“Plot matters,” Cassidy says as he delivers another nasty blow to The Coen Brothers’ style of filmmaking. It’s a mantra that Preacher has finally decided to follow in the second half of its first season. “He Gone” continues the trend by making it perfectly clear that Jesse Custer’s done it now. After expelling Eugene “Arseface” Root to hell in the previous episode of Preacher, Jesse tries in vain to keep things moving along with his sermon even as a huge weight clearly rests on his shoulders. It’s a weight that envelops Jesse throughout “He Gone” as he’s confronted with the many truths of his life. The truth that he casted an innocent boy to damnation due to his inability to control his newfound power. The truth that he still feels guilt for seemingly doing the same to his father as a child. The truth that he’s been harboring a vampire in his church for the last several weeks. “He Gone” is a revelatory episode for Preacher, where things are building up to an oncoming head that’s just beyond the horizon.
The sun of that horizon that will surely kill Cassidy (both metaphorically and potentially literally) comes in the form of Odin Quincannon wanting to cash in on their wager from a few weeks ago. After claiming he hasn’t become a Christian after his church visit, Odin wants Jesse to sign over the deed to the church land. Jesse denies this based on Quincannon’s claim to “serve God” in the church and sends Odin packing. This power struggle is a more nuanced way for Preacher to handle the character than even the comics managed to do, particularly with The Confederate model and final shot imagery of Quincannon leading his forces against Jesse. The comic Odin was very much a Yosemite Sam style Napoleon complex driven asshole with clear motivations. Here, there’s more of a complexity. He may be “serving God”, but through his own corrupt lens. It shows the limitations of Genesis’ influence and Jesse’s short sided nature, which is a recurring factor as of late. He’s shown himself to be a worthy early foe for Jesse here, one that is sure to come to a fierce battle if the cliffhanger ending of “He Gone” is to be believed.
Then again, that short sidedness for Jesse didn’t start when Genesis entered him. Preacher has amped up many of its initially middling storylines and the backstory is no exception. We see the companionship of young Jesse and Tulip blossom, even as Tulip’s behavior becomes more counterproductive and harmful to her adopted guardian in Jesse’s father. Child actors Dominic Ruggieri and Ashley Aufderheide have a natural chemistry that shows off Jesse and Tulip at a more vulnerable yet happy state, selling their friendship that will one day blossom into something much more. Nathan Darrow as John Custer also has a tough role in the narrative, mixing a cold distance yet tough caring that would make young Jesse’s anger against him believable once Tulip leaves. There’s a sense that this is built up from the actions in previous episodes, allowing the bitter irony of Jesse’s prayers and John’s death to have a brutal emotional gut punch upon impact.
Back in the present, Jesse’s reaping what he has sown. The main conflicts all center around the most awkward place in any home: the kitchen. Our Preacher is challenged by Cassidy to admit his wrong of sending poor Eugene to Hell, which Jesse shrugs off as more of unreliable Cassidy’s actions. Tulip confronts the both of them at separate points on their lack of true knowledge for what’s going on. Ruth Negga‘s sly demeanor from before is traded in for more of an antagonistic sassy bite that’s still in character. If anything, it shows off more shades to her as she anxiously waits to turn her Preacher back by quietly infecting the church he left her for. It’s the type of character conflict that was crucial to the original comic, but is adapted here with its own nuances and changes for television. The conflicts between our main trio show progression that shows things can’t be fixed quietly. This is particularly true of Cassidy, whose reputation as unreliable from Tulip and concern for Jesse’s gradual destruction has developed solidly over the course of these last few episodes. Joe Gilgun shows his true range in “He Gone,” as his concern for Jesse & Tulip morphs into self loathing and a bit of humorous conversation come the dinner conversation.
All of this leads to one of the more resonating moments in Preacher this season: Cassidy revealing himself via going out in the sun. It really highlights the lighting of the season’s ability to keep Cassidy in the sunlight just enough and emphasizing the sunlight on others to show a sense of intentional placement. Plus, the shocked reaction from Jesse is the first moment the series has given Dominic Cooper something genuinely funny to do, which will hopefully continue to happen in the remaining three episodes. Oh yeah. Emily is there too. “I don’t know anything,” she says at one point during the dinner conversation, confirming her inability to contribute anything memorable to Preacher. Sheriff Root on the other hands actually gets to show genuine worry and discomfort over the fact that his son is missing, given more human shades to that character that actually feel interesting and give Jesse more guilt to ponder. While not quite as impactful as last week’s “Sundowner,” “He Gone” continues the good streak for Preacher as it heads towards its close, keeping plot progression and engaging character dynamics front and center as Annville dips more and more to the side. Let’s hope it dips off the sides and off the face of the earth come the finale.
Rating: (4 / 5)