Preaching to the choir: A Review of the Preacher Pilot
Friday night at Wondercon in Downtown Los Angeles I got a chance to slide in to see the Preacher pilot with two good friends. This was a giddy indulgence for me, as someone who loves the comics, characters, genre, etc. If you’re a fan, you only wanted this to be made if and only ifthey were going to do it right. So there I was. Anxiety and trepidation set in, as I sat and started to watch with my eyes metaphorically peeking through my fingers. I was ready to judge, and deal with the consequences that I could possibly be let down. Or could I? I realized that I felt the same the night before, at the opening of Dawn of Justice. Could it be great? Could it be average? Stress and delight loomed as I dug into the uncomfortable chair usually reserved for business presentations.
So as I write this from memory of a few days ago, I’m going to have to rely on my impressions. There was no pausing, I can’t look it up, and security slowly walked the aisles looking for recording devices, and used night vision in the dark room. Or so they said. In any case it was enough of a deterrent to just sit back, watch, and hopefully enjoy. Also let it be known that there are spoilers for the first episode here, and while I inject a little speculation, I try not to reveal much of what may or may not be coming if you didn’t read the series.
SPACE. The opening scene. Genesis is flying through outer space, hurtling towards earth. Africa in particular. A crash landing, and then an unseen force invades the body of the preacher of the village, and momentarily seems to give him a glimpse of the future! Before exploding his body from within all over the parishioners! The stage for the tongue in cheek is already being set.
Soon they cut to Jesse Custer, our protagonist for hopefully at least the next 5 years. In the comics Jesse seems a little more stoic to me, he’s drawn a little taller and cleaner cut, but this is also adapted from 1995 so they also cut out his trademark mullet. It’s also 2016 and good guys can have beards. His voice was southern and softer than I ever heard in my head. But I think Dominic Cooper was the right choice. Although I perceived Jesse a larger man, by the end of the episode Cooper’s ability to take on the role of the larger-than-life Custer became unquestioned. He deals with situations with a bit of deftness, and a lot of alcohol. Jesse’s inner struggle is evident from the beginning. Throughout the episode, Cooper portrays Jesse with just the right degree of flaws and morality that Ennis ascribed him during the course of the 75 issue run.
In the series, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is Jesse’s best friend. In the loosest definition. In the show he is funny, scary, and charming, all akin to the Vertigo version. This Cassidy had the Irish dialog scripted perfectly; using the ever familiar “Jaysis” to the exact level a reader would have hoped it would come. Cass is introduced on a private flight, taking shots, telling jokes, and hitting rail after rail of cocaine with a group of what look like businessmen. It’s quickly revealed that this flight is some sort of a setup to kill him, and Cass proceeds to shred right through every person on the plane. It’s a well shot fight scene that left us laughing. If Cass steals this whole show I won’t be surprised. I recommend the one-shot to everyone “Preacher Special – Cassidy: Blood & Whiskey.” It’s cheap and a great introduction to him.
Ruth Negga was very likeable as Tulip O’Hare, showing the audience right off the bat that they didn’t stray from her proclivity towards violence or uncanny knack with firearms. Two words: “corn” and “bazooka.” You will see. Her interaction with some children after a battle in a car got some of the biggest laughs of the evening.
I definitely enjoyed Lucy Griffiths as Emily Woodrow. I’ve been hoping she would be cast in a TV show that I would actually be watching since the moment she died in Eric’s arms in True Blood. It’s clear that she has “a thing” for Jesse. Maybe getting going with a love triangle? Possibly. But Jesse doesn’t seem as interested. At least not yet. And the love between Jesse and Tulip, the strongest non-religious theme of the comics, isn’t evident just yet. I can’t see them downplaying that very much, so we will have to see how that’s introduced on TV.
Arseface (Ian Colleti) was dead on… I will be honest, the way he was drawn in the comics even made it a tough read – always drooling, speaking unintelligibly. I wondered how they would, or even could, portray him. Well, they just did exactly what the comics did: subtitles! They were able to capture his happy-go-luckiness and pull off a well done contrast to the terseness of his father, Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown).
They’re not following the chronology of the comics. While the town of Annville is still the main setting, I have a feeling that Jesse will be staying around Annville longer than he did in the comics. The comic is a road show of sorts, and they might be saving some of those trips for following seasons when hopefully they will also be justifying a larger budget. Another clue is that we are shown Quincannon Meats. The reveal of Quincannon Meats, and the not so secret news of Jackie Earle Haley being cast as Odin Quincannon (who did not appear in the pilot), makes me wonder if they are doing the Salvation arc first (#41 – #50 in the comics) after this introduction to the characters instead of Gone To Texas (#1 – #7). This means that we will get a lot of backstory episodes I think, which is also a hallmark of the comics. So essentially they would be using an arc with another small town, and possibly blending it into Annville.
Jesse visits the meat factory to speak to Betsy Schenck (Jamie Anne Allman), a woman whose son has gone to Jesse in order to rat out his dad Donnie (Derek Wilson) for beating his mom. She tells Jesse that she likes the pain, and the conversation leads her husband and his buddies to confront Jesse at the bar. Well, Jesse is one bad motor scooter. He follows through with his promise of making his adversary squeal in another high impact fight scene which lands him and Cassidy in jail. A little foreshadowing for the tough mental and physical road ahead for all of the characters. Also a good introduction to Jesse and Cass as Vertigo’s barroom tag team champs!
To end the episode, IT happens. Jesse meets Genesis! And we are off! The pilot did a great job of giving a short introduction to most of the major players, and gets the story underway with the same type of splash as the comics, a bloody one! As strange as the characters were, I can’t wait to see the rest of the crew hit the screen from the Vertigo pages. I’m sure the freaks are on the way, and I can’t wait! We are less than 2 months away, or the inevitable internet leak away, from you getting to watch for yourselves. This looks like the perfect follow up to Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. As long as I’ve been waiting for Preacher, I can’t believe that I will have a few weeks of overlap between it and Game of Thrones. Sundays are going to stay hot for a while!