This review contains spoilers.
1.5 South Will Rise Again
Jesse Custer is in over his head. He’s meddling with things he cannot possibly understand, consorting with forces beyond his sphere of influence, and he’s attracting the ire of forces significantly more powerful than Odin Quincannon. However, as he should, he’s riding high. He’s using the Voice more often, attracting a lot of attention in the process. It goes far beyond telling a paedophile to forget about the objects of his lust; he’s meddling with the very structure of the town by bringing Odin Quincannon to church and telling him in no uncertain terms to serve God.
Of course, as Jesse will undoubtedly learn, his powers aren’t quite as easy to control as he might assume. After all, he told Tracy Lorch to open her eyes, and she did exactly that. She’s still a vegetable, but she’s at least a vegetable with open eyes. He tells another parishioner to open his heart to his mother, and he does so literally. Sure, he’s poking around in the brains of people who are mostly odious, but there’s something sinister behind Jesse’s power that he’s not quite aware of. Fiore and Deblanc are, though, and that’s why they’re panicking about getting that thing out of Jesse and back into its coffee can.
Jesse is trying to do good with his powers, but everything comes out slightly twisted, as we’ve seen. He tells Quincannon to serve God, and while that initially has Quincannon meeting with Green Acres to try to move Quincannon Meat and Power in a more green direction, that same drive also has him murder four people in startling, exciting fashion with a shotgun. He gets Mrs. Lorch to forgive Arseface, but… there’s definitely something bad that’s going to happen. After all, Jesse’s use of the Voice made Donnie have a complete meltdown in his wife’s arms, and while that has to be intimidating to put a loaded gun into your mouth, there’s also no telling what lasting after-effects being exposed to that kind of power has on the mortal mind. And there Jesse is, using it to mend fences and make his congregation happy (or try to).
One of the best segments of the episode is the ride into Ratwater from the Cowboy. Ratwater is a collection of terrible little shacks and mile upon mile of burned brown prairie; contrast that to Jesse’s introduction this week, where he’s hanging out under a beautiful tree with a yellow and purple sky behind him, the ground around him red and blue, and there’s the preacher, relaxing and taking in the majesty of the world around him. Michael Slovis, who has a background in cinematography, really knows how to paint a distinctive visual scene. At some points, it feels almost like a living painting being broadcast, rather than a work of art. He also does a good job by the actors, particularly Tulip’s Ruth Negga, who gives a great performance this week as she actively tries to separate Jesse from his new duties as preacher in a couple of different ways.
I also greatly enjoyed a lot of what Craig Rosenberg put in the script this week. Jesse’s using his power left and right, and while he’s helping people, he’s also having some really unforeseen consequences, both for those around him and for those he helps. It’s clearly not going to be the force for good that he believes it will be, and Jesse is definitely getting a little took cocky as far as his powers are concerned. He’s practically smirking at Tulip in the diner; sure he’s trying to do good things, but he also seems to be getting a little full of himself when Cassidy isn’t around to put him in his place or Eugene isn’t around to be incredibly pathetic and well-meaning.
One of the wisest decisions Preacher has made thus far is to stretch out the story of the Cowboy across multiple episodes. We see a little bit about him each week, and each week the stakes get a little bit higher for him, and the danger around him grows. They might not get through his story entirely before this season is over, and that’s probably a good thing. Introduce one controversial plot point per season, and take your time on the characters that are going to be truly popular.