After a fantastic pilot episode and a strong follow-up hour that avoided many of TV's typical second episode issues, Preacher slowed in "The Possibilities." While an episode like this — one that's more interested in answering some basic questions and affirming some key relationships — was probably necessary, it did lack some of the surreal zeal seen in the first couple of episodes.
Really, "The Possibilities" featured the kind of characteristics that you come to expect from a second episode: it's a little repetitive, but also focused on setting up plot points that will be more relevant in the future. Look, not every episode is going to make countless generic influences and harsh tonal shifts feel like weirdo artistry.
For Preacher's main characters, much of this episode was about reasserting choices that they've already sort of made in previous hours. Last week, Jesse's newfound commitment to the people of Annville didn't waver too greatly, even in the face of Tulip's charmingly deranged attempts to lure him back into a life of rebellion (and probably crime).
Here, though, the good Preacher, hot off of using his new power of persuasion to help sick girl Tracy open her eyes, grew rightfully spooked about what his abilities could mean. Hiding out in the church didn't make him feel any better, nor did revealing his secret to a gleeful Cassidy, who posited three options: Jesse's powers come from a tumor like John Travolta's in Phenomenon, from government experiments like Jason Bourne's, or from his latent Jedi genes.
Jesse's minor crisis of confidence nicely coincided with Tulip's latest — and most successful — sales pitch, involving tangible information related to the botched job that spurred Jesse to become a man of faith. In flashbacks, it was revealed that a sketchy fellow named Carlos plotted a lucrative job with the two lovebirds, only to speed off with the money after Jesse seemingly gunned down a security guard. A little scared of his abilities and worn down by Tulip's persistence, Jesse finally agreed to help her find Carlos. Well, until yet another assault by the emasculated Donnie forced Jesse to use his persuasive powers again, with the preacher nearly convincing Donnie to blow his brains out in a rundown gas station bathroom.
These threads came together in a moderately effective way. Jesse is a bit vulnerable, Tulip just won't stop egging him on, and Donnie keeps lingering around, mad about getting beat up by the preacher in front of a bunch of small-towners who have a collective proclivity to gossip. Plus, Preacher delivered some necessary background information about Jesse and Tulip's relationship, and why the former hasn't been particularly receptive to the latter's calls for one more job.
But where the episode landed with these threads — with Jesse controlling his powers, sparing Donnie, again rebuffing a frustrated Tulip, and vowing to do good in the community — seemed a bit familiar to what the show has done in the previous two episodes. On one hand, it's cool that Preacher still doesn't seem to care about explaining exactly what Jesse plans to do for the people of Annville. On the other hand, these little things like visiting sick girls can only go so far before the show needs to push forward. There's nothing wrong with moving slowly early on, especially with a story this big and this weird; but "The Possibilities" felt especially stalling in the shadow of the previous two episodes.
On the other side of the episode, Preacher remained repetitive, but cunningly acknowledged it and had some fun with the repetition. Despite all his amazing efforts in that bloody chainsaw showdown last week, Cassidy did not in fact eliminate the mysterious Fiore and DeBlanc. In fact, the two appeared in this episode seemingly unharmed from the violent affair, but with all the memories of the event intact, primed to help them prepare for Round 2.
Unlike the Jesse and Tulip story, which seems weighed down by their tumultuous personal and professional history, Fiore and DeBlanc's reformed strategy to take down the entity inside Jesse retained the oddly comedic tone of the first two episodes. Their conversation with Sheriff Root perfectly and humorously exploited the lawman's increasing distaste and paranoia toward all the horrible and weird things happening in his community.
But it was their second encounter with Cassidy that really buoyed the episode. Cassidy dispatched of Fiore and DeBlanc again, only for them to reappear one more time, totally fine, and with their other dead bodies just sitting in a heap on the ground. Here again, Preacher managed to take a very heightened, loaded scenario — a vampire facing off with two immortal beings on a mission from heaven — and make it violent but funny, silly but not weightless.
Joseph Gilgun has been the show's standout performer through three episodes, but Cassidy's incredulous response to the deadpan, matter-of-fact ways of Fiore and DeBlanc may be my favorite moment of Preacher thus far. Instead of simply telling the same story, the show implicitly commented on the repetition, and then brought something new out of it: Cassidy agreed to help the God Squad get that thing out of Jesse's body.
On a basic level, "The Possibilities" did the work needed to move Preacher forward. Some of the early outstanding questions — what happened between Jesse and Tulip, who exactly are Fiore and DeBlanc — were addressed with varying levels of clarity. Meanwhile, Jesse experienced all the stuff we've come to expect from characters who have been given great power: a refusal of the call to action, a flirtation with another path, and an eventual commitment to the original goal. That was all fine, just fine.
The small problem, however, is that Preacher was much better than "just fine" in its first two episodes. Maybe this slip was due to Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg stepping away from their directing duties, or maybe the show simply managed to avoid Second Episode-itis last week and all those bumps made their way to Episode 3. Still, scenes like those involving Cassidy and Fiore and DeBlanc suggest that Preacher will be able to recapture the idiosyncratic bravado of Episodes 1 and 2. With the aforementioned answers given and Jesse's first big drop in confidence out of the way, Preacher can hopefully focus on being its peculiar, thrilling self in future installments.