Published on June 2nd, 2016 | by Geraldine Malone0
AMC’s adaptation of The Preacher, from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, debuted with a pilot that featured a lot of table setting but showed promise.
A baby cries in the distance as the viewer flies through outer space — that’s the setup for the new AMC comic-adapted show about a man-of-God in Texas.
Preacher debuted last Sunday, to modest ratings, setting up what is likely going to be a hell of a journey for the comic’s fans and those who are just getting to know Jesse Custer and his random companions.
The comic book was a staple and continues to be a huge throwback in 90s culture. It’s had multiple promises of hitting the screen — first as a movie and later in different iterations of television — but it finally got the green light when writing duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg acquired those rights and wrote one of the most highly anticipated pilots in a long time.
After a lot of internet speculation (myself included), viewers were finally able to watch the first steps into Preacher’s universe and it was exhilarating.
After the viewer flies through space, we land in Africa (which received a few chuckles for the generality of the location) where we find a preacher in a shanty-style shack which holds his congregation. The devoted followers watch on as a mysterious supernatural presence enters the preacher, they declare him a prophet, but alas, he explodes. Later we watch as another also explodes, and later again, catch a glimpse of a news report on a television saying Tom Cruise, a sort-of holy man when it comes to Scientology, has also mysteriously exploded.
Enter Jesse Custer, our hero, sort of. Custer is introduced in a shoddy room, getting up from bed, scars on his back, empty liquor cans can be seen around. He’s clearly not the holy man most people picture. He wanders down a dusty Texas road with his church in the distance, it seems like a road too long that Custer just isn’t ready to deal with. Custer isn’t a great preacher but he’s the preacher his flock gets. His sermon is painful and Custer looks about as excited for it to end as the rest of his congregation. He joins his flock outside also desperate for a beer and that’s when the viewer gets a dip into what’s going on behind that white collar.
A young boy walks up to Custer and explains how his father is hurting his mother — he asks Custer to do something about it. This boy doesn’t want prayers, he wants violence. Custer’s eyes go dark as he explains that violence begets violence, all the while making it clear that’s an area he knows too well.
Later in the show (a little spoiler here) we see that in action. The young boy’s father approaches Custer at the bar, aware his son has spoken with the Preacher. He goads Custer, hitting him. It’s a breaking point, literally, with our solemn, depressed Preacher finally getting a smile on his face as he beats the shit out of the father, breaking his arm only moments after the sheriff says the fight is over. The viewer sees what makes this man of God happy.
Custer is actually the slowest character build in the pilot, with the viewer asking if he’s just morose or if there is something else going on here. Of course there’s more, he has a show based around him, but the episode takes it’s time getting there.
The other characters to round out the motley crew are introduced in a much more epic manner.
Cassidy, the hard-partying vampire and a personal favourite, is introduced in an unbelievable fight scene on an airplane, which peaks with one of the best scenes from the pilot, or any fight scene in a TV show in general. Cassidy is doing cocaine and drinking as a flight attendant in a private plane with some businessmen, but what seems like a wild party takes a quick turn when Cassidy finds a bible filled with scribbles while in the bathroom. The vampire realizes that this isn’t an ordinary party plane (which are clearly a common thing) but instead a trap. He responds fast in a smartly choreographed fight sequence. Even later in the episode when Cassidy meets up with the protagonist, being helpful in the barfight, the viewer already knows this is going to be a bro-mance for the ages.
The final character introduction is one that also had the internet all a flutter when Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga was cast as the gun-toting ex of Custer, Tulip. The critical voices were quickly hushed when Tulip entered the screen in a fight inside a car speeding through a farmer’s field. You think that would be enough, but no, once the car stops and the two assailants are taken down she plays house, in the only way she can, with two kids. That being said, she MacGyver’s a bazooka, puts the kids in a bomb shelter, and blows a helicopter out of the sky. It’s unquestioningly badass.
All our characters come together after the supernatural being enters Custer and magically he doesn’t explode (comic readers will understand a bit more why that is but I won’t spoil it because I assume the show will explore that in its plot). The viewer only gets a taste of the power this has brought the preacher when he gives some advice to a parishioner that has been hounding him about his overbearing mother. Unfortunately this advice is to tell his mother what’s been bothering him and open his heart to her. With the newfound power, the parishioner must do exactly that, which leads us to a bloody scene in a retirement community.
It quickly becomes clear why the script of this pilot episode was deemed one of the best many critics had read. That’s the sum up without too many spoilers, I like to be kind. So why are people really excited about this? It’s because it is smart, dark, sarcastic, self aware, and full of potential — just like the preacher himself.
AMC has been looking for a show to replace Mad Men and while this is not anywhere near the same storyline, it clearly has the same potential for changing television as well as the standards around thoughtful, comic book-adapted shows. They don’t have Mad Men money yet and they certainly don’t have Walking Dead money but you’d never know with the production and script quality.
My expectations were high and now continue to be, if they continue on from the pilot’s promise, I’ll be the first in the pew to praise Hallelujah.