“Jesus, what kind of preacher are you?” Cassidy’s ever-thick Irish accent questions our Texan preacher following a scene riddled in paced uppercuts, shattered glass bottles and a bone-snapping finale.
Adapted from the Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon graphic novel of the same name, AMC’s latest foray of cable television aims to subvert and shock audience expectations, all the whilst maintaining a level of wicked comedic brilliance and supernatural mayhem that made its respective comic book the cultural success it unforgettably cultivated. Showrunner Sam Caitlin, former producer and writer for AMC’s Breaking Bad, collaborates alongside Hollywood’s comedic mega moguls Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg in developing DC’s notorious cult comic. The latter duo also directs the season’s first two episodes.
Having only primarily read the comic’s early issues, it is clear that Preacher is far from adapting the graphic novel as a panel-to-panel adaptation. Rogen and Goldberg’s notable style is immediately out for display in the pilot’s opening shot. Reading “OUTER SPACE” in old film stock style, the opening scene showcases how much religion plays into the forthcoming series, while also juxtaposing how batshit crazy this story really is. An unknown entity sprawls throughout the universe and lands explosively to Earth, slowly making its way to one Jesse Cutter (Dominic Cooper). Before it does, however, this exceptional pilot brims towards the powerfully dark and the darkly comical. Jesse Cutter is no ordinary preacher.
Brimmed with religious tattoos and notable scars, Jesse’s heavy Texan accent bellows under cheap cigarettes and an alcoholic breath. His sermons go by one ear and out another for his tiresome churchgoers as All Saints Congregational deals with a dilapidated location and continuously abused signs. The entirety of the series debut episode is spent focused on introducing the show’s primary players, to the contrary of the comics, where its narrative begins instantaneously from its opening cartoonish panel.
Life for Jesse Cutter is miserable at best. But then again, his thirst for violence and pub brawls remain his bread and butter. Running away from his inner demons and a past life, Jesse cannot help but feel under appreciated and sidelined amongst the blistering heat of Texas.
Meanwhile, on an airplane miles above land, a group of mischievous individuals divulge in heavy drugs and alcohol. Enter Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), an egomaniac with a heavy adoration for booze and narcotics, with a hidden identity that is soon revealed. The overly charismatic and unnecessarily violent character that is Cassidy is riddled with profane amounts of blood amongst his at times incomprehensible thick Irish accent.
With an equally explosive introduction, Tulip’s sheer badassery sprawls across her opening scene. Violent, absurd and out of the blue, Tulip’s aggression yet wholesome and sweet attitude -as she makes a bazooka out of household material with the assistance of two children – is exemplified via Ruth Negga’s charming and enigmatic performance.
In addition to the show’s three primary players, Rogen and Goldberg’s stellar pilot introduces Arseface, the source material’s infamous teenager, whose appropriate nickname speaks for itself. Given a suspenseful, horror-like introduction, Arseface’s reveal ends up being nothing short of sweet and sympathetic. As his father blends his dinners into digestible smoothies, Arseface cannot help but feel adoration for his religion, searching for forgiveness and rectification for his sins against God. His sincerity and unfortunate circumstances are terrifically portrayed in Ian Colletti’s performance. Soft-spoken and introverted from his appearance, Arseface is delicately handled by Rogen and Goldberg’s direction; by the pilot’s end, you’ll be gasping for more.
But of course, fans of the comic are waiting for Custer’s powers to come to life. As an entity knocks Custer out cold for the night, the show’s premise begins as a slow kick-off to enthralling events. The following morning, one of Custer’s churchgoers approaches Custer in favour of assistance against his abusive and controlling mother. As the powers and words slowly inhabit Custer unknowingly, this particular churchgoer, hypnotised by Custer’s words, travels to Florida to confront his mother, only for him to cut open his heart and kill himself in front of her. Preacher, unbeknownst to his actions, delivers a morning sermon to his people. Just as he proclaims his role as a preacher that will stay put, two unknown characters, donning white suits and cowboy hats, arrive at the preacher’s church. “It’s here,” one mutters.
Preacher should have no problem winning the hearts of its graphic novel’s most die-hard and beloved fans. Wicked in its sense of humour and grotesquely violent, even compared to television’s most gory programs, AMC’s latest comic adaptation should easily win over new fans as well. Rogen and Goldberg’s direction wondrously blends the comic’s violent elements and dark humour, all while showcasing terrific performances in the process. From the glorious attention deviated towards Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, Preacher, in all its degrees of the absurd and deranged, is a heavenly breath of fresh air.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10