by Logan Cox
They say faith can move mountains. Well, if that is the case, then I suppose doubt can drop those mountains right into the deep sea.
Doubt is exactly what pervades this episode, specifically where our titular preacher is concerned. Jesse Custer made an extremely heinous move last episode by impulsively using his power to send Eugene "Arseface" Root to hell when he could no longer tolerate Eugene questioning his motives.
What we didn't know is that Cassidy saw the whole thing go down and, needless to say, he's more worried for his friend than ever. And rightfully so, it would seem.
Faith and Doubt
Jesse tries to callously disregard this atrocity, but his guilt slowly catches up to him. The weight of it affects his preaching, making it seem either hollow or just plain grim and depressing. Odin Quincannon shows up and, despite Jesse ordering him to "serve God", specifies that he still is not a Christian, and thus wants the All Saints church as he and Jesse agreed in their deal. Jesse refuses, but Quincannon has no intention of backing down. He later lets Emily lie, for his sake, to the distressed Sheriff Root about his meeting with Eugene at the end of Sundowner. Cassidy, the drug addicted vampire, is, most ironically, forced to fill the role of Jesse's conscience, which really shows how gray the situation has become. He calls out Jesse's dismissive, self-righteous attitude, and tries to stress to him the danger of Genesis's influence over his mind. When Jesse proves unwilling to accept that his power and goals (and even what he did to Eugene) are not part of God's grand plan, trying to rationalize Eugene's damnation, Cassidy decides to truly test the preacher's faith. He steps into the direct sunlight and goes up in flames, revealing to Jesse his vampirism and giving him the choice to either save his friend or watch him burn.
To my frustration, we don't find out what happened to Cassidy. This show is already quite a bit different from it source material. Anything can go, I suppose. But Cassidy's a pretty big character for this series, and he's one of the most entertaining aspects of the show; it'd be like if they killed Tyrion Lannister in the middle of Game of Thrones' first season. Ballsy, but not wise.
At the end of the episode, having driven away all of those closest to him. When Emily states that she always believed in him ever since he came back to Annville (though, I'm thinking the word she meant to say was "loved" rather than "believed"), and Jesse tells her "that was stupid." That doubt and guilt which has permeated the whole episode (through all of the show, really) finally comes to a head, leading to what looks like the erosion of Jesse's faith. He thought God was working through him, desperate for a divine purpose after the crisis of faith we saw him experiencing in the pilot episode. Now he no longer believes in the divinity of his power or himself.
The O'Hare Trouble
I appreciated that more layers of backstory and depth were established for some of our characters. We get a glimpse into the beginning of Tulip and Jesse's relationship as children, and we discover that her whole family is looked down upon by the rest of Annville. It might be understandable, since Tulip seems a born troublemaker with no real interest in normal people stuff, her mother was a local prostitute, and her uncle hasn't had one scene where he isn't black-out drunk. Still, it is more than a little hypocritical, considering what a white trash haven Annville is. The scene in which everyone sees Tulip cradling her uncle when she finds him passed out in front of his home and they all cast blatantly disapproving looks at her was over the top, but there's definitely some real-world truth to that.
We find out that Tulip lived with Jesse and his father for a time, when none of her family members could look after her. It seemed to be going pretty well too, until the day John Custer has Tulip taken away by child services. Jesse's father claims that he did this because "she's an O'Hare" and will always be trouble. Though, considering what happens to John Custer following this, I think he actually might have been trying to save her from being involved in whatever circumstances led to his murder.
As we watch Jesse's guilt boil over in the present story, we see it take shape in his backstory. After his father sends away his friend and first love Tulip, Jesse no longer respects his father and even prays for him to be killed and sent to Hell. To his shame, that prayer is answered when unknown men break into their home and take them captive. John Custer, having anticipated their arrival, tries to fight them off but is defeated. Jesse is made to watch as his father is killed right in front of him, right as he confesses what he did.
This event is still clouded in mystery, but a few things are clear. First of all, the man who gunned down John Custer had the same skull-star tattoo on his forearm that Jesse has on his back in the present. This is the moment that came to define Jesse. His whole life, he's been haunted by the promise he made to be one of the good guys. He's also haunted by the guilt that he had prayed for his father's death and damnation. This makes what he did to Eugene all the more tragic. I found the scene following the last flashback, with Jesse smashing in the floor of his church and clawing through the dirt, trying in vain to will Eugene back with his power, to be especially chilling.
Jesse's in a sorry state right now, but Quincannon is bringing his army of redneck QM&P employees (including Donnie in his Confederate uniform) to root the preacher out of the church. So maybe this will allow him to expel his fury onto some assholes who clearly have it coming.
Lastly, we also had some light shed on Eugene Root's backstory. He was in love with Tracy Loach, one of the most popular girls in town. When she rejected him, Eugene took a shotgun to her head before turning it on himself and gaining his "Arsey-faced" appearance. This certainly explains the rest of Annville's hatred of Eugene beyond simple ugliness. Jesse tries to use this to justify sending the boy to Hell with a word, to which Cassidy makes his point that Jesse should not be the one to decide something like that, either way. I agree. What Eugene did was completely wrong, but he had shown himself to be truly repentant and eager to do good for others. Hopefully we can get him back.
Bits and Pieces:
* The looping sounds of brutally slaughtered cattle in Odin Quincannon's office are only getting worse.
* I found it pretty funny that Tulip's big parkour chase scene early on was brought about by her having to run down a couple of kids who stole her pants. As well as Ruth Negga wears that skirt, Tulip does seem like more of the pants-wearing type.
* I loved how Cassidy prefaced his serious talk with Jesse by bloodying the preacher's nose with a fire extinguisher.
* I've seen plenty of vampires burning in the sunlight before, but Cassidy's burning was very well-done. It looked horribly painful.
* John Custer is played by Nathan Darrow, who I know as Edward Meechum in House of Cards.
Tulip: Who's his favorite movie star?
Tulip: His favorite movie star. Who does he think pretty much shits sunshine? Who would that be?
Cassidy: Ryan Phillipe! It's Ryan Phillipe!
Tulip: John. Wayne.
Young Tulip: 'Til the end of the world, right?
Odin Quincannon: Jesse, you should know better than anyone that I ain't no Christian.
Quincannon seems to be a prime example of Jesse's misuse of Genesis. Whatever God he is serving, it's one that only he seems to understand.
Cassidy: What about me? I'm no innocent either. I'm a lazy, lying, self-obsessed, drug-abusing, cheating fornicator with a filthy mouth and no ambition. And I think your God, if he really does exist, is nothing more than a stocious moppet who smells his own farts! And that's not the worst of my sins, neither... preacher. Not by a long shot. (tosses fire extinguisher)
Jesse: What's this for?
Cassidy: It's for me, padre... Or will you let me burn, too?
John Custer: Jesse, much bigger things are coming for you. Much bigger things than this here. So you gotta be one of the good guys. 'Cause why?
Young Jesse: 'Cause there's way too many of the bad.
This followed up nicely after last week's cliffhanger, and set up an even cooler showdown for the next episode. Three out of four burning vampires.