Almost 10 years ago exactly, I read the Preacher graphic novels for the first time (that story is told over here). As I was reading them, there were rumours floating around that there were talks of turning this story into a series. There were rumours of movies, too, and of spinoffs and side stories. None of these things ever came to be. Year after year, I would reread Preacher and wonder why no one had successfully been able to bring it to a live action medium. I mean, besides the fact that it delves into every taboo subject imaginable and flays it open in a way only comic books can. Except for that. But then in 2013 I heard the big announcement: It was finally officially happening. ON AMC! Yes! BY SETH ROGEN! No. Oh god no.
I like Seth Rogen. I have nothing against Seth Rogen. But not once, ever, in my decade long love affair with Ennis and Dillon’s Vertigo masterpiece did I think, hope or expect Rogen to be the one (or one of two) to make my Preacher dreams a reality. I’m sure I’m not alone here. Well, I can say after months of watching interviews, progress updates, hearing about the love and passion Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have for the graphic novels, and finally watching last night’s premiere, I’m glad it’s taken this long. I believe this is the way Jesse, Tulip, Cassidy, and all the rest of our old friends were meant to make it to the screen. This pilot, to put it gently, kicked so much ass. (Some spoilers ahead.)
From the opening scene – IN OUTER SPACE! – it looks, sounds and feels like Preacher. It’s got this campy air that reaches just outside of our reality, but not so far as to leave it entirely, or trap us here in our regular world by being too serious. By the time that African minister explodes all over his congregation, and certainly by the time we see Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), it’s set. There’s that Preacher pulpit, and there’s Jesse. He’s got the hair, that southern swagger and that loose hold on a smoke that makes Jesse Custer Jesse Custer. Cooper to me seemed to give Jesse a little more of a soft-spoken, good ol’ boy nature than I would have personally envisioned or chosen for his character, but I think it’s meant to come across as defeated and depressed. Seen through that lens, it’s effective. He’s lost and it’s obvious. Until he throws that punch in that bar and gets that look on his face – if you watched last night’s pilot, you know the exact moment I mean. Damn, that was perfect.
Seeing profanity on a church sign and that bottle of whiskey (!!!!!) felt pretty damn good too, in terms of the spirit of Preacher, not necessarily the storyline. It works. This could work. Some of Jesse’s flashbacks/dreams seemed slightly off to me, but it’s a little too soon to tell where the show creators are headed with that particular plot point. Besides, seeing Arseface (Ian Colletti) perfectly revealed complete with his own captions, seeing the name Quinncannon and getting chills, and getting a taste of the Word in the very first scene (and in the horrifying last), I have complete faith that maybe not in every way, but that overall this series will do the original story, and more importantly the characters, justice.
Then there’s the introduction of Tulip and Cassidy. Tulip is brought to us not as the tiny blonde babe she is in the books, but as an equally devastatingly sexy and badass dark-haired vision in the form of Ruth Negga beating the absolute crap out of some scumbag in a moving vehicle. I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to watch yet, but all of Tulip’s tale that follows the car in a cornfield scene is as kickass, violent and creative as we’d expect of our girl. She may not look like the same Tulip, but she acts like the same Tulip. Her spirit is very present.
Cassidy’s intro initially rubbed me a little bit the wrong way, to the point I let out an audible “Ohh Nooo” when he first appeared. It’s the eyes. It was definitely the eyes. And that weird haircut – what the hell is that? But by the time the airplane fiasco reached its brutal climax – and he put some damn sunglasses on – I was sold. He (Joseph Gilgun) is Cassidy. And that moment in the crater, with the cow? Perfect.
The Preacher pilot is not bang on true to the novels, and I think now that that was the right decision. It fills in some blanks, reworks a couple threads to connect some previously unconnected dots, and will allow the series to be appreciated for what it is instead of solely being compared to its inspiration. I found myself silently asking myself, “Would he/she say/do that in the books?” throughout the pilot and most often the answer was yes. The characters are true even though some of their dialogue is new. I think this will allow the series to be enjoyed in full by old fans who have been waiting ages for this, as well as by new fans who are wondering what the hell they’re watching but (hopefully) won’t be able to stop.
Whether or not you’ve read the Preacher graphic novels (which, if you haven’t, what the hell is wrong with you?), give this new AMC series a shot. Next episode (“See”) airs June 5, and I for one can’t wait. If you’re on the fence or haven’t had a chance to check out this sneak peek yet, click play below to watch the opening scene of last night’s pilot episode. If you don’t love it, you’re wrong.