Preacher – Season 1 Episode 1
Preacher – AMC’s latest graphic novel-to-small-screen-adaptation kicks off this week in delirious, explosive style. Based on the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, and developed (‘brought to you’) by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, it tells the darkly comedic and twisted tale of a small-town Texas minister with a mysterious and violent past.
The pilot episode introduces many of the supernatural elements and outsized characters we’ll get to know over the course of the season’s ten episode run. And what a start! From the outset, the cold open lets us know that we’re in for outlandish levels of gore and mayhem. A strange object (or possibly force) hurtles through space, towards Earth, where it touches down in a church in Africa, seemingly right into the body of a mid-sermon priest. He pauses for a moment, utters a few words, before erupting into a shower of blood, covering his congregation in gore. As intros go, it’s up there with some of the most shocking you’re likely to see on TV (although Walter White in his underwear takes some beating).
From there we cut to mundane Annville, Texas – home of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), the ineffectual head of a disinterested church. Custer looks as bored delivering his sermon as the parishioners do listening to it. We’re given glimpses of his lifestyle – alcohol seems to play a fairly large part – as well as his reluctance to step in when he’s witness to spousal abuse taking place outside his church. This plotline forms much of the spine of the episode, as Custer struggles with his conscience, trying unsuccessfully to enlist the help of Annville’s sheriff (W. Earl Brown). We can tell that Custer is a good man, and may once have felt the need to do the right thing, but that those days, and his faith, seem to be behind him.
When we’re not getting to know Custer, we’re racing between scenes introducing the other protagonists at breakneck speed (literally). Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), a debaucherous Irish Demon(?) or Vampire(?) enters the fray in an incredible fight scene on board a private jet. Acting as a barman/croupier for a group of men (who turn out to be crossbow-wielding vampire/demon hunters), he sniffs out their plot to kill him and dispatches them with fantastic ultraviolence. The action is reminiscent of films like Shoot ’Em Up and Deadpool, wherein all manner of weapons and everyday objects are utilised for awesome carnage. Highlights include Cassidy’s impromptu golfing, and use of a broken bottle neck to pour himself a glass of blood from the chest of one of his victims. We leave him as he leaps from the plane, unsure as to whether or not we should be rooting for him, but definitely impressed by his swagger.
Next we meet Tulip (Ruth Negga), in a similarly frenetic scene, as she battles an attacker whilst ploughing through a cornfield in a car at high speed. She kicks as much ass as Cassidy just did before meeting some adorable kids who are mightily impressed, and not at all put off, by her skills. Their glee echoes ours, as it’s impossible not to smile madly at the action taking place. There’s ear-biting, home-made bazookas, and death by corn cob aplenty. When Tulip takes the kids to the safety of their basement before using the aforementioned bazooka to inexplicably blow a helicopter out of the sky (off-screen, we only have the kids’ reactions for detail) it all adds to the manic tone and hectic momentum of the show.
Interspersing the action are shots of a pair of mystery men, investigating the African church from the opening scene. Evoking the silent Mexican hitmen from Breaking Bad, they are intriguing as we know so little about what they’re up to. They seem to be investigating the bizarre occurrence, and are seen later at various other locations around the globe (always in appropriately stereotypical costumes) where we learn that similarly bloody ecclesiastical events have been taking place. There’s even a nice joke about a well known celebrity endorser of Dianetics falling victim.
It all juxtaposes perfectly with Custer’s humdrum existence in Annville, where he goes about his business attempting to help the domestic abuse victim without really getting involved. Eventually though, evidence of Custer’s badass past bubbles to the surface as he is confronted by Eugene (Ian Colletti), the abusive husband, in a local bar. You can picture the imagery depicted here in the panels of the comic book, as Eugene (who happens to be into civil war re-enactments) dressed as a Confederate general squares off against Custer in his distinctive Texas preacher’s gear. Cooper gets the opportunity to exhibit some swagger of his own, as Custer relishes being back in his violent element, smiling as he swings punches. Admittedly, one or two of them appear wide of the mark, and this, along with Cooper’s slightly wavering accent might be the episode’s only shortcomings.
To round off Custer’s one-hour origin story we see him return to his church late one night on the verge of hanging up his dog collar for good. That is until he experiences a supernatural encounter of his own, waking three days later with renewed faith and the ability to impart the ‘Word of God’ to his followers (any other powers are yet to be seen).
Throughout the episode there’s so little explanation for what we’re seeing on screen, which would normally be detrimental, but instead you just go with flow, too busy grinning with delight to be disturbed by it. The black humour is spot on and again draws comparison to Deadpool, which also perfectly deployed comedy to offset the on-screen violence. The cast also looks to be having a great time, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Cooper in particular stands out, ably embodying the seemingly washed up Jesse Custer, whilst also showing flashes of roguish exuberance that will surely make him a cult character.
You can tell what drew Goldberg and Rogen to the comics, and it’s the wonderful source material combined with the producers’ signature irreverence that sets Preacher apart from the crowd.
This is a balls-out, ass-kicking wake up call to other TV shows. If it carries on like this, Preacher will surely make believers of us all.
- joyous levels of blood, gore and action
- irreverent humour that will keep you grinning throughout
- a wild ride of a pilot episode. It explains so little, but in the best way possible
- Cooper’s slightly dodgy accent (prepare for the Rick Grimes-esque memes)
- some pulled punches during the bar fight