AMC’s Preacher gleeful throws sanity, plausibility and probability out the window. And, quite frankly, it’s all the better for it. The long-gestured adaptation to Garth Ennis and Steve Dillion’s Vertigo comic of the same name is malicious, loose-fitting and prone to gore. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup-of-tea; that’s for sure. But for those who like their Sundays filled with excess violence, ill-tempered characters and a diversion for pulpy violence, particularly The Walking Dead crowd, it’ll almost certainly find its choir.
The pilot, directed by executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and written by showrunner (and former Breaking Bad scribe) Sam Catlin, had the unenviable challenge of introducing our wacky batch of characters and their insanely unholy world — one filled with vampires, badass bounty hunters, teenagers with faces like assholes and spontaneous combustion caused by invisible aliens — and trying to make it all seem digestible, easy-to-follow and even fairly relatable, all while jumping around the globe willy-nilly and also across various points of time. And while it’s not without a few hiccups, Rogen and Goldberg produce a cheekily disarray explosion of mayhem, absurdity and various sacrilegious activities, and they do so in a way that’s palpable, understandable and even pretty lovable for those of us who *gulp* haven’t read the comics just yet. (I have my copy coming to me tomorrow. I’m going to catch up soon!)
The results are blood-spattering goodness all around, with some excellent practical effects, a fantastic sense of pace and some well-rounded performances from our likable cast. Joseph Gilgun, Ruth Negga and Ian Colletti are the best of the bunch as Cassidy, a vampire who loves to drink a handle of whiskey as much as he likes to devour blood any chance he gets; Tulip O’Hare, a down-and-dirty bounty hunter with a love-hate relationship with our titular man of the cloth; and Arseface, an unfortunately disfigured young man who still believes in the Lord, even though a shotgun to the face is what led to his unusual facial contortion, respectively. We only get brief visits with those characters-in-question, but each make a great introduction and will certainly promise some more excellent appearances in the episodes to come. They’re so good, in fact, that they almost unintentionally make our lead, Jesse Cutter (Dominic Cooper), a man of the Lord but one with a violent past and a present love for the booze, feel kinda boring as a a trade.
I say “kinda” because he’s not bad. Not at all. He’s interesting enough in a morally-grey sorta way, and not unlike other not-quite-Do-Gooders like Don Draper and Walter White from the channel. But he also feels kinda uneventful next to our other, often-more action-prone supporting characters. And that’s understandable. He’s a more down-to-Earth character — even if he’s, you know, a man of God. And it’s likely that the complexity of his character shall become more tantalizing and investing the more we get to know him. We only see the briefest of flashbacks with him as he wrestles with black-and-white memories from the past and we’re told some stories off-hand from Tulip. And it’s evident the creators are holding their cards close to their decks here. As well as they should, of course, because we, the viewer, need a little taste of mystery to keep ourselves intrigued. But for now, it does have that common complex where the action happening around the main character is more interesting, and he often gets a little lost in the shuffle as Rogen, Goldberg and Catlin bounce all over the place.
That said, this is a damn good pilot, and a fine introduction to the type of comic which is not very easy to bring to this platform. Hence, you know, the long development process. There’s a lot of love, craftsmanship, time and effort put into this bad boy from Hell. And it shows, greatly. Hopefully they can keep a good thing going, but knowing the talent involved — not to mention all the interesting characters and action abound — that shouldn’t be too difficult. Even when Rogen and Goldberg (likely) become less-and-less involved, and hand the keys off to their fellow directors (it’s unclear if they’re coming back for more, or if that’s a wrap for them in their directors’ chairs), the talent pool involved should have no problem keeping the boat afloat. They’re putting this one in good hands, and it looks like AMC has another powerful hit on their hands. Praise be to that.
Now, let’s look at some of the top five moments from this week’s hellraising pilot.