If it feels like we’ve been waiting for an awfully long time to be reunited with the trio of Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare, and Cassidy, it’s because it was almost a year ago that we watched the three bid farewell to the town of Annville. They had just embarked on their journey to try and find God, and they started their epic road trip at a roadside diner, munching on some french fries while plotting out their course.
Of course, not everything was sunshine and puppies. Annville was gone, thanks to a methane explosion. The Saint of Killers had been unleashed on the world, due to DeBlanc and Fiore hiring him to kill Genesis. And, well, God is missing. Completely, utterly missing. Not even the heavens seem to know where God has gotten off to, and that certainly can’t be good for a preacher imbued with the power Jesse received. There may have been a long gap in time between episodes being aired, but that doesn’t mean it’s been terribly long in Jesse’s world. This trio of unlikely heroes is On the Road, and it isn’t looking to be an easy trip.
When the action kicks off, Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy are blazing down the road, their journey to track down the Almighty well and truly under way. It doesn’t take long for the show to remind us of the bombast that made the first season so much fun, even in weaker moments, as a police car quickly enters the scene, and attempts to get Tulip to pull over. That sets up an insane car chase set to “Come on Eileen”, an empty gas tank, a confrontation with the police, and an incredibly bloody shootout, courtesy of our killer cowboy. Moments of levity are mingled with some serious, darker beats, but the show very quickly reminds the audience of the tone set in the first season, and lets everyone know that the second season isn’t going to lighten up. In many ways, the extra-long opening segment was like seeing a good friend; the kind that you can pick up right where you left off, no matter how long you were away. It also raised the stakes for Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy, but those raised stakes could present a difficult balancing act down the line.
It may be early in the season, but we’re already seeing an extra level of swagger to Jesse, as he’s willing to take the easy way out and utilize Genesis wherever he sees fit to get people to do what he wants them to. Sometimes this serves a greater purpose, such as his questioning of Tammy. Sometimes, it leans towards the ridiculous, such as Jesse commanding the police officer to “mace your balls”. This isn’t to say that Jesse can’t be contrite, as he shows in his interactions with Mike, but carrying Genesis certainly hasn’t hurt Jesse Custer’s ego.
The flip side of that particular coin is Tulip, who has her own level of swagger, but provides a balancing force for Jesse. She doesn’t want him to take the easy way out, and she also clearly knows that she can play Jesse like a fiddle herself when the need arises. She is probably the only person who comes close to truly understanding Jesse, and that includes Jesse himself. It carries extra weight that Tulip voices some of the opinions on events that the audience is probably having, but then dives in headlong anyway. After all, some of this may be psychotic, and they may “grow dumbass crazy here”, but this is the life Tulip knows. And she’s on an epic road trip to track down God; it doesn’t get much crazier than that.
Rounding out the trio is Cassidy, who careens back and forth from being something of the heart of the group and being an attention-starved third wheel. He begs Tulip to admit to Jesse about their relationship, and gives the two of them the space they so desperately crave when he can. He also converses loudly about his conspiracy theory regarding circumcisions, and directly leads to Tammy’s death due to his poor impulse control. Cassidy may seem off-kilter, but that’s because he’s trying to find exactly how he fits into this particular threesome; the Irish vampire, his best friend, and the woman both of them love. Without Cassidy, the other two would probably slide off of their individual rails pretty quickly, but he is able to keep them pointing somewhat in the correct direction. We saw last season how a third almost ruined things for Jesse and Tulip, but right now Cassidy is the extra leg that the others need to be able to stand.
Over the course of the episode, the three get to progress on their path, and we’re introduced to a world outside of Annville that isn’t any less dark and disturbing that what we saw in the first season. It would have been easy for the creators to ground things a little more after stepping away from the isolated little town, but the first serious exchange on their voyage lets us know that the world of Preacher is an incredibly messy one. After all, Jesse is willing to overlook Mike’s controversial ways of “helping” his congregation, either because he trusts that his friend knows what he’s doing, or, more likely, because Jesse is thoroughly convinced that Mike can help him track down God. In Jesse’s eyes, there’s nothing more important than finding the missing deity. One almost dead-end lead the group to the She She, and Cassidy almost closing that particular avenue before Jesse was at least able to get the clue about music. Thankfully, Cassidy is also the one to get the next nugget of information, seeing an old “friend” appear on television as he tunes out the noises coming from Jesse and Tulip’s room.
Let’s not forget that the entire time this is occurring, there’s the ever-present dread of the Saint of Killers. The cowboy of death is following the path carved by Jesse and his friends, and leaving a trail of bodies behind him. The state troopers and the gas station attendant show just how ruthless the Saint is, and how single-minded in his purpose. His appearance mere yards away from Jesse at the end of the episode even brought a tinge of concern, despite knowing that this is only the first episode of the second season. We know Jesse is going to survive this. We also know it’s going to take something special. But that doesn’t take away from the immediate dread, and the knowledge that people are going to die very soon.
The first episode definitely brought back the feel of the first season, and gave us absolutely gonzo moments, like Tulip’s method of siphoning gas, along with some truly powerful, emotional steps, like Mike’s way to prevent himself from giving up Jesse’s location to the Saint of Killers. The initial run of episodes of Preacher set a tone for the world that was sometimes a little hard to balance. With On the Road, it certainly feels like that balance is closer to having been achieved.