With HBO and Netflix dominating the conversation as of late, it’s easy to forget that there are other networks pumping out worthwhile shows on a regular basis.
FX has The Americans and Fargo, The CW has iZombie and The Flash, and this summer, AMC is hoping to draw a crowd of its own with a highly anticipated adaptation of the comic book series Preacher.
Developed for television by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and Sam Catlin, Preacher follows a man named Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) who is trying to run from his sordid past by taking over as preacher in his small Texas hometown.
It’s worth noting up front that I haven’t read the comics the show is based on. I considered picking up the entire comic book series before diving into the four episodes that AMC provided, but I realized that a significant portion of the audience for this show will be going in blind, so I decided to do the same.
That said, going in blind doesn’t seem to be the best way to experience Preacher. The show opens on a shot of space, where a comet can be seen flying through our solar system, emitting a high-pitched squeal as it rounds the planets. It eventually comes in for a crash landing on Earth, but before we see it hit, the scene transitions to a church in Africa, where a preacher is speaking to his small congregation.
Suddenly, a translucent figure blasts in through the front doors, slamming into the preacher and seemingly possessing him. He momentarily feels a great surge of power, but seconds later, his body spontaneously combusts.
That’s the introduction to this world, and things only get more bizarre from there.
In the first episode, we are introduced to the three main characters:
- Jesse Custer, a hapless preacher with a drinking problem;
- Tulip O’Hare, a career criminal and Custer’s ex-girlfriend;
- and Cassidy, an Irish vampire stuck in Annville, Texas
Tulip (Ruth Negga) shines as a spunky, impulsive renegade, determined to pull Jesse back into a life of crime despite his repeated rebukes, while Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) serves flawlessly as both comic relief and our bridge between the mundane and the supernatural. Which is vital, because the show is filled with the supernatural.
Without going into too much detail, the plot (as of the end of the fourth episode) appears to center around a power that is bestowed upon Jesse Custer: the ability to command anyone to do anything. If he tells you to run, you’ll run. If he tells you to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, you’ll do it. And if he tells you to jump in front of a moving train, you’re going to be on the news later that day.
Once Jesse begins to understand the extent of his powers, he realizes that he can use them for “good,” (or, at least, his definition of good), but four episodes in, he’s still just testing waters. The show has spent far more time focusing on the characters who make up the small town, giving a look into what life is like in Annville.
After a fast start, the show suffers from whiplash when it slams on the brakes to fully explore Annville, but I can already tell that the threads that are finally beginning to come together will hit even harder when the audience has a relationship with the town and the people of this small Texas town.
But with all its twists and turns, the show wouldn’t work without a stellar performance from Dominic Cooper. Thankfully, that’s precisely what he delivers in Custer, a character who is detached, but desperate to find a way to turn his life around. I can’t wait to see what he does with his powers for the remainder of the season.
If you’re looking for a show filled with violence, humor, superpowers and strong characters, Preacher should tide you over until the next Marvel shows hits Netflix.