Preacher Season 1 Premiere Review
Welcome to Annville.
A lot of comments have been made on Preacher in the early days. Ever since it premiered to the lucky few, and made its way into the laps of critics everywhere, attempts have been made to do right by it by claiming it to be AMC's next Breaking Bad, or next The Walking Dead.
But as with the aforementioned shows, along with Mad Men for good measure, Preacher achieves its own feat. Its DNA is richly unique, and it's a wildly good time in an age of television where there's good times to be found everywhere. But, taking its spirit straight from its source material, Preacher makes it very clear that it's not going to be like anything else on TV.
From its retro callback to sci-fi of old with its goofy opening shot of outer space, to its comical and earnest depiction of the villains of the story, Preacher makes it clear that it exists right in the realms of the supernatural. It mingles faith with disbelief, as we witness raucous events unfold before us. We meet Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer to the fitting tune of Time of the Preacher, and in him we see a deeply conflicted man, the compelling center of the story. We are given various hints as to who he is and who he was. We get a select few flashbacks, coy lines of dialogue, and a speech at the end that nearly tipped over the edge of melodrama. The seeds have been planted for an overarching tale of a man utterly at odds with himself and with God. Therein lies the central drama.
But then we meet two of the wildest co-starring characters you're likely to see this year. Joseph Gilgun is the Irish vagabond Cassidy, and the bloodsucking immortal makes both points clear in his first, magnificent sequence. If the African church scene wasn't enough to prove this series is going to be a bold one, the airplane introduction is one of the more memorable ways to show off just how brutal the action is going to get. No pun intended, but no punches were pulled in that regard.
But Gilgun's Cassidy is outdone not long after when we meet Tulip O'Hare, played by Ruth Negga. Tulip has a distinct history with Jesse, though again there's more to it than what little we're given. While the episode gives us a plethora of questions with pretty much no answers, it makes up for it in spades. Tulip steals the show when she takes down two men in an epic beat down while in a moving car, before building a homemade bazooka with the help of two innocent children who speak exactly what's on our minds.
While Tulip's role in Jesse's life is yet to be explored, Cassidy's arrival is just purely circumstantial. But when the two meet, a new conflict is born. Both share opposing ideals, but both come to a certain understanding of one another. It's not quite clear this early on, but there's respect there. Jesse is clearly an honourable man, with what might be considered old fashioned ideals. His mission becomes apparent at the end of the episode, though like I said, a whole lot more is up in the air. That's not even mentioning the two men who are hunting the 'spirit' across the globe.
The series might draw the most comparisons to the aforementioned shows thanks to its setting, which certainly aspires to a beautifully shot western aesthetic. Set in the south, there's accents and aggression to boot. This town is rough and ruthless, though at the moment feels a little empty (something that's sure to change in due time). In many ways, though, the episode is rather stagnant. It deals its hand, but that's about all. This is an introductory episode, but it needed to be. It's essentially a prequel to the series, but in this case it's not a bad thing. It introduces its characters, its setting, and most importantly its themes. There are clearly heavy topics lined up, and its unapologetic about it. It has to be.
Is God listening? Eugene Root, or, Arseface, voices that exact question in a scene that introduces one of the more tragic characters we'll spend our time with. And, tragically, he's also remarkably hard to look at. But Ian Colletti is sincerely sympathetic in the role, and the character earns Jesse's sympathy. Above all else, his appearance in the church late in the episode is a joy.
If the show has to veer away from profanity in a verbal sense, it looks set to make up for it in visuals. There are some disturbing sights in this episode, along with some hilarious ones. It's a particularly nice touch when the church board out the front is shown to have yet again been tainted by sin, bearing a message that you can't help but chuckle at. The show is clearly a passion project for some, and with Breaking Bad alum Sam Catlin showrunning, there's so much talent at the head of this thing that it's small wonder that it has gotten off to such a rollicking start.
If pilots defined shows, there may well be less good ones and more bad. Whatever your take on the state of modern television as we see it in 2016, Preacher has shown us just how to introduce oneself. It may well be the show fans hoped Fear the Walking Dead could be, though again it does no justice to compare it to AMC's other top-tier dramas. Indeed, it might be too early to dream, but Preacher hopefully has a long and fruitful life ahead of itself. For our sake.
For the Fans
- For fans of the comic, clearly there's plenty of change coming to Jesse Custer's tale. Annville plays a pretty minor role in the events of the comic, though at various times cast and creator's have dubbed this as a kind of prequel to the series. But don't worry, this is a road story through and through. So says showrunner Sam Catlin.
- Did anyone see the Saint of Killers teaser not five minutes into the episode?
- It's hard to say at this point in time, but there's a chance these suspicious globe-trotters who have found their way to Annville could be in the employ of the conspicuously named The Grail.
- There are hints at Jesse's history, both with the glimpses to his father (a certain familial connection holds exciting possibilities for the future) and with he and Tulip's dialogue. Though, that particular relationship seems to have been given a serious facelift.
- Arseface requires two sets of speech bubbles in the comic, one set of which acts as 'subtitles' to is impaired speech. The show pays its own homage to this, giving the character subtitles even if, most of the time, he doesn't quite need it. Still, it's a nice touch.