While Jesse Custer spent most of the second episode of Preacher in one kind of daze or another, the world around him continued to change.
It’s not as if Jesse didn’t have any transformational moments, but “See” was all about adding depth. Of course the network that gave us Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul colored in the backdrop in a slow burning style punctuated by the different kinds of energy that Cassidy and Tulip bring to the table.
Despite his change of heart in the pilot, Jesse is still lacking faith and going through the motions of his duties as preacher. It doesn’t matter if he’s baptizing his parishioners or hearing the confessions of a would-be pedophile, it is handled with the indifference and assembly-line efficiency of the meatpacking/power company taking over a family homestead. The day always ends with a bottle of liquor, a darkened church and drunken philosophical discussions with Cassidy.
Jesse’s routine is regularly interrupted by Tulip, who goes to great lengths to convince Jesse to take up the life of crime again. It’s impossible to overstate what Ruth Negga brings to the show. From the sing-songy delivery of double entendres to the electricity she and Dominic Cooper share on screen, Negga has delivered big despite not a ton of screen time.
Of course the strangest things happened when Jesse was out cold by a special brew of Cassidy’s. The pair that has been tracking the entity that merged with Jesse, tried to perform a ceremony to get it out of his body. When the steamer trunk music box didn’t work, that’s when they resorted to the chainsaw. Cassidy interrupts and a bloody fight begins. It’s not easy and Cassidy does have to negotiate a pool of blood to stop a runaway disembodied arm and chainsaw (“Say hello to my little friend!”) from hitting Jesse. As we learn, the pair with the music box are as difficult to kill as the Clegane family on Game of Thrones.
The situation starts to change once Jesse wakes up in more ways than one. He visits a family whose all American daughter is comatose after surviving a horse kick to the head. The preacher says his words, but the mother calls Jesse out for their emptiness. She says the casserole he brought is endlessly more useful than his words, because the casserole will at least feed her dogs.
After a revelatory conversation with Arseface, Jesse decides to let the “bad man” out on the would-be pedophile and cure those sinful urges once and for all with a second baptism in scalding water. In this tense situation is the first time Jesse knowingly uses this new power within him. He tells the man to forget about the little girl, they both feel a bolt and he forgets about her.
Early the next morning, Jesse returns to the house of the comatose girl presumably to pray over her. He conducts an experiment and commands the girl to open her eyes.
This second episode stuck with the pilot’s winning formula of contrasting Jesse’s ennui with the manic energy of Cassidy and Tulip. The show stuck with Johnny Cash as its soundtrack and orchestrated a dizzying fight scene. However, this formula feels due to change now that Jesse has awakened from his sleepwalk through life. The town of Annville will never be the same again.
Note: ***Minor Comic Spoilers***
Those of you who read Garth Ennis and Steven Dillon’s comic recognized the opening introduction of “The Cowboy” — played by Outlander‘s own Dougal McKenzie aka Graham McTavish — who we know as The Saint of Killers. Since his casting wasn’t previously announced, it was a big surprise to see both the character and actor appear in those faithful opening scenes.