AMC‘s Preacher Pilot TV Show Review. Preacher, Season 1, Episode 1: ‘Pilot,’ may have been a form of wish fulfillment, for some; but for others – including myself – it was a formal introduction. I can’t speak to how well it served source fans; but as formal introductions go, it made a pretty damned good case for itself, as a series. Better than that, it made the devils in the details at least as compelling as that case, itself.
Now, I’ve heard this case made, going back close to twenty years, by multiple source fans. My job, then, would be to describe this spectacle, one uninitiate to another. I may need an umbrella.
So there was this guy, Jesse (Dominic Cooper) with a preacher’s-son-gone-bad past, taking up his old man’s profession as a way of atoning for – but mostly escaping from – that gone-bad past. Only, as far as being a preacher goes, he really wasn’t very good at it.
Meanwhile, a ball of energy with a purpose had come to Earth, from the Ed Wood reaches of the great beyond, seeking that one, perfect vessel, among preachers of various faiths, that can withstand it taking up residence. Only, as far as knowing who would be the surviving fit, before trying that body on, it really wasn’t very good at it. Tom Cruise haters might disagree.
It was also leaving a trail, for a pair of not-quite-MIB types to follow, around the World; but more on that comes later….
What has made Preacher such an enduring fan favorite is the blending of creatively colorful characters with plots & scenarios as twistedly inspired as to be worthy of them. If the pilot was any indication, Seth Rogen & Co. may have eased some source fan concerns about their adaptation of the material – despite it still having been watered down for basic cable, and all.
The introduction of Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) was (at that moment) the single most ridiculous spectacle I’ve seen on TV this month, and I liked it for its excess; but loved it for being subtly self-explanatory.
Seeing Joseph Gilgun back in a role that makes the most of his celtic cretin shtick was a seller in itself, and it was a splash of an intro (figuratively – being more of a ‘splat,’ in the literal sense, since not every Britannic has the Marry Poppins gene)
There was plenty of subtlety to the pilot, for which the more absurd moments would serve as punctuation; but the kind you were meant to notice now, and better appreciate later. This made a case for giving every moment your full attention (and not just source fans, looking for the familiar, either), provided you didn’t just come for the spectacle.
Speaking of spectacle: the (formal) introduction of Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) was (at the moment) the second most ridiculous spectacle I’ve seen on TV this month, and I liked it for its playful irresponsibility; but loved it for being subtly self-explanatory. Sure, it could’ve been even more of a spectacle (the payoff happening off-screen); but the children, man, think of the children.
I thought Ruth Negga was one of the best things about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s early slow period, and somewhat under utilized. Her intro for Preacher left me wondering if her talents weren’t actually wasted, by Agents.
I imagine the run-up to the… um… well, Arseface (Ian Colletti) introduction was done purely for the benefit of unfamiliar viewers – likely anticipating an exorcist scenario, of some sort – while source fans tickle themselves over that very notion. Well, factor in that small town Texas is the setting, and the opportunities for fun with blasphemy write themselves.
There was something to all that spectacle (more specifically, the semi-parody Grindhouse nod to it ) that may invoke Tarantino, to some casual viewers – and maybe that’s unavoidable, when such material gets live-action treatment – but it’s still mostly the mind of source creators Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon on display. Writer Ennis was one of the driving forces, coming out of the British Invasion period of American comic books (which gave us Sandman, Watchmen, and John Constantine, to name a few), that put DC comics’ Vertigo imprint on the map. The spectacle that was Preacher remains a particularly singular example.
The linchpin, to the pilot making a case for the series, was a claim to just how absurd it can be to take scripture literally. The Power of Command presents the series with some of its most potent material, and giving the audience a tell, as to when that power is on display (much like Peter Parker’s Spidey-sense) was a nice touch. Turning a background running gag (courtesy of reliable fall-guy, Brian Huskey), into a heart-in-hand gagging moment, pretty much summed up Preacher’s take on the consequence to blind-faith adherence to literal interpretation.
In other words, a single episode of Preacher managed to deliver what so many had wanted from Kevin Smith’s Dogma (including Kevin Smith, I’d imagine). Based on my limited understanding of the source material, I expect the series to do much, much worse, by Dogma‘s detractors.
Of course, we’ve come a ways, since then; so I don’t expect quite as much outrage to be leveled at the series. What I do expect, however, is for Preacher to earn that wrath – whether it manifests or not. Good subversion can just be so hard to come by.
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