Preacher – S1E1 – Pilot | Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Joseph Gilgun, W. Earl Brown, Lucy Griffiths, Ian Colletti | Story by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg & Sam Catlin | Writer: Sam Catlin | Directors: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
If you were a fan of the comic or only became hip to this series in the last couple weeks, you’re probably asking yourselves the same question: “What the hell did I just watch?”
Without giving much away, Preacher follows the misadventures of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), an embattled man of God with a far more insidious past that many realize. Wallowing in the doldrums of sleepy Annville, Texas with Jesse are his ex-girl Tulip (Ruth Negga) and new best pal, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun). As witnessed in the final moments of the pilot, Custer encounters a mysterious force that has been seeking a host for the entirety of the premiere. What will follow are a gaggle of weird-ass beings and secret societies that have various designs for the divinely powered Jesse.
It’s obvious to those who’ve read Preacher that the source material is far too graphic even for a cable network of AMC’s caliber, so adjustments had to be made. What should be exciting for those versed in the series is how much of its first few issues were thrown in the mix during the premiere. It’s an ambitious play by Rogen and Goldberg, who want their audience to be flung blindly into the thick of it, scratch their heads, and sort what’s going on the same time as Jesse. While things have been left relatively vague for the casual viewer, fans of Ennis’ book are no more assured of the 10-episode season despite their extensive knowledge of its characters and their endgame. The pilot has confidently tweaked origins and backstories enough to give everyone pause and wonder how Custer’s travels will play out in this adaptation.
What’s been shown so far of the three leads is nothing short of amazing. If anything can be taken away from Rogen and Goldberg’s direction, they did an absolute bang-up job introducing Custer’s fearsome twosome, Cassidy and Tulip. As soon as both flashed across the screen, any apprehension about their casting evaporated like sweat off a hog in a slaughterhouse.
It may be a bit counterintuitive to state this but Preacher’s first episode may have been a little too eager out of the gate, especially in its portrayal of the wily Cassidy. Joseph Gilgun created a near-perfect rendition of the affable Irish fellow, and certainly will have his hands full in shaping the complexities and fallacies of this centuries-old vampire. It’s evident Cassidy is a man (for lack of a better term) who appears to not fear death. He doesn’t pay any mind to the sun, or his liver for that matter. If you’re a bloodsucker that drinks whiskey like, well, blood and bumps coke like it’s going out of style, then you certainly have lifetimes of issues to sort out. The lives of others bear little value to the rogue but those few moments of acquaintance with Jesse gave Cassidy the glimmer of hope he’s sought over the decades. Regrettably, as the leads will eventually discover, his parasitic nature requires more than an ample supply of hemoglobin to feel satiated.
As for Tulip… It’s time people began to accept the fact that the casting of a character – be it an iconic figure or obscure fan favorite – should never be limited or restricted solely by the color of one’s skin. Change appears oddly difficult to accept among a disappointingly large contingent of fans these days. For the underrepresented, namely those who work in the industry, who’ve toiled and worked twice or thrice as hard to simply be noticed, they finally have a slightly better chance in 2016 to exhibit their talents unfettered across various media. That being written, Ruth Negga as Tulip O’Hare is a revelation.
While Tulip is a hard luck character with ambiguous morals and an supremely amazing talent for fashioning death out of coffee cans and duct tape (eat your heart out, MacGyver), the only real concern was whether Negga could draw out a convincing West Texas accent. As the Lone Star State’s own and our 43rd President so brashly stated in a flight suit half a lifetime ago: mission accomplished. Negga stole the show, easily establishing Tulip as the can’t-miss lead of the burgeoning series. For as much as O’Hare accomplished in showcasing her eclectic skill set, if showrunner Sam Catlin adapts but a fraction of her exploits from Ennis’ comic, Tulip’s story still has great potential to deliver insanely exciting television.
Ironically, the least dynamic character was the titular sermonizer himself. That isn’t to say Jesse Custer was the least developed. There’s a lot of pain and despair in our preacher, as seen in the flashes involving his ill-fated daddy. Although Preacher is on a slight deviation from its source material, it seems Custer’s traumatic childhood will play a significant part in the first season. In the meantime, he’s listless. The ministry wasn’t exactly his personal calling but Jesse’s trying his best to hammer this square peg in the round hole. How can he be inspired with the lot that surrounds him? Between a boy who asks for his father to be beaten up (who “abuses” his mother… or maybe it’s actual abuse? It remains unclear), a sheriff who cannot stand his embarrassment of a son, and a single mother who radiates desperate misplaced love, Custer is languishing in the mire of humanity’s lowest.
After a well choreographed bar fight (hooray violence!), Jesse sleeps off his hangover (and forgotten merging with the supernatural force), awakening renewed and reinvigorated. For what has been devoid practically all his life, Custer was able to feel a rush of hope for his future and those of his congregation. It’s an unfamiliar sensation and will likely be an uphill battle for him to maintain, primarily due to his association with Tulip and Cassidy. Nevertheless, Jesse must keep the faith and spread The Word. For Annville will receive many trials from a host of arcane and sinister figures.
God help them. Or not.
Preacher S1E1 = 8.5/10