Preacher recap: season one, episode one Pilot

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A whirlwind opening episode takes us from outer space to small-town Texas via Africa as Jesse Custer finds his theological superpower and some old friends


Be quiet!

The long-awaited adaptation of Preacher doesnt kick off as you might expect with a look at its title character, the reverend Jesse Custer. Hell, he doesnt even show up for the first couple of minutes. Instead, the show opens with a record-scratch, a dustily projected image of a few planets emblazoned with the words OUTER SPACE, and a screaming cosmic being whose flight is accompanied by a horn section of air raid sirens.

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I always preach from an upside down Bible! Photograph: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Telev/AMC

Hanging a left at Saturn, our space oddity flies to a church in Africa (the globe helpfully says AFRICA), where it briefly inhabits the body of a preacher who is conveniently talking about the Book of Revelation. After knocking him over and stunning his congregation into silence, the preacher stands up and addresses the crowd with a booming, Paul Robeson-esque baritone. At the very moment the preacher takes on a mantle as a prophet he explodes. Oops. From this, we can surmise two things about Preacher: this show will be extremely goofy, and there will be a lot of collateral damage.

The time of the Preacher

Ruth
Cassidy Irish drug addict/pyrotechnics enthusiast/vampire and Tulip OHare, the shows biggest immediate draw. Photograph: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Telev/AMC

For people who arent fans of the comic the show is based on (which Ill try to reference only when necessary), Rogen and Goldberg do a fantastic job introducing Jesse as he wakes from a nightmare. His back is covered in scars and tattoos, his desolate room is littered with empty bottles of whiskey, his hair is perfectly tousled even though he barely takes care of himself. Hes an archetypal hard-drinking southerner. But hes also a terrible preacher, flatlining in front of his congregation and putting in a half-hearted effort, at best, to connect with anyone.

The introductions continue with the shows lovable, godless rogue, who turns out to be a far better preacher than Jesse. As Irish drug addict/pyrotechnics enthusiast/vampire Cassidy, Joseph Gilguns cadence is musical, seductive, and practically incomprehensible. It doesnt matter that all he has to do is talk. And talk he does, pretending to be the attendant on an extremely expensive-looking, coke-and-weed-fueled private flight, before he realizes that his fellow passengers are vampire hunters carrying marked-up Bibles that look like leftover props from The Number 23. (On top of all that, two mysterious men who have been tracking the entitys path of destruction finally arrive in Annville, their intentions unknown.)

To escape, Cassidy jumps out of the plane, eventually landing in a field we find out some logistics of his vampire life he can repair wounds but needs blood to do so, on this occasion he eats a cow. Before that, he breaks a champagne bottle open in a guys chest and uses it as a blood tap. This manic spirit imbues all of the fights, from Cassidy hitting things off a table with a golf club at his assailants to kicking a chair at someone in the middle of a bar fight. It seems like everyone is having fun with the fights, ridiculousness and all, rather than joylessly trading punches like theyre healthy lunch snacks.

But the best fighter of all might be Tulip, Jesses ex-girlfriend and the shows biggest immediate draw. Ruth Negga is a soulful whirlwind of menace, staking out Jesses house, biting a guys ear off, giving important life lessons about feminism to some random children, building a bazooka. You know, the usual.

Open your heart

Blast
Blast from the past: Ruth Negga as Tulip OHare, the ex-girlfriend of Jesse Custer, played by Dominic Cooper. Photograph: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Telev/AMC

Jesse is trying to follow in his fathers footsteps, as characters on prestige television shows must.Its true that the flashbacks to Jesses father being murdered in front of him serve a narrative function (we dont see whos pulling the trigger, but if the comics are any indication Jesses family situation is about to get a lot more complicated). But theyre also so boring and portentous that Im having trouble writing this sentence, and by far the worst part of the pilot. Self-seriousness is not a good look on this show.

The series version of Annville is, at least in part, the nuts and bolts version of what you would expect from a small town in Texas (this isnt Friday Night Lights, my dudes), but Rogen and Goldberg do a decent job fleshing it out all the same. Among the many locals the pilot gives us are the surly, morally panicked sheriff, his son, the extremely chill and fun and relentlessly positive Arseface sorry, Eugene and Donnie, the local thug who might be beating his wife, but also might be in a marriage with some weird kinks.

Donnies son, unaware of the intricacies of consent and the thin boundary between pain and pleasure, asks Jesse to beat up his dad. This kicks off what will probably be a big part of the series ongoing plot: Jesse breaks Donnies arm, giving in to his violent instincts from a past life with Tulip (who has tried to get him to go back out on jobs that almost certainly involve guns), and getting himself sent to jail with Cassidy in the process.

Then we get to the curious case of Ted Reyerson, a congregant who keeps talking about his overbearing mother as if straight from the pages of a Woody Allen script. It would be easy to assume hes just supposed to comic relief. Instead, Jesse accidentally uses the power of the space entity real name Genesis (which, by the way, has entered his person in the middle of the night during a crisis of faith-type-situation) to tell him to open his heart to his mother. Ted does so, literally cutting his body open and depositing his heart in the middle of a confession. Its grim, sick, and above all, amusing as hell. Praise the Lord.

Notes from the nave

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It doesnt matter that all he has to do is talk. Photograph: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Telev/AMC

It helps that the script was written by the series secret weapon, Sam Catlin. Catlin, for non-TV nerds, is a veteran of another AMC show that combined western instincts with dark comedy: Breaking Bad.

  • I just Abe Lincoln-ed that squirrel! Great introduction to Donnie
  • The airline Cassidy is on is called Babylonian, because of course it is.
  • Rogen and Goldberg pack frames full of visual gags that function the way isolated panels do in comics, like the wording on the church sign.

Obligatory Johnny Cash song

Scripture of the week

The African preacher quotes Revelation 19:11-13 just before things go pop:

  • 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
  • 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
  • 13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

Johnny Cash was keen on the first section (its quoted at the start of The Man Comes Around), while the rest acts as a precursor to the episodes bloody action.

Most ridiculous death

Its a tie between Cassidys makeshift blood tap and Tulips bazooka, if only because we (smartly) dont actually see Tulip use the weapon. Also, the blood tap is a genuinely original vampire kill idea, which I thought was a myth like Bigfoot or successful sitcoms starring a post-Friends Matthew Perry. Honorable mention for Tulips use of an ear of corn as a spear.

Cassidy kill count

Five humans and one cow.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/may/22/preacher-recap-season-one-episode-one-pilot