Throughout the first season of AMC’s Preacher, there has always been a question of why Jesse returned to Annville to take over his father’s church. Obviously he had had not been living a pious life up to then, but something drew him back, perhaps related to the botched job alluded to several episodes ago. With the aptly named “He Gone”, Preacher delves more into Jesse’s history and the feelings that might have driven him to returning home, all balanced against his guilt following last week’s shocking finale.
But, “He Gone” covers more than only Jesse’s history. The roots of Tulip’s trust issues are on fully display as well, as she and Jesse are presented as children. Their friendship was tight, with the two being thick as thieves even in their youngest years. The flashback ends with Jesse’s father giving Tulip away to CPS officers, and the apparent deception led her to mistrust everyone in her life. Even as Tulip returns to Annville, she cheats on Jesse (her “official” boyfriend) with Cassidy, a man she barely knows and trusts even less. One of the major differences between the series and the comic is the amount of time given to exploring the characters, and in this episode, Preacher takes a psychological dive that’s unexpected given the source material.
Guilt plays a major part in “He Gone”, but the episode also examines how Jesse deflects the emotion. With his newfound power, Jesse seems to be invincible. Even with the disappearance of Eugene hanging over his head, he keeps his cool and holds his ground. When Cassidy confronts him for sending Eugene to Hell, Jesse comes up with quick excuses, providing a look into Eugene’s history and the horrible actions that led to his becoming “Arseface.” This deflection comes to a head when Jesse is finally confronted by Quincannon, who’s finally come for the land. Jesse denies Quincannon, of course, because, with his powers, Quincannon will do whatever the preacher orders. Even with his abilities, however, it’s hard to change someone as evil as Quincannon for good, as he and his workers proceed to drive heavy equipment to knock down Jesse’s church. As for titular lead, he’s too busy to even notice, prying up the floorboards of the church and wailing for Eugene to return.
Jesse has been using his powers in dangerous ways for some time, and come next episode, all signs point towards him finally facing the consequences. Jesse may be trying to use his powers for good, but what it’s led to is the eternal damnation of a troubled teen and the fury of the most evil man in town. Viewers surely know that it’s not God behind Jesse’s powers, and Preacher is about to unveil what evils Jesse will allow himself in order to save his land, and his life.
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.