about her love for Jesse and how desperate she is to convince him of their love to mainly get out of a speeding ticket. Yet, Ruth Negga‘s performance has that right mixture of con artist mystique and deep seeded investment in Jesse to seem authentic. It plays on her abilities at her craft and the few shades we’ve had of her character, particularly the few flashes we get of her and Jesse being abandoned at what seems to be their last job. This is the type of nuance Preacher needs more of, taking the anti-hero charm of their characters and playing it up for dramatic effect & gradual reveal without spinning wheels. Tulip is a character unafraid to be her con artist self and wants the best for herself & the man she fell for. Some could see it as her trying to drag Jesse back to his evil ways, others could see it as her trying to fill the missing hole in his life by seeing who he really is. Tulip is even pretty close this week with her attempt to get Jesse on a hunt to kill a family murdering thug named Carlos that wronged the two of them previously. Tulip’s convincing abilities show agency, which is something that Annville keeps depleting from Preacher at every opportunity.
Case in point, this continuing Donnie storyline. After the events of Preacher‘s pilot, Donnie has been suffering from some clear masculinity issues, worrying that his fight with Jesse ended up giving him the stigma of being a wimp. Even when talking to his son, Donnie is informed that people associate him with a bunny due to the noise he made following the bar confrontation. This leads to an encounter with Jesse at a gas station bathroom as he and Tulip are on their way to Carlos, with Donnie wanting Jesse to squeal just as he did at gun point. Using his powers to force Donnie’s gun on himself, Jesse suddenly has a realization and cancels on his revenge plotting with Tulip. That moment was where I started really worrying about Preacher. The conflict we’re supposed to have is that we want Tulip and Jesse to ride off together as partners in crime, yet not want Jesse to abandon all the players in Annville who he could save. Yet, no one in Annville is worth a single damn aside from maybe Quincannon who makes a brief appearance here. Everyone else is either dull as dishwater like Lucy Griffiths’ Emily or completely one dimensional asshats we don’t even want to see saved like Donnie. We even get a return from the creepy bus driver from last time as we play out a very dry callback to his memory wipe from last week. This is all stuff we’re supposed to be invested in, yet it all feels so stagnant and repetitive. There’s no real sense of direction on display, no forward momentum to make us care about a town full of morons with thumbs up their asses that Jesse has a hard on to save. It feels like we’re spinning our wheels in Annville, waiting for a sign to move on.
It’s a shame there’s no sign of anything that could have Preacher move on… oh wait, except for JESSE’S POWERS! We get far more context for those powers here, as Jesse and Cassidy have a humorous discussion about their promise. Their pop culture ladened banter that compares his powers from everything from Jedi to the John Travolta “classic” Phenomenon and Jesse forcing Cassidy to do things is full of funny moments that continue to showcase Dominic Cooper and Joseph Gilgun‘s chemistry, yet those powers weirdly feel like a minor issue in the face of showing us more of Annville. Cassidy’s entire subplot feels so secondary to this struggle Jesse’s going through, even though it involves Fiore and DeBlanc confirming they’re from Heaven and being run over/hit with a mallet by Cassidy. They confirm their status as angels, but it’s all exposition and no actual stakes being played. Even DeBlanc and Fiore’s scene where they talk to Sheriff Root has them being underplayed as W. Earl Brown delivering this lengthy soliloquy about a kidnapping/murder case for… what exactly? It feels like a far lesser attempt at trying to capture that cruel irony Garth Ennis loved inserting into the comics, with none of the actual work put into developing the reasoning for why such irony would be cruel. Instead, Preacher elects to randomly put it out there without telling us anything new about the character or the story at play.
By the time Jesse holds his little funeral for Ted Reyerson at the close of this episode, Preacher shows just how stationary its story is. We’re back at square one as Jesse continues to try giving the people of Annville guidance for God’s good graces, but it doesn’t leave the episode on a note of suspense or hope. It just showcases more of the same thing that Preacher has been preaching for the last three episodes; we don’t have the budget to leave Annville, so you’d better suck it up and start liking it. Only they’re not giving us much to like. Not only is Annville uninteresting, it’s making Jesse into a character that’s little more than his title. Tulip and Cassidy are the far more interesting characters, but are always pushed to the side for our block of wood protagonist. There’s no investing inner conflict for Jesse, just a choice between making the show more interesting and keeping this bland status quo. The latter is a trouble I’ve had with many an AMC show over the last few years, one I was hoping Preacher would quell by the time it came to air. It’s obviously still too early to tell, but something big really needs to happen in the next few episodes for my issues to be quelled. Or take the drastic measure of giving powers to Tulip. Would make for a better show at this point.
Rating: (2.5 / 5)