Jesse Custer wants to be a righteous man, and Lord knows he’s trying. But in “The Serve,” the latest episode of AMC’s adaptation of the graphic novel Preacher, he chooses the easy way out. It’s only a matter of time before the series finally kicks off the graphic novel’s road trip, but it still has business to take care of here in Annville.
Fact is, Jesse (Dominic Cooper) could use his powers to compel people to fill out his minuscule congregation. He could walk door-to-door commanding people to attend every Sunday. But that’s not how faith works. The challenge of religion — at least in the context of a gothic TV series — is not to make people believe, but to make people believe they want to believe. Jesse had a good, stern, priest for a father, and Jesse would do no justice to his legacy if he used Genesis to fill in the pews. That’s a cheat code, and Jesse is a fair player.
But people love free shit. Jesse fills in his church for the first time in a while by convincing Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley), the town’s most powerful job creator, to attend services. He’s rude and unpleasant, but his presence means something, and because he went to church, the rest of the town showed up too (Jesse’s dangling a flat screen TV as a prize helped, too).
Jesse busted out his powers on Odin during his sermon, and for a brief moment, the rich bastard seemed immune. Many characters in Ennis’s Preacher comics were impervious to Jesse’s power, naturally or by circumstance (in one instance, mercenaries who don’t speak English). Odin seemed like a candidate as the first antagonist to resist Jesse’s words, but he succumbs in a beneficial twist for Preacher’s main character. Jesse got what he wanted: A full church. But what will it cost him? (And I don’t mean a flat screen that costs a grand at Best Buy.)
At some point, Preacher will have to hit the road. Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), who in “The Serve” reveals his vampiric nature to Tulip (Ruth Negga) in a rather convoluted plot, suggests as much in the beginning of the episode. Genesis is a great power, and Jesse can’t limit it in Annville for long. Plus, much of what makes Garth Ennis’s Preacher graphic novel so great is revealed during that road trip. It’s about America, and the interplay between people’s dark sides and better selves. The TV show’s smaller scope has allowed the series to better define its characters before they (probably) fight serial killers and ancient orders, but until then Preacher is doing its hardest to convince everyone to stay along for the ride.