The comic-book medium has always dealt with power. Superman imposes his on the DC Universe, Spider-Man knows it comes with responsibility at Marvel. The list goes on. Even the FBI-sponsored comics in the ‘30s were all about having more power than the bootlegging gangsters. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s graphic novel Preacher and its so-far, so-good AMC TV adaptation both give its protagonist biblical powers, though plots deviate drastically. “The Possibilities,” the third episode of this first season, sees Jesse seize his power, known as Genesis, in a solid, if uneventful episode that promises only better things to come.
In the pilot, Jesse received the power. In the second episode, “See,” he discovered this power – which gives him the ability to make people do whatever he says, while keeping them from full brainwashing, so that they learn the lesson he’s trying to impart. Now, Reverend Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) tames his power in an amusing trial with Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), which cleverly establishes its limits. With Genesis, Jesse can tell anyone what to do, but he can’t make them know something they don’t (Jesse asks, “Who is the governor of Texas?” to which Cassidy replies, “Bloody Chuck Norris, I don’t know.”) He also can’t make them do something they that’s physically impossible, like fly – though they’re going to give it their all whilst under his command.
Cassidy, the drunk vampire that he is, suggests that Jesse takes this power on a joyride. Jesse has more productive ideas though for a short time, he nearly gets sidetracked down a less-than-holy road.
Approached by his ex-girlfriend, Tulip (Ruth Negga), to carry out a hit on an old enemy, Jesse lets the rush get the better of him. That is, until Donny (Derek Wilson), the drunk abuser Jesse roughed in the pilot, comes to Jesse with a loaded gun. Jesse finds it too easy to compel Donny to put the barrel in his mouth, and discovers what his power really means. He lets Donny go, and the abusive husband is simply embarrassed and confused. But he’ll be back: he’s right-hand man to Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley), the head of the Quincannon Meat & Power family dynasty that’s supplied Annville with jobs for the last century. He’s a continuing mystery in Preacher, as are the other forces at work pulling the strings.
Most of the more fantastical elements of Ennis’s Preacher have yet to be raised in the young TV series; it looks like exec producers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin are slow-playing that hand, optioning to first establish the rules of the universe. Only now in “The Possibilities” have the two “bounty hunters” (Tom Brooke and Anatol Yusef) revealed themselves as angels, and even then Cassidy doesn’t believe it. The Grail, the holy order that keeps Christ’s bloodline safe, is referenced casually without the gravity of their weight feeling tangible.
With Cassidy now volunteering as DeBlanc and Fiore’s “middle man,” the friendship Jesse and Cassidy have may already be in jeopardy. That’s a divergence from the comics, but the TV show is boldly blazing its own righteous path. Whether that will be the show’s undoing is another story.