It might have taken a while, but Jesse Custer has finally grown comfortable with using his power. And boy, does he ever use it, more times in this episode than in the first four combined. At the very least, most of this week’s commands are solicited – if not all that insightful, delivered in speed dating fashion at the town diner. “Preacher, I’m having problems with my mother-in-law.” “Be patient.” Next. “Preacher, our son won’t do his homework because his eyes are glued to those darn screens.” “Use your best judgment.” Next. Quality control be damned, any advice Jesse offers these days receives a five-out-of-five for customer service as long as he says it with The Voice.
And that’s just it. Jesse thinks he’s using his power as an instrument of salvation when instead he’s using it as a shortcut, dismissing residents with ready-made instructions rather than building meaningful relationships, religious or otherwise. It’s no wonder that he doesn’t resort to his power when dealing with people that he genuinely cares about. He hasn’t used it on Emily, or Cassidy. And he doesn’t use it on Tulip this episode, even when she attempts to expose him as a fraud in what is yet another effort to finally get their show on the road. “This guy is bad. B-A-D. He’s denying who he is, and that’s my problem,” she says about Jesse after sharing an amusing story about him shooting a lizard in the head. Jesse’s response touches a nerve, though, as he challenges her to see him for what he truly is now: a changed man. A good man. And she could be good, too, he claims. In response to this mind fucking, she goes out and literally fucks Cassidy, and that’s after finding out that he’s a vampire. Suspension of disbelief is cool and everything, but at what point, if any, do our characters say, “Holy shit”? You guys, none of this is normal.
Speaking of not normal, Eugene tries to join in on Jesse’s impromptu confessionals, but his face is deemed too hideous to set foot in the fine dining establishment that is the Flavor Station. Truth is Eugene comes to Jesse for help with his father, the town sheriff, in hopes that the preacher can help pray his father’s pain away. But pain is just a symptom, and Jesse instead diagnoses that the source of the sheriff’s real sickness is the town’s hostility toward Eugene. Annville’s collective ill will was born of the untold connection between Eugene and Tracy Loach’s coma, so Jesse drives with Eugene to the Loach residence and simply orders, all god-like, for Momma Loach to forgive him. Because who was time for the grieving and the healing process when there are a parade of parishioners waiting for you?
Still, robbing people of their free will isn’t all that bad considering the questionable code of ethics Jesse has demonstrated. At least he’s no longer compelling others to place locked and loaded pistols in their mouths, an experience so traumatizing for Donnie that, in this episode, he’s been reduced to a sobbing mess. “Don’t you worry about preacher,” Donnie’s wife tells him. “Sooner or later, your moment will come, and he’ll get what he deserves.” Save it for the bedroom, Schencks. In Annville, preacher determines what’s deserved, and then he makes you deliver.
The frightening potential of preacher’s power is that he remains unaware of the sometimes unintended and unpredictable consequences that may arise from the subjective interpretation of the Word of God as delivered by Jesse Custer. In the pilot, an instruction of “Open your heart” led to a self-inflicted heart extraction and an untimely death. It was Jesse’s words that killed that man, and he either doesn’t know, or he doesn’t care. Similarly, in last week’s episode, Jesse thinks he converted Odin Quincannon to Christianity by commanding him to “Serve God.” But people all over the world do a great many things in service to a great many gods. This week we learn that to Odin, “Serve God” means not just going from antisocial to amiable, but it also means taking a shotgun and gunning down the Green Acre group.
The fact that Jesse’s use of his power, despite his good, albeit shortsighted intentions, has led to such suffering begs the question: why exactly would the Almighty and all-knowing lend his voice to such a selfish and self-righteous man? The answer comes this episode in DeBlanc and Fiore’s revelation. “What’s inside of you, it isn’t God,” they tell Jesse. Surely that means there is a reckoning to come, and for the first time since the pilot, Preacher seems capable of delivering.