The Story So Far:
JESSE: Still appears to be just as shocked as we all are about the fact that he really did send Eugene to Hell via The Word. (So does Cassidy, who witnessed the entire encounter between Jesse and Eugene from the church’s balcony last week). However, he somehow manages to shake it off and get back to business as usual, preaching and helping his parishioners (although he does change his mind at the last minute about commanding all of them to serve God while giving his sermon). After being confronted by Sheriff Root and lying to him about not seeing Eugene or knowing where he is, followed by him acting like a guilt-ridden and insufferable dick to everyone around him, he finally loses it later that evening and takes a crowbar to the floor where Eugene disappeared and yells for him to “Come back!” Which, unfortunately for both Jesse and Eugene, doesn’t work.
TULIP: Gets into a foot chase with some thieving little boys on bicycles who stole her drunken Uncle Walter’s pants (it’s somewhat more impressive than it sounds, if only just to see Ruth Negga or Ruth Negga’s stunt double get some physical action to keep them busy this week), followed by her going grocery-shopping to make dinner for Jesse, Cassidy, and Emily. She and Cassidy end up getting into it over the fact that Jesse still doesn’t know about their backseat sex from a few episodes back, as well as the fact that Cassidy hasn’t really told Jesse in a sober, non-joking manner about the fact that he’s really a vampire. And thanks to Jesse’s aforementioned dickishness, she finds herself wondering once again why she’s even sticking around in Annville and waiting for him. You know, the same thing we’ve all been wondering for the last several weeks.
CASSIDY: After witnessing Jesse sending Eugene to Hell, he tries to talk to Jesse about it & figure out what to do to help get him back, as well as convince Jesse to act like he actually gives a damn about what he did. Which is where we find out what exactly happened regarding Eugene and Tracy: Tracy was pretty much Annville’s prom queen who everyone loved and adored and when Eugene confessed his love to Tracy and was rejected by her, Eugene shot her in the head with a shotgun before turning the gun on himself. And when Jesse remains insistent that Eugene isn’t the innocent kid in need of help that Cassidy thinks he is and that maybe he belongs in Hell, Cassidy decides to test Jesse and see if he feels the same way about him: by tossing him a fire extinguisher, taking off his hoodie and T-shirt, and walking forward into the sunlight to burn all over and scream in pain as Jesse stands still and causes an aftershock all over Texas due to his jaw hitting the ground.
FLASHBACK: And here’s the part of this week’s episode that had me groaning like Marge Simpson through much of it.
Thanks to the 48-point font and horror-movie musical sting that accompanies it, we find ourselves at the PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE at Jesse and Tulip’s school, where John Custer and the school principal lecture both children about kicking the asses of some bullies (Donnie being one of them, not surprisingly) and even biting the nipples off of one of them (even as a child, Tulip’s Golden Rule of “Absolutely no one fucks with me” was frequently put into practice). Tulip is invited to stay with the Custers since her mother is in jail and her uncle is giving Barney Gumbel a run for his money in constant alcohol consumption, but that doesn’t last long as John calls the Department of Human Services to take Tulip away and place her with an adoptive family somewhere. Tulip’s absence and John Custer’s dickish reason for allowing this to happen (“Because she’s an O’Hare. There’s always gonna be trouble.”) causes Jesse to pray to God for Him to kill his father. And thanks to the two mysterious strangers who break into their home in the middle of the night with guns and baseball bats (a.k.a. Jody and T.C., who - spoiler alert— would make Jesse’s life an absolute nightmare for years to come in the original comics), take both John and Jesse to a field somewhere as John makes Jesse promise to be one of the good guys right before one of those mysterious strangers (I’m guessing that would be Jody) places a revolver to John’s head and pulls the trigger while Jesse is forced to watch, that’s exactly what happens and John Custer is no more.
ODIN QUINCANNON’S WEEKLY MOMENT OF WEIRDNESS: Besides taking way too much joy once again in listening to the sounds of cattle being slaughtered over his intercom (and at this point, I’m convinced that this is as far as AMC is willing to go in showing us Odin’s love of all things meat-related if you readers of the original comics know what I mean, and I think you do), Odin goes to meet Jesse and tells him to sign on the dotted line for the lease to his father’s church and all of the land that it sits on, which Jesse dangled in front of Odin to make him set foot in church for the first time in years and promise to serve God, due to Jesse using The Word and commanding him to do so (which clearly did not work). Jesse refuses to sign and Odin, fighting the urge to break into song with “You’ll Be Back,” makes it clear that this isn’t over between the two of them. And judging from Odin, Donnie, and the dozens of gun-toting, bulldozer and tractor-riding Quincannon Meat & Power employees in Civil War garb making their way to Jesse’s church in the dead of night as Jesse tries and fails to bring Eugene back from Hell, Odin Quincannon is a man of his word.
ANY MENTIONS OF CARLOS: At least one
ANY MENTIONS OF THE VAMPIRE-HUNTING VIGILANTES LOOKING FOR CASSIDY: None
ANY MENTIONS OF HOW MUCH CASSIDY REALLY DOESN’T LIKE THE BIG LEBOWSKI: Absolutely, and when Cassidy states how he actually prefers The Ladykillers over The Big Lebowski, you just know his contempt runs deep.
TO SUM IT ALL UP: As much as I’ve expressed regret that Preacher the television series isn’t more like Preacher the comic-book series in terms of action, black comedy, or overall tone, I’ve also felt and expressed that I’m fine with any changes from the source material, as a direct translation of anything from one art form to another is both impossible and pointless. But if you’re going to make changes and they pale in comparison, all you end up doing is make your viewers wonder why those changes were even made and why you didn’t just stick with the original instead.
Which brings me to Eugene, Jesse, Tulip, and John Custer.
What we learned about Eugene, as well as the entire flashback, had me wondering yet again whether I’d enjoy Preacher a lot more if I never read the original comics, as so many changes were made with these four characters and their histories that felt disrespectful.
Being able to sympathize with Eugene (the comic-book version) because he’s a lonely, miserable, and bullied teenager who attempted suicide after Kurt Cobain, the only person who brought something resembling joy to his life, did the same is one thing. Being able to sympathize with this version of Eugene after finding out that he’s a teenage boy who attempted to kill a girl that he liked and wanted to be with because he couldn’t handle being told “no” (which is the type of incident that we’ve seen and read about in the news and on Twitter far too many times, and is the reason why hashtags like #YouOKSis and #NoWomanEver exist)…I’m not exactly sure how sympathetic we’re expected to be towards Eugene after learning this about him and in the meantime, all I can do wonder why we even should be and why his origin had to be altered in such a drastic manner to make me even wonder that.
As for the parental figures of Jesse and Tulip…le sigh
To have John Custer go from an ex-soldier who is caring, good-hearted, open-minded and protective of his family and friends to an overly stern and judgmental preacher who seemingly cares more about appearances than looking out for those who really need his help…to find out that Christine L’Angelle, John’s wife and Jesse’s mother, is nowhere to even be found in this story (so far) and that she abandoned Jesse and John for whereabouts unknown, to see Jake O’Hare go from single father who abandons his chauvinism and misogyny to love and raise his daughter Tulip the best way he knows how and teach her everything he knows after losing his wife in childbirth to being completely nonexistent and replaced by an unseen mother and a constantly drunken and unconscious uncle…
…I know it’s still early days, that the first season hasn’t even ended yet, and there are many different directions that this story can go so that we’ll be singing this show’s praises in its second season much like we did Parks And Recreation and The Office after their first seasons didn’t exactly fire on all cylinders. But to see such impressive storytelling and characterization disregarded like this and having little to nothing of equal quality to take its place is still disappointing, and also makes me nervous about what other narrative changes there will be in seasons to come.
Sadly, nothing happens in this episode to match the Jesse/Cassidy/Fiore/Deblanc vs. Evil Samantha Bee battle royale from last week’s episode, but Preacher is still making some forward progress as information is actually being shared and exchanged, and characters are doing things that can and will hopefully lead to everyone getting down to business and kicking things into high gear by season’s end so that this show will finally stop feeling like a slower, less interesting, Southern-fried version of Twin Peaks.