For a full recap of the episode, visit the Preacher Wiki here.
SPOILERS may occur so read at your own risk.
As I write this, I’m staring at my entire collection of Preacher trade paperbacks. The urge to reread the series has been gnawing at me for the last few weeks but tonight’s premiere has convinced me to keep them on the shelf. Why? Because AMC’s Preacher isn’t that series.
Well, it is in the sense that it’s full of effective violence (both gleeful and horrifying), enjoyable characters, pitch-black humor, and an unflinching examination of ideas like morality and faith. The heart of Garth Ennis’ story is beating strong in Preacher but the skin and bones are something we haven’t seen before. Will that alienate fans of the comic? If it does, it’s their loss. Showrunners Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin have done what comic book storytellers before them have been doing for nearly a century: taking recognizable and interesting characters and telling new stories with them.
To be fair, the driving plot of Preacher is close enough to the comic that you can’t call it “new.” Some unknown entity has come to Earth and merged with Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a small-town preacher with a shady past that seems burdened by his religious duty. Cooper doesn’t portray Jesse as the swaggering machismo machine of the comics, instead playing him with deep conflict and quiet, barely restrained hate. If Jesse wasn’t so damn likable and kind-hearted you’d probably be afraid of him dispassionately killing you at any moment. This gives us a character that we want to see grow, struggle, and change. Jesse’s decision at the end to stay in Annville to try and help his congregation sets up an entire season of a character figuring out what he’s supposed to do with his life and probably screwing up in the process (as we see with Ted’s visit to his mother at the end). That’s good television, folks.
If the brooding contemplation of Jesse isn’t quite vibing with you, this pilot offers you an embarrassment of twisted fun with its introduction of Tulip (Ruth Negga) and Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun). Both of their fight scenes had me jumping up and down like an idiot, and that was bolstered by nearly perfect performances from both actors. Wonderful choreography and direction thrust these two characters to the forefront in a way that almost seemed damaging to Jesse’s story, until we finally see Jesse let loose in one of the most satisfying pieces of gruesome catharsis I can think of. If faithfully translating the delightful violence of the comic was ever a concern for you, this pilot will undoubtedly assuage your fears.
There is brightness amidst all the blood and bad language in the form of two characters: Emily and Eugene. Emily is the church organist and the only one who seems to see the good in Jesse. Emily is a character created for the show, and it looks like she’s been put there to balance out Jesse’s wilder nature. The real warmth of the show comes from Eugene Root, the disfigured son of the Annville sheriff. The once and future Arseface is charming, sweet, sad, and could very well be my favorite character in the pilot. Though his facial prosthetics could be goopier, actor Ian Colletti manages to give a multi-faceted performance that immediately endeared the character to me. Seeing as how he had to do that with muffled speech and subtitles, that’s a big win for the character.
My only frustration with the pilot isn’t the show’s fault. Knowing what’s in store (at least the broad strokes) has me wanting things to be breezier but the show is taking its time. There’s a mystery at play here that seems sluggish to those of us in the know. From a newcomer’s perspective, there are so many questions left to be answered. What is this entity that has possessed Jesse? What has it done to him besides give him some yet undefined power of manipulation? Who are the two figures tracking this thing? As with all great pilot episodes, Preacher leaves you with a good “wanting more” feeling.
It’s still shocking that Preacher is on television even after witnessing it. It’s even more shocking that the filmmakers involved got it so damn right. The soul of Garth Ennis’ landmark story has reincarnated into this television drama, and I cannot wait to see where it’s headed.
Best Moments of the Episode:
Cassidy filling up a bottle with blood is one of the best summations of a character I’ve ever seen. It’s made doubly great by how Cassidy “taps” his victim.
Tulip’s entire introduction from the cornfield sequence to her takedown of a helicopter. I’ve never fallen so hard for a fictional character so fast. I’d watch an entire show that was just about her.
Tom Cruise being one of the failed hosts for Genesis. Putting that little joke on a barroom TV that no one is paying attention to perfectly gets across this show’s wicked sense of humor.
“You ready for that noise now?”
Next Week: “See”