Early on in the latest episode of “Preacher,” “South Will Rise Again,” Jesse gazes upon the horizon, pleased with his seemingly good work. In these past few episodes, he’s stopped a pedophile, awoken a young girl from a coma, and convinced the town’s greediest businessman to find Jesus. Why, then, shouldn’t he be pleased with himself?
Because it’s all too easy; that’s why. Just look at the skyline in that scene. Its cheery pinks and blues are like cotton candy — bright and fluffy enough to bring one temporary joy, but lacking in any kind of real substance. This isn’t how the sky actually looks; it’s just how Jesse sees it in that moment. It’s a sign that he’s living a self-aggrandizing fantasy life without putting in the hard, honest work required for actual salvation (for both himself and his congregation).
That’s more or less the theme for “South Will Rise Again,” an episode that serves as the early stages of comeuppance for Jesse’s abuse of his new abilities. It’s most obvious in the climax, where Jackie Earle Haley gets to unleash his inner Jackie Earle Haley by having Odin go on a killing spree. As proven by so many mass shootings in real life, some people embrace their faith fanatically, so much that it causes them to do awful, awful things. Granted, that has more to do with the person than the dogma itself, but the big takeaway is that Odin’s certainly someone who can use something good for something evil. Of course he was going to use his belief in cosmic power as a means to validate his own horrible deeds. Of course he was going to pull all of the wrong things from religion.
But the danger of Jesse’s actions also reveals itself in more subtle ways, especially his exchange with Tracy’s mom. While Jesse commanding her to forgive Eugene comes from a good place, it’s also hinted that forcing it will only lead to more trouble. What’s saddest of all is that Jesse could probably absolve the conflict between the two characters in a more natural fashion. He already has a unique, compassionate bond with Eugene. He already has the power to talk empathetically with him and Tracy’s mother — to hear them both out and listen to their grievances. But that would take too long. That would require too much work. There’s probably more of his older, meaner, impatient self — the side of him described by Tulip — in him than he’d care to admit.
Speaking of Tulip, her and Cassidy’s storyline takes a huge leap forward to a later point in the comics. I’m not sure how I feel about them hooking up so apathetically this early on, if only because we don’t know either of them very well yet. I totally buy that Cassidy would get obsessed with her shortly after meeting her, but since he and Tulip aren’t especially close; because his bond with Jesse is still fairly fresh, it doesn’t have much tragic impact from a narrative perspective. It just shows that Tulip’s in a low place right now. And even that didn’t feel quite earned. Was Jesse’s dismissal of her at the diner enough for her to make that bad of a decision? It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Maybe Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg simply wanted to get a nasty part of the comics series (not to mention some more of The Saint of Killers’ origin story) out of the way early on.
The show also finally makes some headway on explaining Jesse’s power. I won’t spoil it here for anyone who hasn’t read the comics, but maybe Fiore and DeBlanc’s revelation that the voice inside him isn’t that of God will make him reconsider using it so recklessly. Maybe he’ll start turning to the gifts he was actually born with.
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