Early in “The South Will Rise Again”, a gorgeous sunrise emerges, full of colorful clouds and backed by cheery country music. There are plenty of signs that, after Jesse’s sermon last episode, this will be a turning point for him and the citizens of Annville, perhaps even for the series itself. It’s an episode full of forgiveness and understanding, as Jesse is shown helping his fellow parishioners. It’s also an episode that begins with rape and ends with a brutal shooting, reminding viewers that even when things are going well in Annville, the darkness always finds a way in.
The episode provides plenty of darkness, but what it also provides is a sense of understanding. More of the backstory is revealed between the horribly disfigured Eugene and comatose girl Tracy, whose fates are revealed to be intertwined. Jesse is finally told just what kind of force he’s been wielding, and more of his past is revealed, including a fascinating anecdote about a komodo dragon. Preacher even dives further into the history of the Saint of Killers, as bloody and as horrifying as it is. The series finally has some forward momentum, which, considering how leisurely the pace has been in the last few episodes, is a blessing.
This clarity, however, leads to even more questions, and it will be an entertaining ride to see how they are answered. Tulip and Cassidy are connecting, but Cassidy’s feelings come suddenly and unexpectedly, much like his friendship to Jesse. It’s obvious that Tulip is using Cassidy, but there’s no sign of how or why. The question of Cassidy’s motivation has been a major stumbling block for most of the season, so one hopes the series can provide some clarity by season’s end.
Also raising questions is Quincannon’s endgame. At the beginning of the episode, it seemed as if things had taken on a sunnier path, with Quincannon agreeing to meet with the Austinites to discuss environmental options to help the town. However, this ends with a violent altercation, leaving his motivations unclear, especially when factoring in his promise to “serve God” at the end of the last episode. Quincannon’s story line is quickly becoming one of those most fascinating in the show, and one can only hope that the show continues to explore its bizarre, dark corners.
“The South Will Rise Again” is an episode full of brightness, brimming with shots of sunshine filling the frame. Quincannon himself states how bright the sunshine is once you stop to look at, a sign of hope and brightness of the future. Jesse is able to use his abilities to help many families, even bringing an end to a long-held enmity between Tracy’s family and Eugene. What is the cost of this, however? As seen in Donny’s horrified face throughout the episode, what Jesse is doing is unnatural, as the final scene only emphasizes further. When Jesse finally meets with the angels, he’s informed that the force moving through him is not from God, and with those words comes a big question: just what is this power that Jesse is wielding, and is it really a force for good?
Ryan E. Johnson (@atxtheaterguy) is a theatre and film critic from Austin, TX. He enjoys the films of Sion Sono, Wong Kar-Wai, Ingmar Bergman and loves experiencing films told from bold, new perspectives.