Preacher: Season 1 Episode 1 Review – Pilot
Here at The Nerd Recites we have long been huge fans of Garth Ennis’ Preacher comics. It is therefore with much excitement and anxious trepidation that we viewed last night’s adaptation of a story that is dear to our hearts.
After years spent in development Hell, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg finally achieved the impossible and managed to bring the Preacher to the screen. Although Rogen and Goldberg are artists who primarily focus on comedies, we trust their judgement for this all important project, for we know that their love of the Preacher comics is true (they never cease talking about it). And Preacher, after all, does have a lot of comedy elements to it.
Last night, then, AMC took that first crucial step in bringing the tale of Jesse Custer to life. Below you will find our spoiler-heavy review.
It is always important to set the tone of a show from the outset and the opening of last night’s episode did that well. The shot opens upon a cheesy-looking set design of outer space (with huge ‘OUTER SPACE’ letters literally appearing on screen), which looks like it was pulled from science fiction cinema of old. Genesis then hurls through space towards Earth, screeching the cry of an infant (we agree with their choice not to show Genesis’ giant baby face).
Even in that small segment alone the writers indicate that the show is tongue in cheek and that it is willing to poke fun at itself. The outer space shot could have been modern CGI, but instead we got old school practical effects and we loved it. This is also very true to something that the comic does well, which is to pay homage to the classics of old. The comics are enormously tributary to John Wayne, Bill Hicks, old Westerns, and more. So to have the show out of the gate make a throwback reference to old cheesy science fiction cinema is very welcome.
The show immediately follows with another perfect choice, which is the timing of the credit title. Why is this so important? We feel that the timing of opening credit sequences (or titles) has a huge impact on shows. Two of the best examples of getting this right are American Horror Story, which uses the title sequence to punctuate a dramatic horror scene (such as Tate fake blowing his brains out) and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which uses the opening title to great comedic effect by having it punctuate a joke by reinforcing what the gang will be doing in that episode.
Here, after Genesis tries to inhabit an African Preacher and fails, the cross of the church flips upside down for a moment, then clatters awkwardly to the ground. This indicates that this is a very anti-religious story, which cares nought for religion. If you’ve read the comics, you’ll know just how much that is true; Jesse is literally on a mission to make an abdicating God answer for his crimes of creation. Then comes that crucial appearance of the show’s title – ‘PREACHER’ – timed to perfection.
Following this successful opening, the show shifts into a lower gear, as it shows the life of a somewhat forlorn and hollow Jesse Custer, who seems to be struggling with his motivations for being a Preacher. There is a segment in Jesse’s life in the comics where he becomes a Preacher, but this is only because his wicked Grandma Marie L’Angelle pushes him into it. It is her decision, not his, so we’re not quite sure why this episode ends with Jesse seeming to find peace and happiness in being a Preacher.
Early reviewers vocally informed everyone that this show is rather drastically different to the comics, so we expect lots of changes, but the writers should still tread with cautious, lest they lose what makes the comics so great. In the comics, Jesse is a very confident man. We assume that the show will quickly grow Jesse’s character into something closer to the Jesse Custer that we know and love from the comics.
The languid pace is punctuated now than then by scenes of intense action. These exist to showcase just how badass both Cassidy and Tulip O’Hare are. It feels like a sharp modernising of the two characters and we don’t mind this. In the comics they can definitely both hold their own in fights, but we don’t see them off living their own action-packed adventures, like we do here. Rather, their battles tend to all relate directly to helping Jesse. We liked watching both of them kick ass with a violent brutality here.
Joseph Gilgun we feel has been particularly well-cast and the show is getting Cassidy almost spot on so far. From everything down to his jovial attitude (we loved the “Jesus, what kind of Preacher are you?” line and Gilgun’s strange chuckle following this), to his tendency to wear large sunglasses when the Sunlight is close (“any spare curtains?”), to his ability to regenerate after being injured. We feel that Cassidy is the best cast of the core trio.
That is not to say that Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper are bad. Ruth’s Tulip is very different to the comics but so far she is powerful and full of confidence, and we love her. One thing that is really crucial that they get right is that Negga and Cooper have the world shattering chemistry that Tulip and Jesse have in the comics. We didn’t really get that from this pilot, but it’s early days yet.
Dominic is well known for having that coolness that is essential for Jesse Custer, and again – although he looks quite different to comic book Jesse, we’re fine with his casting so far. We felt like he played it a little too on the timid-side, but again – this is likely just the show working Jesse up into the confident man we know and love (the episode did feature Jesse smiling while fighting – clearly enjoying the tumble).
Which brings us to the man that Jesse learned his values from – his Father, John Custer. We adored getting to see those very brief flashbacks of John being executed, because not only did John spit out that crucial and brilliant line about too many bad men in the world, but this also very likely means we will be getting the Marie L’Angelle/Jody/T.C. arc at some point (Jesse’s “family” growing up and the source of his abusive childhood). This is something that we truly cannot wait for.
Another character that the show gets right is Arseface (Eugene Root). Post his suicide-attempt, Arseface adopted a very optimistic outlook on life and is somewhat more naive and basic than he was pre-shooting. We got that from the character here – Eugene came across as kind hearted and touching and fully in line with what we wanted from an adaptation. The only differences here are that Hugo Root acknowledges his son and doesn’t seem to be abusive (rather the opposite) and that Eugene’s mother is still around.
The episode had its share of subtle nods. One was these was a news broadcast on TV about Tom Cruise exploding while speaking to Scientologists (we like the Genesis travelled around trying different faiths, including Satanists), which is hilarious and we love that Cruise agreed to allow this. Another nod was Jesse and Betsy having their conversation in a room seemingly directly adjacent (a blood spattered man walks out of a nearby door) to the Quincannon Meat & Power processing factory.
Odin Quincannon is a crucial and disgusting villain in the comics (for more information on this character, read our supporting characters article). In the show he will be played by Jackie Earle Haley and we cannot wait to see what Haley does with the role.
The episode closes out with a smart move – something not in the comics, but which effectively showcases the true nature of Jesse’s “word of God” power. This is when one of Jesse’s congregation takes the “open your heart” command from Jesse and acts upon it literally (of course, without a choice in the matter, due to Genesis’ power).
This pilot episode both pleased us immensely and also let us down very marginally, but overall we love what we’re seeing so far. AMC are making us very happy comic book fans indeed and we cannot wait to see how (and if) the show plays out all of our favourite comic book moments.
Image credits: AMC