‘Preacher’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 3: ‘The Possibilities’
AMC’s Preacher follows small-town Texas pastor Jesse Custer, his former partner-in-crime Tulip, and a foul-mouthed Irish vampire named Cassidy as they attempt to find God in a godless world. Matt Wilson, a devotee of the Vertigo comic series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, and Elle Collins, a returning parishioner with a dose of skepticism, are checking in to see what they find on the dusty trail in ComicsAlliance’s new recap series, Gospel Truth.
This week’s “The Possibilities” finally sees Jesse and Tulip teaming up to deal with their shared past, while Cassidy holds down the fort back at the church and learns some new information from those two goofs who attacked him last week. The episode was directed by Scott Winant and written by Chris Kelley.
Matt: Elle, before we get going, a little housekeeping, based on some info folks pointed me to after last week’s recap. The guys we’ve been suspecting are Herr Starr and someone else are credited as DeBlanc and Fiore, which would make them the Adelphi angels who were blamed for letting Genesis out of heaven, and who have to try to go get it back.
I think we were thrown by how much the one guy looked like Herr Starr and just generally that we were thinking he’d appear pretty early on (I think some of that was probably an intentional red herring). Them being the Adelphi makes more sense, especially after them saying they’re from heaven this episode. Also, I think we finally have our prime suspect for Herr Starr, the bald man in the white suit and hat we see in the cold open watching what sounds like a snuff film. He gets a note from Tulip’s employer/compatriot Dany (who we also finally see), who mentions her organization, The Grail. It’s all finally coming together.
Elle: For sure. And those guys being angels also explains why they’re apparently unkillable. The show seems to be trying to tie things together in new ways, what with Tulip working for/with somebody who also works for Herr Starr (because you’re right, that’s got to be him) and so forth. That makes a lot of sense with the show’s lack (at least so far) or the road trip element. In general, this episode seemed to be largely about tying elements together and tying up plot threads, including the guy whose arm Jesse broke in the premiere, who comes for revenge in this episode.
Matt: For those reasons, I found this one to be a much stronger follow-up to the pilot than last week’s episode. Instead of breadcrumbs, we get motivations and character building and connections. We see who Tulip is working with. We see Jesse start to understand The Word, and learn how to use it more wisely. We get a better (though less funny) introduction to Quincannon and discover how he relates to Donnie. There’s a good scene between Donnie and his son, following up on what happened in the pilot. They’re building the world in ways that last week’s episode absolutely did not.
Elle: I completely agree. It also followed up directly on the cliffhanger from last week, which I wasn’t sure if it would or not. We discussed whether Jesse telling the comatose girl to open her eyes would have a positive or negative effect, and it turns out to be neither. She opened her eyes, and is otherwise exactly the same, which we should have expected. That had to be instructive for Jesse, and it leads to easily my favorite scene of the episode, which is Jesse testing his power on Cassidy, to Cassidy’s great amusement.
Matt: What does continue to bear out is the idea that the show’s version of The Word has what I called a “monkey’s paw” effect last week. The comatose girl opens her eyes, but that’s all she does. When Jesse tells Cassidy to “sing me some Johnny Cash,” Cassidy literally sings the words “me some Johnny Cash.” (Which, I also thought was probably the funniest thing in the episode.) It is one thousand percent literal, which I assume is going to lead to several moments of comedy and one huge moment of drama at some point late in the season.
Elle: We also see this with the bus-driving pedophile. He’s completely forgotten who the little girl is, but he definitely isn’t any less creepy when he notices her all over again.
Matt: Yeah, he forgot her, but he didn’t lose his sinning ways. What I liked a lot about that scene is how it tied several things together. We see what happened to that bus driver while we find out how Donnie has earned a reputation, even among children, as a hooting coward who got beaten up by the Preacher. It’s an economy of storytelling the show hasn’t really had before. I hope it’s more like this in the weeks to come.
Elle: Having all these things connected also makes Annville feel more like a real small town, where word about everything gets around quickly, and everybody’s messes spill over into everybody else’s. We also get that with Donnie working for Quincannon, even though we haven’t gotten to the latter’s actual place in the story yet. And the small town aspect comes up again with Eugene talking about Tracy Loach opening her eyes.
Matt: That scene with Eugene and his dad was really great. It told us a lot about Eugene (who it turns out may not be called Arseface at all) and about his dad, the sheriff, who’s basically scared of everything. It’s a much more No Country for Old Men approach to the character than the hardass, racist, comitragic comics version. It was one of several scenes in the episode that one might call talky, but that accomplished a lot.
Elle: With all the chaos Jesse is bound to bring upon the town, I suspect there will still come an ultimate confrontation with the sheriff, but it’s bound to be a more complex one than in the comics, since as you say he’s not the pure villain he was there.
Speaking of changes from the comic, I want to talk about Emily (Lucy Griffiths). As far as I know, she’s not from the comic at all (if she technically is, she must have been introduced in a very different context), and I’m interested in her role in the ongoing story. She seems like the least morally gray of the main cast by a longshot, but she’s obviously very smart and as things get more and more complicated, I have a feeling it’s going to be impossible to keep her in the dark. She’s sort of a wildcard in the ongoing plot, and she’s also a second complex female character, both of which I’m in favor of.
Matt: My question about her is whether she’s there to strictly serve a sort of mechanical role of pulling Jesse and Cassidy back toward the church, or whether she’ll get any kind of storyline of her own. So far, she hasn’t. But yeah, she is a sort of wildcard. We can’t put any expectations on her based on the way she was in the comic. In the comic, she died in issue one, along with the rest of the congregation.
I’m almost wondering if she won’t end up being a sort of counterpoint to Tulip, the proverbial angel to argue with the demon on Jesse’s shoulders.
Elle: So far in the show, the three of them haven’t been presented as a love triangle --- in fact, not much time has been spent making either of the women a present-day love interest for Jesse --- but TV writing tends to drift lazily in that direction if left unattended, so that’s something to watch out for.
Matt: I can’t really imagine an adaptation of Preacher that doesn’t get around to a romance between Jesse and Tulip eventually, but, who knows. I do think presenting Emily as another possible love interest would be a disservice to that character. I think she can not be that and be just fine.
Elle: I hope you’re right, the character of Emily will be much better off that way. As for Tulip, I’m sure we’ll get back around to her romance with Jesse eventually, but for now she’s just trying to tempt him into one last crime, specifically to get revenge on someone who previously betrayed them. And this is the episode where she very nearly succeeds in getting him on board, but not quite.
Matt: I liked this episode’s Tulip plot so much. The pilot introduced her as a complete badass, but there needed to be a lot more to her than that, and we get that here and then some. Another “talky” scene that I enjoyed a bunch was the one with her and the state trooper, where she talks him out of arresting her for reckless driving. It establishes her as a master manipulator, but there’s also a lot of truth to what she’s saying about trying to save a friend from what she thinks is the wrong path.
And we also find out what she wants. Not to get too Creative Writing 101 here, but characters have to want something to be compelling, and so much of the past two episodes were just, “Hey, look at this cool person!” Now, with the introduction of their old turncoat partner, Tulip has a reason to do stuff. Several needed layers were added to her here.
Elle: Completely. I think we also get more of a sense of what frustrates her and fascinates her about Jesse. She expertly turns on the charm with that state trooper, and she seems to be able to do that with just about everybody. But Jesse resists her at every turn, which in a way might be the thing that necessitates her having a closer relationship with him than she seems to have with anyone else, if that makes sense. She deals with him as a person, rather than just a door to be opened.
Matt: She doesn’t know his cheat codes, if I can be hopelessly nerdy with my analogy. When he’s walking away at the end of the episode, all she can think of is to say she’s staying in Annville until he comes with her. It’s a child’s bargaining tactic. Her immense power is just plain lost on him, and, yeah, I think it makes him a sort of puzzle for her to solve.
Also, again, how great is Ruth Negga? That scene with the trooper was an acting clinic.
Elle: Ruth Negga is absolutely the big revelation of this series so far. I’ve heard she was on Agents of SHIELD? But this is the first time I’ve seen her, I think. The whole cast is turning out to be quite good on this show, but she’s phenomenal.
Matt: Just magnetic as heck. One last thing I want to mention before we wrap up, partially because we haven’t mentioned it yet, is that I’m really digging the music choices on this show. It’s country, but weirder choices. The score isn’t bad, either. This episode was actually the first to have what I assume will be the regular opening credits sequence, and the music for that is actually a little off-putting, just not quite what you expect to hit your ear. I think it nails the tone of the series.
Elle: The opening sequence didn’t do much for me, but I do like the music in general.
Matt: It’s... weird. I don’t think it’s really intended to get you psyched for the show. It feels like it’s meant to unsettle the audience, which is maybe a risky choice, but I sort of dig that.
Elle: I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but that makes sense. In general, I definitely feel better about the show after this episode than I did after last week’s. I’m glad the pace picked up a little, and I’m definitely curious to see where things are headed, especially with the imminent arrival of Actual Herr Starr.
Matt: It’s a story instead of just a bunch of stuff happening now! So I’m way more on board, too.