After two weeks of shaking the bottle, Preacher uncorked a rollicking episode that more than satisfied fans’ urge for action while lifting the veil on Jesse’s real motivation for wanting to keep his newfound power, named Genesis.
While the fight in the motel at the start of the episode was surely the highlight (more on that in a bit), it was Jesse’s showdown with his own conscience in the guise of Arseface’s Eugene that might be the highlight of the series so far.
Both characters met at personal crossroads of sorts. After the Preacher helped get the town off his back, Eugene is uncomfortable with the populace of Annville treating him decently. Eugene is still struggling with the aftermath of what he did and believes that God is exacting His punishment on him. So when some classmates sit with him at lunch and invite him to experience the divine beauty of watching some fireworks go off in a drain pipe, Eugene feels hollow inside, like he’s not earned the positive feelings he’s experiencing, which leads him to see Preacher before his next big Sunday sermon.
Jesse himself has seen his world turned upside down over the course of an evening. He learns from the cowboy angels that Genesis is more abomination than blessing. The product of the union of the divine and the demonic, this power inside Jesse is the heavenly host’s biggest secret, greatest shame and juiciest prize.
Despite taking part in a battle royal where he saw agents of heaven fighting (and killing and resurrecting and killing and resurrecting) amongst themselves time and again, Jesse decides to keep the power, because as we learn in that sweaty little church later on, he is more the man Tulip knows him to be.
When Eugene calls what Jesse did for him a cheat, it caused Jesse’s façade to crumble. Jesse does see the power inside him as a quick path, a means to the end of fulfilling a promise made under duress to his father all those many years ago. Jesse wants to bring salvation to the people of Annville by any means necessary, because the quicker he does it, the quicker he can move on to something that is Not This and be who he really wants to be.
It’s why Jesse is dumbfounded that Arseface is fighting happiness. Jesse has no idea why Eugene would rather suffer honestly than prosper with doubts in his mind. It calls Jesse’s grand plan to use his power and a loudspeaker to save all the souls in the town and move on into doubt. Jesse finally blows his top because Eugene calls out the move for the sinful act that it is. He uses Genesis to tell Eugene to go to Hell. And like that, Eugene is gone without a trace.
It’s a powerful moment in a series that has struggled to find a direction for its title character. Jesse has been adrift, but Eugene’s disappearance and its sure aftermath will generate the conflict and consequences that is certain to bring the titular Preacher into sharp focus.
The rest of the episode brought back the action with an absurdly wonderful and violent fight sequence that saw the bodies pile up in the hotel room like shells on a beach. It also kept up with the recently winning formula of pairing unlikely characters together (this time it was Tulip and April). This was surely the kind of episode that had the right mix to draw any wavering viewers back into the fold, as the water Jesse finds himself in gets deeper and hotter.