A good show in the making but sadly left me disappointed.
“They should be terrified. The world’s ending. Otherwise, who gives a shit.” – Jesse
Preacher is a show that has all the right ingredients.
There’s a lot to admire – the dark and brilliantly timed humour, the stylized production values, the inspired casting of Dominic Cooper (Jesse), Ruth Negga (Tulip) and Joseph Gilgun (Cassidy) and the twisted ideology on religion and what people believe in.
Yet despite the positives, Preacher is a mix bag of a show.
Preacher as a concept is not difficult to understand. Using story constructs like Pulp Fiction, the story moves backwards and forwards from the past and present to give the plot and certain characters context. But the problem is, Preacher doesn’t exactly push the boundaries.
You might think I’m being harsh or overly critical. It’s certainly not eye-catching like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad but that’s not the point. I love shows that keep you guessing. I love when shows can take their time to evolve a story. The best example of that is Mad Men. But where Mad Men succeeds and Preacher fails is due to its focus. Mad Men was always told from the point of view of the core characters, in particular Don Draper. Every episode was a day in their lives with continuity taking a back seat. The 60s lifestyle was subconsciously contrasted to our modern-day values. Whether its marriage, the role of women or job prospects, the show’s ability to tackle issues as a topical debate is why the show resonates with so many people. The stories were on point (fictionally and historically) and always gave you a sense of justification and reward.
After the brilliant Pilot episode, Preacher meanders and stumbles across the finishing line.
It’s very clear that Preacher S1 is more of a prequel. It abandons the road trip journey that the comics were famous for, for a self-contained, everything happens in one location drama.
The question that needs to be asked is, did it have to go down that route?
I ask this because for something as straightforward as Jesse and Tulip’s past or Cassidy’s origin, or this spiritual entity called Genesis that has inhabited Jesse with powers – did it needed to be stretched out in ten episodes? The simple answer is no.
Whilst the roundabout storyline as a construct is OK, a lot of the plot scenarios could have been dealt with in half that time. Maybe concluded in two or three episodes so you don’t get the nagging feeling of a very thin storyline being stretch well beyond its purpose. Whilst the series eventually got better towards the end, the reward ultimately did not feel satisfying. The series is clearly capable of more yet frustration will kick in due to its pacing. There are a few stand out moments but largely, certain episodes will feel uneventful, lacking a moment or a cliffhanger to keep you truly hooked.
You get the impression that Preacher works best when its fast paced. That’s what the Pilot felt like. It was cavalier in its approach, introducing our main characters at breakneck speeds but left enough intrigue and curiosity to be interested in their journey. Jesse wants to make amends on his past, Tulip wants revenge and Cassidy thinks The Big Lebowski is overrated! But after the Pilot, it slows it down dramatically. It makes an effort of introducing the townspeople of Annville, Texas, taking the focus away from the main trio. Some are worth the take away, such as Jackie Earle Haley as Odin Quincannon, who serves in the opposite of everyone’s interests and Ian Colletti as Arseface (who has an interesting back story…and face). The others – not so much. Because of the divided time, you might find yourself questioning characters and their questionable motivations, especially when it’s out of the blue. It’s obvious the show wants to imply that everybody is not perfect. They have something to hide, a desire they want to keep secret or are easily naive and susceptible to bad decisions. But you can easily miss things, especially if the moment doesn’t immediately strike a chord.
In other words, you really want to spend more time with Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy and it doesn’t do enough of that.
Preacher largely caters to the fans of the source material. The show occasionally makes referential hints which comic fans will understand. However if you’re like me and have never read the source material, you’ll feel a little isolated, unable to join the secret club. Did I feel lost at times, wondering where plots were going or what moments mean? Did I feel bored, trying to keep my interest levels up? Absolutely. It’s fine to tease the audience of what’s to come but the lack of directness to achieve that pay-off is why Preacher suffers. It’s a slow burn that takes a long time to really get going. When it does, the series ends.
“Now, there’s three possible explanations here. Number one: John Travolta. You know the movie where he gets his power from a brain tumour. Number two: Jason Bourne. Gets his power from a secret government agency. Or, aye, it’s least likely, but it’s my favourite: you’re a Jedi.” – Cassidy
When we do get to spend some time with Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy, they are the best things about the show. Whilst their characterisations are different from the comics (from what I’ve been told), the on-screen chemistry between the trio does hold up.
It’s a complex relationship that is filled with history and revelations which tests their friendship. The characters all have a dark side and over the course of the ten episodes, it is their inner conflict on whether to embrace it. In the particular case of Jesse Custer and his possession by Genesis, it is the self discovery of what he is capable of. Wake a teenage girl from a coma – he can do it. Asks people to come to church on Sunday – he can do it. Ask people to serve God – he can do it. His power and control is limitless. He believes it’s a gift from God, a sign to do his work and atone for his past but the power he possesses comes at a price and can spectacularly backfire on him.
Is Genesis really a gift from God? At least the show leaves a genuine mystery for the audience to speculate as it throws hints on its origin. The Genesis power does have interested parties especially from Fiore (Tom Brooke) and DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) who chase after it.
By far the best episode from the series belongs to Sundowner. This is the episode that really makes the show and a part of you wishes it got to this point sooner. The fight scene had me laughing my head off. You soon realise that’s where Preacher’s strength resides – finding humour in a dark situation. Characters like Cassidy excel in this trait which is why every time he’s on-screen, he breaks the tension with his twisty remarks.
The last episode, Call and Response was Preacher heading in the right direction. However with season 2 on its way, the show really needs to hit its stride very quickly.
Whilst it might be unfair to compare the series to the big hitters of TV at the moment, the competition is fierce. Releasing the episodes once a week does not help with the engagement and it lacks the defining punch to put it in the same league as the most talked about shows. Therefore the interest levels won’t hold up if it continues dragging with its slow pace.
Divine intervention needed? Most definitely.