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 Seven: He Gone – *****
Part One: I Know That Tattoo from Somewhere…
Most if not all of the episodes in this series contain at least one element that shoots the episode’s overall quality beyond what the average scene in the show entails, but the very best episodes come at the beginning, the end, and right here at the three-quarters point. Episode Seven is dense, fleshing out past and future conflicts, yet remains fairly action-free for the most part. The bulk of its content comes in the form of verbal jousting, confessions, revelations, and a long set of flashbacks about Jesse and Tulip’s pasts.
Previous episodes have shown glimpses of what happened to Jesse as a child, starting far back in Episode One. We know that he lived with his father in their family home until his father was shot in front of him, that his father was a preacher too, that Jesse helped him set up services and was religious as a child, and that Jesse had a penchant for getting in trouble – trouble his father responded to with public humiliation and corporal punishment. We also know that his father once woke him up in the middle of the night to take him to Quincannon, where both of them saw, unbeknownst to his father, something disturbing.
Here, we learn more about Jesse’s friendship with Tulip, how Tulip didn’t really have parental figures to rely on when she was younger, and how she ultimately came to live with Jesse and his father for a while. The time span of how long she’s there is kept vague, but she helps out around the house, and despite normally being a bigger troublemaker than Jesse, she seems to behave herself while there. She and Jesse have a close relationship as children, which is perhaps a bit awkward knowing they end up together as adults, and this seems to be part of the motivation for Jesse’s father sending her away. Tulip learns about this well before Jesse does, and the latter is predictably upset while the former seems unsurprised. Things get interesting when Jesse prays to God to kill his father – a weirdly dark move for a religious child, but probably the cumulation of some years of a tense child-parent relationship on top of recent events, given that Jesse often seems to struggle to relate to his father. Most of what we know about the father’s character comes from these backstories as he’s rarely addressed in the present day, but we see enough in the backstories to know that Jesse’s father wasn’t a perfect human being and that Jesse feels conflicted about their relationship.
The flashbacks end with Jesse’s father being killed, as we saw in the beginning of the series, but there are some noteworthy extensions to the scene in this episode. First, he wakes Jesse up in much the same way he did with the Quincannon meeting, except that now he tells Jesse to hide under the bed. This does little good, as we see two pairs of legs coming toward him and the next shot set somewhere outside. We then hear Jesse confess that he’s the one responsible and that he prayed for this to happen, then his father tells him not to cry and they give the exchange we have seen a few times before, right before Jesse’s father is shot.
The detail I most like about this scene is that although we never see above the shoulders of the two men or hear them talk, we do see the arm of the one aiming a gun. It’s out of focus and only on-screen momentarily, but this man has a tattoo — the same tattoo adult Jesse has on his back. This symbol, a skull in a star in a horseshoe, isn’t particularly pronounced in the graphic novels either, but it appears over the gate of Jesse’s grandmother’s house in one of the panels. The two men are of course Jody and T.C., and though neither of them are ever mentioned by name, the series looks to be following the evil grandmother subplot. It’s the sort of thing that build slowly, though, and if you’re not familiar with the books (or maybe even if you are), this information can easily pass over your head. The tattoo, the unknown men, Jesse mentioning that a “mean old lady” gave him that tattoo are the essentially the only developments in the Angelville subplot in the entire first season. It’s going to come back, obviously — you don’t dig in for the long game unless you have some idea where you want it to go — but it’s not important that the audience knows who killed Jesse’s father, only that it happened.
Part Two: The Awkward Not-Family Dinner
The flashbacks are interesting, but more pertinent to the plot itself is the aftermath of what happened to Eugene. The episode starts where the last one ended, with the pamphlet floating slowly to the floor and Eugene suddenly gone. This doesn’t seem to faze Jesse much until the sermon, when he loses the courage to use Genesis on the townsfolk and delivers a half-assed speech instead.
Cassidy later confronts him about it, having seen what happened and growing increasingly concerned that Jesse’s being driven mad with power. The conversation is a retread of what they discussed in their underwear previously, except now it has an increased urgency to it because Jesse’s willfully ignoring how much harm he’s causing. Emily overhears part of the conversation, now suspecting Jesse to have murdered or done something similarly awful to Eugene, and Tulip comes by, setting up for what has to be one of the most awkward dinners I’ve ever seen in a show.
In the last episode, Tulip and Cassidy realized that they both know Jesse, and Tulip, confirming that Emily’s not a threat, starts helping out around the church to see if she can find another way to persuade Jesse to kill Carlos with her. Jesse remains oblivious as ever to the love triangle, which thankfully seems to be winding down as a plot device and turning into a point of tension and camaraderie between the characters involved. Cassidy feels bad for sleeping with his friend’s girlfriend, and Tulip seems more embarrassed about it than anything else. However, they both still seem to get along, in a weird way.
The dinner rolls around and Cassidy uses it as an excuse to mainly rant about The Big Lebowski, which everyone else does their best to ignore, and Tulip tries to make small talk with Emily, who makes passive-aggressive remarks about her cooking with Cassidy occasionally jumping in to give Tulip unsolicited support. Jesse remains silent through the meal until Tulip yells at him, at which point the Sheriff comes in to ask if they’ve seen Eugene, which does not help matters. Jesse lies, as you do, but Emily, still suspicious, corrects his story to make him look like he was the last person to see Eugene and eager to cover that up. Then she decides that, child murderer or not, he’s still hot, so she lies to make his story marginally more innocent. I’m starting to grow worried about this character. The sheriff leaves, then the oven catches fire, which resumes the banter between the women, and gives Jesse the opportunity to excuse himself from the table.
Part Three: Funny Choice of Words, Given the Fire Extinguisher
Amusing as the dinner table scene is, it builds to the major crux of the season, which begins when Cassidy, having followed Jesse outside, hits him in the nose with a fire extinguisher. They yell at each other over Eugene, continuing their argument from earlier, during which Cassidy asserts that he doesn’t even seem to feel bad about sending an innocent kid to Hell. Jesse agrees, fueled by his confidence in Genesis, and explains Eugene’s whole story.
As it turns out, despite being probably the kindest person on the show and certainly in the town, the townsfolk have good reason to hate him as much as they do. He shot Tracy Loach in the head because she didn’t want to date him, and did the same to himself afterward but survived. The discomfort people feel around him, including Jesse, is not a response to how he looks, but how it reminds them of his baseless cruelty and the horrible thing he did. Regardless of his current nature, repentant or not, Eugene isn’t anywhere near as nice a person as he seems, and has done things that can’t be forgiven.
Why does this scenario sound so familiar…?
Jesse has no regrets for what he’s done, or so he claims, and has decided that his power, which is the only supernatural phenomenon aside from the angels he’s currently aware of, is a gift from God for him to judge sinners, and everything he does with it is meant to be. It is unique in the universe, an impossibility, and therefore a personal sign from God.
Cassidy, understandably, disagrees. He explains that he’s done bad things too, and by Jesse’s proclamation, he should have to suffer the consequences. Prompted by Tulip’s jibe that he hasn’t come clean with Jesse about what he is, he throws Jesse the fire extinguisher and walks out into the sun, doing what vampires do best and turning into a human bonfire.
This scene, while in some ways too nested in the context of the series to be taken seriously, is nonetheless an important wake-up call for Jesse as a character. Aside from vampires probably not being Biblically sound, this is first time since the first episode that Jesse’s morals have been shaken enough for him to question his own actions. How can he be sure he knows how Genesis should be used when he doesn’t even know some pretty basic things about the people he hangs around, like how one of them is solar combustible? This is really only the latest in a long line of things that causes Jesse to question his recent actions, but once the ball gets rolling, it doesn’t want to stop.
Jesse storms back into the house and drops the fire extinguisher on the table, leaving Cassidy’s fate somewhat unclear as the device has been used on the oven already. He yells at Tulip and Emily, asking if they knew about Cassidy, leading Tulip to piece together what’s happened and storm off herself. Emily is just generally confused, but supportive of the person she now thinks is a possible two-time murderer. The episode ends with Quincannon arriving to claim the church, his interpretation of the earlier bet being quite different from Jesse’s, and Jesse finally realizing how very wrong he was and trying to get Eugene back.