AMC is known for doling out the high brow adaptation of comic book franchise, with the likes of The Walking Dead and great series like Breaking Bad. But now with Vertigo Comics Preacher in the holster, could we be witness the coming of another entertainment juggernaut.
Well, the pilot should be an indication of that. And right away we can tell we were not watching something that could be considered ‘normal’ prime time entertainment.
We open up into outer space. We’re told this by big block white letters and the type of sci-fi renders of planets that look like they were pulled from the sets of 50’s science fiction TV show. And ripping through the cosmos is… the devil. Evil spirit. Whatever. Who apparently resembles a sentient comet. This comet wastes no time finding earth and lands in Africa. There it finds a lovely little congregation of judeo-christians worshiping in front of a vibrant man of the cloth. What an opportune moment for the comet to possess the him and take over his body. Now at this point, you may be wondering what’s the motive, or the next move… That soon becomes irrelevant when the pastor literally explodes into blood and gut over his congregation. Imagine that happening at your local church after your church leader declare he was ordained by God. Puzzling. WTF moment. Seth Rogen is involved. So it’s expected.
And in comparison to the graphic novels series… Rogen keeps relatively true to the spirit of the comics, from the weighted gold collar tips to the rugged jeans jacket of Cassidy. It was also a good call to have Season 1 narrative take place in Texas. Wouldn’t want the arc ending too quickly with the inevitable road trip that is coming to search for God.
Jesse Custer. Dominic Cooper, brilliant look by the way (his hair is sculpted by god). Custer’s not your average preacher. He has tattoos. He drinks. He smokes. And he’s about to quit his church. Mainly because his sermons are abysmally boring and filled with lacklustre. And losing faith in one’s religion doesn’t help with speaking with conviction either. We’re just surprised he had a sizeable congregation as he did to begin with. Until we see the end of his sermon is followed by the congregation serving themselves to some grub, beer and squirrel shooting. Annville, Texas. Expected. And an already identifiable motif of the series will be setting up establishing shots through a series of iconic images around the location, followed by bold white text. Bit modern in approach, but it works.
But what’s not expected is when little kid Chris Schneck approaches Jesse Custer with a beer and a request… for the Preacher to hurt his father. Chris’ father is abusive to his mom, and he wants the Preacher to do something about it. More specifically, he wants the man that existed before the Preacher, a man who bore a violent and criminal past, all that seems anchored around Jesse witnessing the murder of his own father. And it is at this point we see something dark go off in Custer’s demeanour, as he verbally weighs out the possibilities and gravity of Chris’ request out loud, which is where Cooper’s acting chops really shone through in this pilot.
And the Preacher amidst the drink and self-loathing does what he can to help with Schneck’s abusive father issues and Sheriff Hugo Root with his son. Brrh. We’ll get into that ass (that’s what she said) later. But good intentions, as you know, pave the highway to hell.
The Preacher’s efforts to help do more damage in the end, and the abusive father Donnie Schneck confronts the Preacher in a bar, punching him square in the face. Apparently, the Preacher found out from Chris Schneck’s mother that she likes a little rough play / humiliation, and now hubby Donnie doesn’t like the idea of the Preacher meddling in his private life. But it’s when Donnie threatens to hurt his ‘snitch’ son… that’s when we see Custer’s true, unadulterated self. And it is glorious. Custer has said, “violence makes violence makes nothing much at all.” And in all honesty he’s good at making nothing much at all out of Donnie Schneck and his compadres. The little smirk Custer gives when he throws a haymaker punch is honestly one of the greatest ‘pause-rewind-play’ worthy moments that had grinning. Custer is particularly ruthless and ends with Preacher snapping Donnie arm like a twig, emitting a noise that Custer deftly described as “a bunny in a bear trap”.
The Preacher is not perfect. Hell, we honestly think half of you reading this would make a better man of the cloth. But the comet spirit Genesis doesn’t care. Whilst the Preacher wrestled with his faith, the evil spirit that came out of space was barraging its way into holy places across the planet, from satanists to scientology churches, inhabiting ‘holy men’ and having them burst in an effervescent spray of blood and guts. Having Tom Cruise explode was also very satisfying, even if it was only in the form of a TV news headline. It seems the entity, aka Genesis, could not be contained by the vessels it possessed. Until it finds Jesse Custer. And it becomes apparent his work to save souls, especially his own, is far from over.
Tulip: A guide to ex-girlfriends
This is the type of girl your mom warned you about. And every sane fibre in your being warned you about. And she so happens to be Custer’s ex.
Tulip’s introduction to the series is by far the most chaos-filled. We flashback to Kansas… a car driving unmanned at high speeds through a cornfield, Tulip fighting for her life in the backseat after having killed a passenger in the front. Spunky, this one. And all this violence for a map. A map that leads to riches. And many shady types are out to get it.
The close quarter combat in a car ends with Tulip killing the guy via lodging a cob down his throat, in front of kids home alone in their yard albeit. With more reinforcements on the way, Tulip employs the little kiddies for some arts and craft, essentially making a homemade grenade launcher out of taped-up tin cans, moonshine and loose pieces of metallic toys. And in between the crafting she gives the children lessons on love and relationship, including the toxicity of hunting down someone that abandoned a relationship with you to then want to eat them alive. Good talk.
She is however more than just a crazy-ex. Volatile, yet their is also a vulnerability too that Ruth Negga plays off well. Tulip tries her best to mask her raw emotions after being rejected, presumably a second time, when she tries to coax Jesse Custer back into his old ways to help her on a score. Tulip’s range, from happy-crazy to passionate, from delusional to vulnerable, is something we is something we’ll gladly want to see more of as the series progresses.
One thing is clear. You love him. You may not understand much of what he says. Hell, nobody on screen does either. But it doesn’t take much to see he is a wild child. And our first taste of the carnage he can wrought is 10,000 feet in the air surrounded by friends. Well, not so much friends as in people who want to kill Cassidy because they know he’s… well, a vampire. So when youre on a jet plane and everyone down to the pilot wants you dead and armed to the teeth with ol’ school medieval weapons, Cassidy goes into battle mode. And in all honestly as awesome as this fight scene was which saw a man being impaled by a broken glass bottle and another burnt alive, it still wasn’t as entertaining as Custer’s bar brawl.
After totally decimating his would-be assailants, he literally jumps ship, armed with nothing more than an umbrella. We guess the British vampire was expecting to pull a ‘Mary Poppins’, but all he managed to do was form an nice sizeable impact crater in Annville with his guts and organs mushed around in a pile of bloody mess. A fall like that would kill anyone else, but a vampire who even in his state has the power to devour the bovine blood from a nearby cow will surely live to tell a tale or two.
Cassidy is stranded in Texas, with no money or way of getting home or support.
During Custer’s bar fight, Cassidy gives Jesse an assist which lands both in a jail cell. Cassidy, just witnessed Custer deliver the holy fist of fury in a bar brawl, is instantaneously fascinated with him, understandably. Their exchange is one of personal philosophy and the ideology surrounding the state of the world. The Preacher seems comfortable around all this evil. Cassidy I feel translates the best from the comic pages to the live-action. Joseph Gilgun could have very well been ripped from the graphic novel pages.
Preacher is off to a good start. No, an excellent one. It does feel like things are progressing to another level. And the only reason this review has not really touched on Arseface… is because the very concept of him grosses me the fuck out. In the graphic novel, I remember quickly glancing over panels and speech bubbles of Arseface drooling and now I have to see a live action version of him. Drinking raw liver slushie. Some things should never be visualised. And Arseface is one of them.
The character’s feel fleshed out, and the narrative keeps true to the nature of original graphic novel series, whilst feeling organic and unrestricted enough to move in a different direction as most great film adaptations do.
The three find themselves together under the roof of a church, in a more engaging sermon lead by Custer. Custer, Cassidy and Tulip. Lost, poor souls. Hell, let’s call it what it is… divine destiny.
We also get a sense of Custer’s disturbing new power after becoming possessed by the entity Genesis; throughout the episode, Custer tries to give advice to the super-annoying momma’s boy Ted Reyerson to open his heart and confront his mother with here equally irksome issues. But when Custer speaks to Ted with the authority of the entity in him, Ted travels by plane to his mother’s nursing home, takes a knife and literally opens his chest and gives her his heart. All disturbing and humorous shit.
The Pilot sets all the characters and plot fixtures into place. And as such the series sets itself up to build on these variables more as the series progress. And we expect things will get even more violent and crudely humorous too.