‘Preacher’ Discussion: The Season So Far

Drew Dietsch
TV
TV

With the news that Preacher has secured its second season, it’s time to start looking towards the future. The show is a little over halfway through its initial run of ten episodes and it’s time to take a look at where the show stands, what it’s doing right, what it’s still figuring out, and what we want to see moving forward. Fellow Fan Contributor Bob Aquavia has joined me for a discussion on the show, offering the viewpoint of someone who isn’t familiar with the graphic novel source material.

DREW DIETSCH: As someone who is consuming the story of Preacher for the first time, what about the show has kept you intrigued and engaged? What’s it doing absolutely right?

BOB AQUAVIA: The characters and the actors portraying them. The story and background details that are slowly being fleshed out are also keeping me on the hook. I know the comic has a lot of supernatural and over-the-top elements, so I’m interested to see how they’re portrayed on screen. The slow parsing out of details — the introduction of the Cowboy for example — works for me since I’ve always been a fan of slow-burn series. How about for you? As someone who’s read the comic, are you feeling that it’s living up to what was on the page?

DIETSCH: In the sense that it has captured the comic’s tone and style, mostly. The show really is its own beast, taking familiar characters and plotting from Ennis and Dillon’s book and weaving them into something that’s almost entirely new. I feel this has a lot to do with Sam Catlin‘s influence and the lessons he learned during his tenure on Breaking Bad; shows need to be about character first and plot second. If you have well-developed and interesting characters, you can throw whatever crazy events you want at them. We’ll keep coming back because we want to see how these characters react, not simply because of the weird stuff that’s happening.

Preacher‘s first season has been so deeply focused on its characters that it’s led many to dub the first season as “slow.” Since I’m someone who sees/knows/has a very good idea of where the mysteries are headed, I’d like to hear how you’ve been processing a lot of the bizarre and (as yet) unexplained elements of the show.

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AQUAVIA: I’m 100% about them. I’ve read some of Ennis’ other work, so I know that when he wants to get bizarre, it can go to all the way to 11 (see: The Boys). Right now I’m processing it and coming up with my own theories. I will say that it’s tough to remain unspoiled with the internet and social media, so some small details have been spoiled for me (ex. where Jesse’s power comes from, and the identity of the Cowboy). Beyond that, I’ve been letting the show do its work in presenting the story as it wants to. Plus, those details won’t make a whole lot of sense until you see them in their proper context. For me, that’s the most interesting part of a series like this. I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones but only managed to get through the first book, so I’m always fascinated by the creators revealing why or how they made editorial choices to include or remove characters/plot elements when adapting source material like that.

I find it interesting that other people have called it slow. I get that they’re doing a lot of maneuvering, but I feel things are moving pretty quickly! Do you feel that the people saying it’s slow are ones who are, to borrow from The Simpsons, waiting for Jesse and company to finally get to the fireworks factory? To me, it seems like AMC has full faith behind it and the creators, especially since they just renewed it for a longer season. And speaking of AMC, since it’s on basic and not pay cable, do you feel the rating restrictions and budget will help them think outside the box or could it ultimately hold it back?

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DIETSCH: I think the “slow” criticism is partially the byproduct of a culture still burnt by Lost. People feel that these mysteries might only be for the sake of mystery. That chain-pulling attitude can make the trip to the answers seem interminable, especially after Lost played a six season game using the same strategy and struck out in the last inning. The good thing about Preacher is that we know there are set-in-stone answers, and once the show moves past its opening salvo of wackiness, I think folks will feel more comfortable as the ride continues.

I know everyone wanted Preacher on HBO so it could be no-holds-barred in terms of violence and crudeness, but people forget that AMC airs a show where intestines are used as chew toys and no one bats an eye. Over on TNT, Animal Kingdom is showing some extremely racy stuff that would’ve been shocking only five years ago. The landscape of what basic cable allows is changing, and Preacher will be a significant part of that change. AMC is the only channel that can compete with HBO in terms of quality and maturity so I’ve never been worried about those aspects. Plus, the story never gets to the level of Game of Thrones as far as locations or special effects are concerned. This is the show it wants to be, both tonally and financially, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise.

I think what’s been eating at some fans is that the main narrative thrust of the comic involves road tripping across America and this season has acted more like a prequel to that. Are you more enticed at the idea of Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy going all Jack Kerouac as opposed to what’s been going on in the sleepy little town of Annville?

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AQUAVIA: As someone who watched Lost religiously from beginning to end, I agree with that assessment 100%. It’s funny you use that as an example because I think a lot of people point to it as what not to do. So many showrunners now are able to say, “this story can be told over five seasons,” and the networks will now trust them. Audiences now are happy with complete, fully developed arcs as opposed to stories that are extended for ratings (see also: The X-Files).

You make a good point about the boundaries changing. Over the past few years, we have shows like The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead on AMC or Sons of Anarchy and The Strain on FX. Heck, Hannibal aired in primetime on NBC! What they got away with was easily on par with HBO! So with Preacher, I like that it has the fantastic elements but they’re rolling them out at their own pace to still keep the premise grounded.

I am very excited for the trio to hit the road! I appreciate the time and effort the creators are putting in to lay the groundwork since the relationship of the three leads forms the major backbone of the comic. I also think that the three of them haven’t been in the same room together since the end of the premiere episode, so with the existing dynamics in place and the new ones that are happening just from this past week’s episode, I’m all in on seeing where they go.

I am also interested to see how the scope of the show will expand once that happens. I imagine as the series goes on, the cast of secondary and tertiary characters must increase significantly. Does the comic follow a similar structure to a large ensemble TV show and check in with these characters, and/or do some of them go on their own journeys?

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DIETSCH: The comic has a great supporting cast but the focus is primarily on our main trio. There are other substantial characters that come into play but they are all antagonists. I think that might be another thing the show hasn’t quite nailed in the first half of its first season. Odin Quincannon has been good enough on paper – and it looks like he’s about to get a lot more interesting – but it’s primarily been thanks to Jackie Earle Haley’s performance that that character is making any real impression. This first season, like practically all first seasons, is figuring itself out and seeing how best to build this monster. As Herbert West said, “Birth is always painful.” Preacher is still going through some birthing pains but it’s got such confidence behind it that I don’t feel the need to worry about where it’s headed. Knowing that this is a true dream project for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg gives me tons of faith that everything is going according to plan.

AQUAVIA: It’s true that some of the great shows of our time have had very rocky starts. It’s only when the series is done that we are able to look back at them holistically and see them in the context that they were meant for.

DIETSCH: That being said, let’s leave on where we’d like to see the show go by the end of the season. Staying as free of spoilers as I can in regards to the comic, I do hope that Jesse and the gang hit the road at the end of episode ten and the real spine of the story is revealed. Because when it is, you are going to see a lot of thinkpieces and controversy pop up all over the Internet. I’m sure Fandom will be guilty of that as well and I might be one of the perpetrators. Is there anything in particular that you’re aching to see play out before the finale?

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AQUAVIA: I’m interested to see Jesse’s evolution of using his power. He’s already figured out what it does but he’s still not grasping that it’s similar to the monkey’s paw: the people who follow take what you’re saying literally to the nth degree. I’m also interested to see how Jesse’s relationship with Tulip changes because right now he wants nothing to do with her, and I know that by the time they hit the road that softens somewhat. Last question for you: are you more excited to see upcoming scenes/plot developments from the comic or seeing how the series could diverge and go in new directions?

DIETSCH: I’ve said before why I’m excited for the show to carve out its own path and identity, but there are some elements that are crucial to why this particular story needs to be told. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read the comic, but there are already familiar seeds being planted that will hopefully bear recognizable fruit. I’m not as concerned that those elements follow the source material to a T, but they do need to show up in some form or another. This will probably be the only adaptation of Preacher that we get, so I would be disappointed if certain iconic parts were completely disregarded.

My only real bit of complaining has nothing to do with the show itself but rather the people in charge of scheduling the show: what the hell are you doing? The pilot premiered at 10PM which makes perfect sense for a show with this kind of extreme content. It also put the show after Game of Thrones which was a perfect Sunday night doubleheader. Then, they switched it to 9PM and put it against the most popular show on cable as it was having its biggest viewership of all time? If one thing needs to get fixed next season, it’s Preacher‘s timeslot. Put it back at 10PM.

AQUAVIA: I agree with that. Having it up against one of the most popular shows of all time definitely hurt it in the short term. Fingers crossed those numbers increase starting this week.

In closing, I’m very excited to see what happens next! Preacher is one of the few shows that I make a point to watch live, so I’ve bought the ticket and I’m ready for the ride!

DIETSCH: It’s going to be a damn fun ride.

Keep up with my Preacher recaps and reviews and watch the show Sundays at 9PM on AMC.

Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has written for CHUD.com, the News-Press, WhatCulture, and releases a weekly film review podcast, The Drew Reviews Podcast. He'll yak your ear off about horror movies, Jaws, RoboCop, and/or Batman if you let him. www.thedrewreviews.com
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