TV Review: Preacher, Season 1, Episode 7 "He Gone"
SYNOPSIS: Jesse's actions alienate and endanger those closest to him as we glimpse into his past and finally learn the root of all of his guilt.
REVIEW: "He Gone" picks up right where we left off with the previous episode of Preacher, as Jesse Custer surveys the scene in the church where Jesse has, presumably, just sent Eugene to Hell by using the word. Only now we see that Cassidy was in the balcony watching the whole thing and is visibly shaken as such.
Churchgoers flood into the church and as we expect Jesse to go through with his plan to use The Word to make the town serve God, he ends up not following through with it, most likely as he comes to grips with what he did and where he sent Eugene.
There’s another building block put in place for Odin Quincannon here, too (who is strangely not at church, although he’s supposedly been overtaken by The Word), who sits in his office again listening to cows being slaughtered with a sick, twisted look of pleasure on his face.
We jump into a flashback of Jesse and Tulip in school together as kids, having just gotten into a scrap at school. Jesse’s father appears, picking both of them up and taking them home (as Tulip’s mom is “in jail” and her uncle is “drunk”). Jesse later prays at home late at night, while Tulip sleeps nearby. Even as a kid, Jesse is praying to be good and do the right thing, which he obviously struggles with in present day.
Speaking of Tulip and her drunk uncle, there’s a scene that has Tulip chasing down some kids that stole said uncle’s pants while he’s passed out on the front stoop of his house. Tulip snags the pants and returns to her Uncle, smoking a cigarette and soaking in the disapproving looks of her neighbors.
Later, Cassidy confronts Jesse about how he saw what he did to Eugene. “With the Arseface kid, I saw, all right, y’know?” A nice nod to Eugene’s comic name and a picture into Cassidy’s care for Jesse as a friend, whom he calls his “best mate” although I’m not sure Jesse sees it that way just yet.
Tulip steps in just as Jesse is leaving for Bible Study, now acting as a kind of assistant to the church. Cassidy affirms that he hasn’t told Jesse about their little sexcapade in her car a few nights back. Tulip is nonchalant about it, but assures Cassidy that Jesse would not take the news gently. It ends up becoming a back-and-forth as to who knows Jesse better. Tulip breaks the spell with a simple question (and answer).
“Who is his favorite movie star? Who does he think pretty much shit’s sunshine?” The answer, of course, as it is in the comics and with greater emphasis, is John Wayne. A much better answer than Cassidy’s answer of Ryan Phillipe. Cassidy, in a ditch to win the argument, tells Tulip about Jesse’s power. “Like did you know he can make you do things just by telling you to?” Tulip is hardly convinced and Cassidy doesn’t push it, but it’s obvious that the three of them are about to collide with all their secrets lingering in the air.
In another flashback, we see both Jesse and Tulip as kids again, living in the same house/church. Tulip seems conflicted, perhaps overwhelmed with having a stable environment compared to her home life and she seeks to use Jesse as her rock, coming to him at night and making him say “Till the end of the world.” Which is their bonding catchphrase. Before we leave the scene we get another nod to John Wayne, as a framed picture hangs over Jesse’s bed.
Of course, Tulip’s fears of a fleeting situation are realized as she’s taken away, presumably by child services, with Jesse going ape shit and beating on the car for her to stay. He chases the car all the way out before returning to the church, where his father stands out front. He pleads with him as to why he let her go.
“Because she’s an O’Hare, all right? There’s always goin’ to be trouble.” It’s an interesting revelation that hints at potentially more shenanigans from her kin. Jesse then goes to bed and we hear him pray to watch over Tulip, but also to kill his father and send him “straight to hell”, which is most certainly something we know will come back to haunt him.
During a play rehearsal for the church in which they’re reenacting an apocalyptic scene and Jesse coldly tells them to stop smiling so much and to look more terrified. “The world’s ending. Otherwise, who gives a shit?” Odin Quincannon then shows up to have a word. Jesse comments on him not being at church and Odin says he’s been busy, finally relenting and saying: “I did a terrible thing, Preacher,” he says, saying how he’s neglected his birthright by not making his slaughterhouse business as successful as possible.
Then, it gets turned on its head. Odin slaps down a deed of transfer for Jesse to hand over the church and land due to their bet that Jesse could turn him into a Christian if he came to church. Of course, Jesse cheated and used The Word, but this is the first instance we’ve seen where that is suddenly ineffective. “Jesse, you should know better than anyone that I’m no Christian.” Jesse refuses to sign over the land and Odin lets it be known that it will be “victory or death” at this point. It’s a cool scene and one that finally brings the tension between the two to the point we’ve been waiting for and delivers some genuine conflict, both over Jesse’s land and now some conflict with his power.
Later, Jesse, Emily, Tulip, and Cassidy are eating dinner in the church kitchen with Cassidy ranting about Coen Brothers movies, while Jesse sits in strange silence. There’s obviously a lot going on in his head and Tulip asks him what’s going on. Before he can answer, Sheriff Root shows up asking if anyone has seen Eugene. As soon as his name is said an alarm literally goes off as there’s a fire in the over. Subtle. Jesse tapdances around the topic, but Emily reminds him that he did see Eugene at church. However, she senses that there’s more to it and lies, saying she saw Eugene leave. Sheriff Root is notably suspicious, but leaves anyway.
Cut to Jesse getting smashed in the face with a fire extinguisher, courtesy of Cassidy, who wants to know what Jesse is going to do about Eugene. He also addresses the thing that most of us have been wondering about from the beginning. “You just sent an innocent kid to be forever poked by piping hot pitchforks I think acting like you give a damn might be a good start, man.” The question of WHY Jesse is so cold and hasn’t even attempted to bring Eugene back with The Word is the driving force of the episode.
And now we know why. Jesse tells Cassidy that Eugene is not that innocent, revealing exactly what happened to him and Tracy Loach, the bedridden vegetable of a girl that Jesse has visited (and made open her eyes with The Word): Eugene was in love with Tracy and confessed his love to her, but was rejected, prompting him to take a shotgun to her head and then attempting his own suicide. This clears up why Tracy’s mom attacked him before, why people called Eugene a murderer all the way back to the pilot. Only took seven episodes, but now that’s clear and a far cry from the Kurt Cobain inspired suicide of the comics for ol’ Arseface.
The most shocking revelation is Jesse’s coldness about it all, as he reveals that he feels this is part of God’s plan, which is why sending Eugene to hell, even if by Jesse’s own judgment, is justified. Because, well, The Word is part of God’s plan in his mind. It’s a strange twist to the character of Jesse Custer, who is on a steady decline in terms of his conundrum. Cooper plays it well, but this somewhat “evil” version of Custer is either a drawn out version of his prior self in the comics or something else altogether. It’s too soon to tell, really, but I’m anxious to see where and how far they go in bringing him to his ultimate mission by season’s end.
Of course, Cassidy doesn’t let Jesse off so easy, saying that he himself is a sinner, fornicator, drug abuser, etc. with no ambition. Would Jesse let him burn, too? Well, he puts that to the literal test, tossing Jesse the fire extinguisher and stepping into the sun sans a shirt, which promptly sets his vampire flesh ablaze in front of Jesse.
The next scene has Jesse storming back into the church, slamming down the fire extinguisher in Cassidy’s spot. He sits down to finish eating, slamming his beer and riled up. Both Tulip and Emily ask where Cassidy is. Jesse asks if they both “know about him” (i.e. he’s a vampire). Tulip scolds him for presumably kicking Cassidy out because of that, saying his “Daddy would be proud” which gets a strong reaction from Jesse. “Don’t you talk about him!” Jesse then asks what Tulip is even doing there and she ends up taking off before it can get any worse, leaving Jesse and Emily at the table.
Emily tries to be level-headed and confesses to Jesse that ever since he arrived back in town that she just “believed” in him from the moment she saw him. Jesse, cold as ice, replies: “Well, that was stupid,” then telling her to “go home.” Ouch.
We then go directly into another flashback, one that was teased earlier in the season and a pivotal moment for Jesse. Jesse’s father comes into his room, telling him to hide under the bed. His father yells “Get out of here, I told you to stay away” before the sound of baseball bats beating him to the ground are heard. Two men then drag Jesse and his father outside, one of them holding a gun to his dad’s head. On his inside forearm is the same tattoo that we saw adorned on Jesse’s back last episode. Just as his father makes him promise to be one of the “good guys” we hear Jesse confess, “I prayed for this, it’s all my fault!” before his father is shot dead.
This is most likely our first peek at Jody and TC, two of the meanest, nastiest bad guys that Jesse has ever known, and it got me quite a bit excited to see that storyline in the deck of cards. If I’ve bemoaned over the slow pace and major deviations from the comic for this show so far, its moments like this (and anything with The Saint of Killers/The Cowboy) that give me hope for the long haul.
We then see Jesse furiously digging up the floorboards of the church, getting into the dirt and using The Word, saying “Come back!” But, the stakes are about to go up even more as Odin Quincannon, atop a Caterpillar, and his army of goons, including Roger decked out in his Civil War garb, marching toward the church, armed to the teeth. A showdown is most definitely in the cards.
I feel like this episode hit a nice stride as we finally got a number of revelations, especially about Eugene, as well as some additional depth into Jesse’s guilt over his father’s death, as well as our first tease of his early familial ties. We’re on a very different direction for the character, but I’m interested to see how they play it out. Jesse’s cold nature, which simply wasn’t a thing in the comics, makes me yearn for his reawakening that puts him on his true mission, which has yet to be revealed. If anything, even if disappointed by many of the broad deviations the showrunners have taken, I’m still invested in the show, and my hope is renewed each time they take a stride forward or give us a glimpse into the bigger story that is Custer’s journey. Thankfully, we got that with “He Gone”.
- Perhaps the biggest revelation here is the origin of Arseface aka Eugene, who in the comics shot himself over the sadness of Kurt Cobain killing himself, in a kind of ode to the late Nirvana frontman. Here, we get an entirely different kind of origin for the character. It’s a compelling twist for the show and gives Eugene more depth, but it also changes his source character in a big way.
- The coolest nod to the comics was the death of Jesse’s father, which is by two men, presumably TC and Jody, who are the main henchmen to Jesse’s Grandmother in the comics. Ruthless, vicious, mean, and twisted, they serve as a major staple in Jesse’s backstory.
- John Wayne is mentioned as Jesse’s favorite movie star and we see a picture of him hanging over his bed as a kid. In the comics, Jesse constantly communes with the ghost of John Wayne, literally speaking to him.
“Until the end of the world” is a phrase used in the comics between Jesse and Tulip all through their relationship and we got our first taste of that in one of the flashback scenes.