When I first saw promo’s and trailers for AMC’s new show, I was pretty excited, because I really like stories about religious anti-heroes who have lost their faith and are thrust into a a world where they have to face very real incarnations of what they have only half believed for so long. Constantine and Deadman comics and stories are among those I like for this reason. I was also extra excited when I saw that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were collaborating to develop the show, because they are hilarious and do quality work. And AMC has been doing really well with shows lately, like Fear the Walking Dead and The Night Manager. So naturally, was hyped and I still am!
Now let me preface this saying that I have not read the Preacher comics, which is why when Steven told me that Preacher are comics are what got him back into comics, and opened a new world of what comics could be, I immediately started paying even more attention and wanted to read the Preacher series right away! But then I thought it would be interesting if I held off on reading the source material, and watched the show first as a Preacher newbie, and then Steven and I could argue and discuss both versions, both his view on the show as a die-hard fan of the comics and mine as someone who is entering this world for the first time through the show, on the cast and in articles. That being said, I have watched the first two aired episodes and here are my initial impressions, broken down by category. But first, a synopsis:
Jesse Custer (any relation to Gen. George Custer of Custer’s Last Stand fame? Read: Immediate Americana) is a forlorn, hard-luck preacher who is running a small congregation in Annville, Texas, apparently trying to escape/forgive himself for an apparently sinful, sordid, and violent past, the details of which are not yet known, but hinted at when a bounty hunter shows up to recruit him back into her dealings. He is doing his best with his half-belief in God to take care of the sinful folk of the town, who’s vices range from drinking and drug use to psEUdo-pedophilia and spousal abuse. The Jesse is eventually inhabited by some invisible creature, the nature of which is not yet known. A few mysterious gentlemen come to town, apparently tracking this creature, and discover it is in Annville. Jesse is befriended by a modern day Irish vampire who is on the run from those trying to hunt him down, and Jesse reluctantly takes him in, still unaware of his nature. The latest episode ends in a show down in Jesse’s church when the mysterious gentlemen come to capture him and Jesse’s vampire friend Cassidy kills them in his defense. Jesse is discovering that whatever is inside him gives him the power to command people with his voice to do exactly as he instructs, but his awareness and control of of is still nascent.
Story – From what I understand, this is mostly in line with how the comic starts out. As I said, I’m a huge fan of the premise and Jesse’s arc promises to be a deep and interesting examination of control, addiction, redemption, forgiveness and faith. I love all that stuff and can’t wait to see it develop. I’m hoping the other characters that accompany Jesse, Cassidy and Tulip O’Hare ( the bounty hunter) have their own interesting arcs while at the same time prove to be foils for Jesse. I’m not sure if that’s how it plays out in the comics, but Cassidy’s carefree attitude as a result of his immortality is already a welcome counterbalance to the weight that Jesse carries. I would also love to see the town’s Americana veneer slowly peeled back into some dark stuff, along the lines of Twin Peaks.
Tone – The tone is a nice balance of serious and dark with a dash of dark humor and tongue and cheek attitude. It has done a great job so far of setting a small town America ambiance with an extremely Western feel to it. Indeed this show does have the tone of a Western. Lawless heroes fighting strangers rolling into town! And everything is coated in lore and the supernatural. Love it! The hyper-violence, blood, gore and sexuality are all in keeping with both the subject matter of the show and the world it sits in. It is well executed, earned and deserved and the visual effects are all top notch! AMC gave it a good budget!
Acting – Dominic Cooper, better known to nerds as the young Howard Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and who is also in the cult hits Breakfast on Pluto, Dracula Untold, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and the upcoming Warcraft movie, Jesse and is so far doing a fantastic job at conveying the secret weight this character carries, while very ably portraying a man acting more than living. He is a Preacher, but he only plays the part, it seems. Joseph Gilgun plays Cassidy and is tons of fun straight away, indulging in and mourning life simultaneously in the most gratifying ways. Ruth Negga is Tulip, and she is mysterious and strong, darkly comic and fear-inspiring all at the same time. All in all, a solid trio to lead the cast and I’m excited to see how they develop. I hope the writing is able to keep up with their chops, because from their performances so far, any weakness in the show won’t come from their acting abilities. I’m hoping the supporting cast will be developed and just as good. Jackie Earl Haley (of Rorshach from Watchmen fame) is scheduled as a recurring cast member in upcoming episodes, as is Elizabeth Perkins, but whose roles are yet to be much revealed, so there will be some strong acting around the main trio as well. I can’t wait!
Pacing – This is the only place in the show where I have an issue. It’s a bit to slow of a start. I’m not sure if they are trying to match the art style and paneling of the comics by taking these long, establishing shots, pauses, breaks, interludes, etc, and it may work in comics beautifully, but here, it slows things down too much, especially in the beginning of a series, when lots of world building and characterization need to be established quickly to get us momentum into the show. It’s very well shot and pretty, but functionally, it slows down the plot and character development and that is vitally important in the very beginning. Get us to the moral dilemmas, the hard decisions, and the action!
All in all a very strong start to a very interesting show, and I’m super hyped to read the comic once the first season is done! And of course I can’t wait to hash out with Steven our reversed introductions to the story one in comics, once on TV and discuss contrasting perspectives on the cast! Preacher is going to be a hot button issue on NerdFunnel, I’m sure, so stay tuned!