By Christopher Robin Negelein
Preacher, which was stuck in development hell (pun intended), for over a decade is now on AMC. How that show eventually got on AMC is pretty straight forward. It’s the next project for Breaking Bad producer, Sam Catlin, and it’s based on an award-winning cult classic comic book ala The Walking Dead.
Poor AMC never stood a chance.
I read the run years ago, so I have a passing familiarity with the original content, but I’ll be focusing on how the show fares on its own because that’s what really counts if we want to see more Preacher on TV.
But for those keeping count on the Marvel/DC scoreboard, Preacher is a DC, but from the Vertigo imprint. The same pedigree as the cancelled Constantine, a show criminally hampered by TV network standards and practices right into first season cancellation.
I still haven’t gotten to those weaponized golf clubs, have I? They’re were used about thirty thousand feet up up in a lear jet, along with serving trays, spears and axes. That’s your introduction to Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) a stranger who gets even stranger as he drops in on Anville, Texas, where we’ve already met a convincing, conflicted man of God, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper).
His daily nightmares show that he’s more motivated by a deathbed promise than a promise to the Almighty. Worse yet,, his parishioners are just going through the motions of Sunday sermons and Sunday BBQ. It doesn’t help that someone loves to mess with the church sign so it asks for people to open more than just their hearts.
The real trouble seems to start when a boy asks the Preacher to be an avenging angel because of his abusive father. The boy worries for his mother and fears he’s next. Declining the request by offering up earnest platitudes, the hard drinking Custer wrestles with his issues as we find that few people have more faith than he does. And he’s barely got enough faith to fill his cowboy boots.
One true believer is young, horribly disfigured boy (Ian Colletti) who worries if God is angry what he did. The “it” isn’t spoken off, but it probably has all sorts of ties to the boy’s mutilated face.
We also get a hint that our Preacher boy has a darker past as we get to know another Anville returnee, Tulip (Negga Ruth), whose a holy terror with a knife and a homemade bazooka. Negga Ruth makes Tulip fun and dangerous, but her fake Southern accent is sooo fake it’s more adorable than threatening.
After Custer finds out that the boy’s mom likes getting hit (it’s her kink), he’s ready to call it a day at the bar where he ends up meeting the boy’s dad. If there was one low point to the show, it was how redneck cartoon dad had been in the glimpses you’ve seen so far. He’s the feller fighting to keep a racists mascot and loves to “Abe Lincoln” squirrels through the head and is the Southern “general” of the Civil War re-enactment club. In a show trying for depth, this character is Hallmark Card thin. If Hallmark printed up cards for Dixie Flag Celebration Days.
Our Preacher ignores the bully and even turns the other cheek until the boy gets threatened. That’s where we see Custer finally smile as he embraces his dark past.
After a chat in jail with our strange friend Cassady, who has a thing for Type O, evidently, that’s it. Custer is quitting the calling. The first time he confides it is in a scene where we discover that even the church organist/accountant (Lucy Griffiths) had her own ulterior motives.
Asking for a divine sign to change his mind and getting none, Custer is read to leave the pews when an entity jumps into him. The same outer space entity we saw at the very beginning of the show who’s been jumping into holy men across the world, but then leaving in a dramatic fashion.
Custer wakes up days later to find Cassidy living in his attic and fixing the AC. Something is stirring inside Custer. And his voice sound different at times, like when he asks a whiny parishioner to open his heart to his mom at the nursing home.
That galvanizes the Preacher to find his calling again and start baptisms in a water trough, which confuses two hat-wearing fellows who’ve been following the entity.
They’re confused, but audiences are shocked when whiny parishioner makes to Florida to literally open his heart in front of his mom.
Preacher crams a lot into an hour and offers enough gore and violence to fill a butcher’s bucket. But it also tries to find some heart and comedy among the bat-shit insanity.
When it’s a given that most pilots will disappoint, Preacher kicks the bar up a notch. It’s uneven in places and it’s hyper-violence (for basic cable) won’t be everyone, but if the rest of the season gets better from here, AMC will have a cult favorite at the very least.
Now if they can just get Humans back on the air.
Also, I decree that I’ve earned bonus points for writing this recap while listening to The Rigs.
The next episode of Preacher, See, is on June 5th.