No need to pray. The review is finally done.
Jesse Custer is trying to hide from his past by becoming a preacher in a small town in Texas. Sadly, his past, as well as destiny, catch up with him and his bland life turns into a religious experience — a dangerous religious experience. Obtaining an unholy, ancient religious being within himself, he has the power to control people, but the power doesn’t come without a price. Hunted by angels, harassed by entrepreneurs, Jesse and his crew have to sort things out before it’s too late.
Preacher Season One, which came out on Blu-ray last month (yeah, we’re late with the review), is a slow moving beast that picks up quite a bit of speed by the end. When I say ‘slow moving beast’, I mean it is confusing slow coming together, but the payoff is amazing. Pulling heavily from the comic, and comic book creator Garth Ennis, the series does a great job of scattering out several storylines over the course of 7-9 episodes and uses the last few episodes to piece them into one competent season, if you can hang on that long, which is the trick.
The series starts with little to no backstory for Jesse (Dominic Cooper). All we know in the first episode is that he is doing his best to change his life and follow in the footsteps of a father he blames himself for losing. Outside of that, we know that Jesse has a failing church with a big bag of mixed nuts for followers. The first three episodes of the series spend some time giving us a taste of all the major and minor players in the town (and outside of the town). These include Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), who is a vampire looking for some steady work and companions, Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga), who is a friend and love interest of Jesse that has returned to close a chapter of her life, and in between Tulip and Jesse is Emily (Lucy Griffiths), who has devoted a good majority of her life to helping Jesse out at the church and his plight for redemption. Two minor characters in the gaggle of good people include a suicide survivor Eugene (Ian Colletti) and his sheriff father Hugo (W. Earl Brown), who resents his son terribly. These are the good elements of Jesse’s life that help give his character some depth and a good amount of backstory (and somewhat motivation).
Friends aside, the antagonist show up in the first few episodes as well, which include Donnie (Derek Wilson) a rough and tough follower that is known for his domestic violence — well, S&M violence with his wife, his boss Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley), who is a business tycoon that is hellbent on taking Jesse’s church away and also proving that God doesn’t exist due to a tragedy in his life. Caught in the middle of Jesse and the bad guys are two angels, DeBlanc (Anatoi Yusef) and Fiore (Tom Brooke), who are just looking to re-acquire Jesse’s power before Heaven finds out that it is loose on earth. They do a great job of silently adding the religious elements into the show to bring the show off of a two-dimensional storytelling plain and more into the Constantine-esque world of the great beyond. In short, the angels bring the main crux of the story to the show.
Anyway, the majority of the first few episodes spread all of these characters and their backstories out without showing much connection between them. I think that might be the biggest shakiness of the show’s start. My wife, bless her soul, sat down and watched the first few episodes with me and was getting frustrated because nothing was coming together, as all the stories felt disjointed from one another through 3-4 episodes. She gave up on Preacher, which was a shame, but I could see her point and problem with it.
When you’re trying to translate a comic to any screen, be it television or film, there is always a risk that you’re going to leave something important out. Rogen, Ennis and Goldberg seemed like they wanted to keep everything from the Vertigo comic book in, which meant the majority of the first few episodes seemed dedicated to starting up different characters and storylines, and there were a lot. For example, Jesse’s background had to be explained over a period of time in the first season, as well as Tulip’s. We don’t actually get to see their relationship backstory until way later in the season, but the hints were sprinkled in there from the beginning until mid-season.
Outside of our two main characters, Cassidy’s storyline was pretty obvious, but it still didn’t get fully laid out there by the end of the season, though I’m sure that is coming in the second season (haven’t watched yet). On the antagonist side of the tracks, you don’t get to see what is driving Odin’s terribleness until the final three episodes of season one, which needed that long to come to fruition. Odin is everything you assume he is, but your hatred for that character gets drawn back a bit when you get to see what motivates his hatred. Donnie’s story, which is always stuck in an ‘anti-hero’ status is never quite fully laid out there. Maybe it’s not safe enough to show on cable television. It couldn’t be more brutal than Hannibal, so why are they holding back? Anyway, moving on. The angels…yeah, they’re actually explained, but only by mid-season.
My point of all this is that there are quite a few moving parts that slowly come together. Snail’s pace slow. If you stick with the season and take it all in, and it’s easy to do because like the characters, even in their wickedness, the payoff is huge by the end of the show. You’ll want more and want to get to the second season quickly. The story ends on a great note, as well as gives you a hopeful outlook at the series’ expansion into a bigger world. I won’t give away how it all ends, or even the finer details of resolution, but just know that the good group breaks away from the small confines of the Texas town and sets off on an adventure to gain some resolution from the final episode. Be glad that AMC has bought 13 episodes for season two because I would imagine they will need them all.
Overall, Preacher Season One is a slow moving season that pulls itself together right at the end, and in a methodical, sensible fashion (all those moving parts really work together). It’s worth the confusion and frustration, so stick with it.
On the special features side of things, here’s what you get with the first Blu-ray release of the show:
– Deleted & Extended Scenes
– The Unfilmable Pilot
– The Stunts of Preacher
– Behind the Killing Machine: Saint of Killers
– Chainsaw Fight Breakdown
– Gag Reel
Good stuff for a television release. Would love to have had commentary, though.