Characters and Character Development: 9
Aesthetics and Style: 8
Overall Plot: 7
Audience Assumptions: Some familiarity with series (or my Preacher graphic novels reviews)
Episode Three: The Possibilities – ****
Part One: Ultimate Power and Justin Bieber
The last episode ended with a cliffhanger, where Jesse consciously uses the Genesis powers for the first time in an effort to wake up the comatose Loach girl. In this episode, we learn about what’s possible using Genesis, but also its limitations. The girl did exactly what Jesse demanded of her – she opened her eyes – but little else. As before when Jesse used his power unwittingly, the response it provokes is miraculous, but unpredictable. It’s less Jesus and more vindictive genie. However, that doesn’t matter much to Mrs. Loach, who has hope for the first time that her daughter might recover.
Jesse’s thoughts on the matter are less optimistic, and prompt him to test the power on Cassidy. While amusing, this scene is also clever in revealing exactly what the power can and cannot do. In a short span of time, Jesse uses the power to give Cassidy vague instructions, ask him for information he wouldn’t know, make him do something he doesn’t want to, tell him to do something strenuous and potentially harmful to himself, and demand he do something physically impossible, among other ridiculous requests. The responses here and during previous encounters with the power let the audience and the characters know Genesis’ basic rules. One: It can make someone do or say things against their own will. Two: Even if it causes them bodily harm. Three: Any instructions will be taken literally. Four: If the subject cannot physically do the thing requested, or doesn’t know something asked of them, they will attempt to do or answer to the best of their abilities.
Having figured out how his power works, Jesse feels conflicted about using it until Cassidy convinces him otherwise. His encounter with Donnie in the restroom at the end of the episode is the first time we see him use it to exert complete control over someone, in this case by threatening to have Donnie shoot himself and then letting him go. This act more than anything else restores Jesse’s faith in God and gives him the idea that he’s meant to use Genesis to enforce his life philosophies on the people of the town.
Part Two: The Bunny Man
This epiphany comes at a very bad time for Donnie, who despite being a nearly throwaway character in the first episode has become a recurring minor player. After the bar fight in the first episode, he’s forced to deal with his dominant hand being restrained in a cast and humiliation from the rest of the town knowing that he was not only beat by a supposedly peaceful holy man, but to such a degree that he made a bunny squeak when his arm was broken.
At first he deals with the stigma violently, breaking a coworker’s nose when he picks up a pen Donnie dropped, and praising his child for beating on a kid who made fun of him. It becomes readily clear that he isn’t going to live down his shame by punching people, however, as an entire bus full of kids nearly laughs their asses off at the sight of him. Even his boss starts to make jibes.
At this point, I don’t think I would call Donnie an especially complicated character, and while he does have moments later in the season, the scene in the bathroom is really the crux of his character arc. Driven into a rage by constant mockery, Donnie seeks to diminish his inadequacies by shooting Jesse in the head. This does not go well for him. When Jesse uses his power to turn the table on his assailant, two important things happen: Donnie experiences and survives the terror of nearly being forced to kill himself, and he becomes the first person to witness and recognize exactly what Jesse can do. Both of these, as one might imagine, become important plot points that define Donnie’s role in the rest of the story.
Part Three: Tulip Wants Vengeance, and Tulip Gets What She Wants
However, the material relating to Jesse’s power and Donnie is mainly there to build foundations for later episodes. The meat of this episode revolves around Tulip’s subplot, which shifts here from that of a disillusioned woman trying to get her ex-boyfriend back to a life of crime into one of vengeance.
Throughout the last few episodes, her rhetoric on this job she’s trying to recruit Jesse for has been fairly repetitive. She wants Jesse to participate, he says no, she gets upset at him, then tries to convince him again. Now we know why, at least in part. She and Jesse both have a beef with a third person, Carlos, who betrayed them and ran off in the middle of a job, eventually leading to Tulip and Jesse breaking apart. The details are vague, but what’s important is that the motivation is centered around both of them getting revenge, not just Tulip wanting Jesse back.
Jesse isn’t worn down by Tulip’s requests – if anything, he seems to be getting more frustrated with each encounter. Upon realizing what she’s actually offering, however, he gets in the car with her immediately, abandoning his own car in the middle of a highway. This change of mind doesn’t come out of nowhere, either; we saw in the last episode that he was starting to piece together what Tulip had organized based on her hints, and specifically didn’t want to know anything else. It appears that he was well aware how vulnerable he would be to the offer of killing Carlos, and here we see that vulnerability laid out. Jesse has made no serious move to return to his former life, yet he’s ready to drop everything to get even with Carlos.
Tulip’s character is likewise complicated by this new development, as the audience realizes that she isn’t just needy and unsympathetic to Jesse’s new lifestyle. She wants vengeance even more badly than Jesse. Because she feels she owes him the chance at it, and he won’t take it, her frustration toward him is based less in his dedication to his new life and more in how he is preventing her from getting her own revenge. She clearly cares for him on some level, otherwise she wouldn’t keep waiting for him to come with her, but she doesn’t seem nearly as clingy as before. Tulip doesn’t necessarily want Jesse, she wants closure. Any other developments for either of them are side effects and shadows of their former relationship. Her frustration when Jesse goes into the bathroom and comes out claiming that God should handle Carlos, then, is far more relatable than Jesse’s previous rejections.