For the next few months, AMC Sunday nights aren’t all about zombie apocalyptic death and destruction, but TV watchers shouldn’t be worried. Fans of blood, guts, creatures, and moral ambiguity will still get their fix–with a heaping side of irreverence and blasphemy–from Preacher, which takes the place of Fear the Walking Dead starting next Sunday, May 30 at 9pm.
Preacher starts off subtle, introducing its main characters and its homey Texan backdrop without giving a whole lot away in terms of what the hell is going on. The good preacher is Jesse Custer, played by Dominic Cooper, and actually he’s not a very good preacher at all. Jesse is rarely seen without a bottle in hand; he forgets whole sections of his poorly given sermons, and, well, he beats the living hell out of a gang of Civil War reenactors. The preacher is plagued by his past as a bad dude, but it’s actually quite refreshing how sincerely he wants to be a good man now. The struggle is real for poor Jesse and he’s got obnoxious congregation members to advise, wife-beating a-holes to deal with, and a megachurch to compete with–and that’s before anything really gets going.
Jesse is clearly haunted by his past, from his various misdeeds to his father’s dying wish that he be one of the good guys because there are too many bad guys out there already. Among those misdeeds is the beautiful and deadly Tulip.
Tulip, played by Ruth Negga, is a free wheeling, gun totin’, moonshine-bazooka-making badass chick, and I love her. She finds herself back in Annville after a truly harrowing quest to get a map to… what, we don’t actually know. But it’s important enough for Tulip to beat the hell out of a couple of grown men while driving through a cornfield, enlist the help of a couple of kids to build a makeshift bazooka out of tin cans, moonshine and metal toy soldiers, and then use that bazooka to take down a helicopter. If you don’t love this woman after this scene, I don’t know what to tell you. She does it all without breaking a sweat, and coasts her way back into Jesse Custer’s life with a smooth smile and a reminder of his old life. Tulip won’t let Jesse forget that he’s a bad man, no matter how much he tries to be good.
Another fascinating character makes his way into town around the same time, this time by way of falling out of a plane. Cassidy, played by Joseph Gilgun, so he introduces himself, is a vampire. Why is he falling out of a plane, you ask? Well, that’s because he had to kill the entire plane’s crew when they turned out to be vampire hunters. Don’t worry though, he can apparently survive falling from thousands of feet and his guts exploding out of his body. He meets Jesse during a bar room brawl during which Jesse succumbs to his bad guy desires and violently wipes the floor with a group of rowdy townsfolk. The both of them get tossed in a cell together, and doesn’t that sound like the beginning of beautiful friendship?
The town of Annville, TX is filled with quite a few colorful characters, including the gruff conservative Sheriff Hugo Root and his shut-in son, Eugene. Eugene is a sweet kid, but unfortunately he has a bit of a deformity–in the comics, his nickname is Arseface. Yeah, his mouth looks like a butthole. It is not a pleasant thing to behold. Single mom, Emily Woodrow, is the church organist and bookkeeper who seems to have a little crush on the handsome preacher. Donny Schenk is the abusive civil war reenactor that gets his ass beat by Jesse, and Betsy is his wife who tells Jesse that she enjoys getting beat. Even without the supernatural crap on its way, Jesse Custer’s got his hands full.
There is, however, more to this story than a quaint Texas town and a morally ambiguous preacher man. Somethin’s a-comin’. There’s some kind of spirit/force/being/who-actually-knows-what that is searching for a host. It comes from a totally cheesy diorama of “Outer Space” and likes to inhabit spiritual leaders–a Christian preacher in Africa, a Satanist priest in Russia, Tom Cruise (YES, TOM CRUISE)–and then make their bodies explode. The moment at which you know that literally anything can happen on this show is the moment you see the headline “Tom Cruise Explodes” on a television in the background. I’m still laughing. I may never stop.
The real story gets going, though, when Jesse decides to give up being a preacher, give up trying to be the good guy and just accept that his wayward past defines who he really is: a bad, bad man, just like Tulip said. He goes into his church and prays to a God he doesn’t even seem to believe in, giving God one last chance to answer him as he asks for forgiveness. There’s no answer. Just as Jesse’s finally decided to forget it all, the church doors burst open and the spirit/force/being floats in and possesses him. Is this his answer? Jesse doesn’t immediately explode, so it’s already going better for him that it did for Tom Cruise.
Jesse finds himself unaware of this new development, but he does feel a renewed motivation to stick around and be the preacher that his congregation deserves. He pledges to his church goers to start taking his role seriously, to take care of them, and to speak the word of God. This last promise turns out to be quite literal because apparently, his new spirit/force/being friend living inside him brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “power of suggestion.” Jesse gives one of his congregation members some offhand advice to face his overbearing mother and open his heart to her. Well, this congregation member took that very literally, turning right around, getting on a plane, walking into his mother’s nursing home, and cutting his own heart out of his chest to give to her. So, I think it’s safe to say that there’s a whole lot more to this spirit/force/being than we know now. There are also two suspicious gents that seem to show up every place the spirit strikes, and what do you know, they show up on Jesse Custer’s doorstep as well.
And with that, we’ve been introduced to the very itty bitty tip of the cray cray iceberg that Preacher promises to be. I think we have a lot more awesome in store–more of Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy beating the living hell out of people, more inexplicable supernatural forces, and more church signs being hilariously and blasphemously defaced–at least, I hope we do. Cooper, Negga, and Gilgun present us with some truly colorful characters that clearly have many layers to dive into. I can’t wait to see what’s coming.
The pilot will be aired again next Sunday, May 30, and then tune in for more Preacher starting June 3 at 9pm on AMC.