Preacher is another graphic novel adaptation from AMC and it tells the story of Jesse Custer, a small town Texas preacher (surprise!) who is struck by a supernatural force that gives him strange powers. What those powers are, isn’t really explained in the first episode. All we see is this streak of light travelling through space and gurgling like a baby. When it reaches Earth, it strikes several different men of faith, who for whatever reason, are not worthy of the power and thus violently explode. It’s a good attention getter. After each explosion, two men are seen investigating each scene around the world.
While this force seeks out another person that may be worthy, we get a look into the daily life of Jesse Custer. He’s not a particularly good preacher, nor does he exactly command respect of his parishioners. He’s surly, he drinks and smokes, and he has a quiet disdain for the frankly backwards redneck way of life that goes on around him. Yet he remains in the town of Annville out of a sense of duty and a promise he made to his father, himself a preacher, some time ago. Other residents of the town hint at Jesse’s prodigal son-ish return and that he has, if not a dark past, a certainly more violent one. A boy, Chris, asks Jesse for help with his abusive father, Donnie. The Sheriff in town, Hugo Root, also asks Jesse to pay his son a visit. Again, out of some odd sense of duty, Jesse obliges his flock. Even something as tiresome as listening to one of his congregation (played perfectly by Jason Lee) complain about his mother, is not outside of Jesse’s list of things he’s willing to do for his people.
Meanwhile we meet Cassidy, who is a hard partying Irishman bartending on a private jet. That is, until he realizes that his new buddies aren’t what they appear to be, and neither is he. In one of the best introductions of a character I have ever seen, Cassidy reveals himself to be a vampire on board a jet with vampire hunters. It’s a messy, gory, hilarious fight that ends with Cassidy pouring some blood out of one of his fallen foes into a to-go cup and jumping out of the quickly descending jet. He takes an umbrella to slow his descent. That works, right? Upon impact, Cassidy finds himself not too far outside of Annville…
Also on her way to Annville is Tulip, a woman from Jesse’s past and a pretty tough customer herself. We meet Tulip as she fights two guys in a car that has gone off the road and into a cornfield. Again, the action is brutal and darkly hilarious. After killing both men and stopping the car in a yard with two kids playing in it, she recovers a mysterious map and enlists the help of the children to build a homemade bazooka. This is to shoot down a helicopter full of friends of the men she killed. If I thought Cassidy was a badass, Tulip’s introduction makes her just as badass, minus the whole vampire thing.
Jesse pays a visit to Chris’ mother to ask about Donnie’s abuse and doesn’t get the answer he’s looking for. He also visits Sheriff Root’s son, Eugene, who has quite a unique disfigurement. His path also crosses Tulip’s, and she offers him a part in a job...a job to end all jobs. Yet another hint at Jesse’s past. He declines but that doesn’t scare her away. The day proving too much for him, Jesse retires to the bar to drown his worries. This is where he briefly meets Cassidy, and where Chris’ abusive father Donnie sucker punches him for asking his wife questions. Now we see just how violent Jesse’s life was before he became a preacher, as he mercilessly pummels Donnie and his friends, with an assist from Cassidy. He may not be the fighter Tulip or Cassidy are, but there’s a certain sadism that he enjoys. He and Cassidy are thrown in jail and make nice before Jesse gets bailed out by his organ player, Emily.
Throughout the episode it’s clear that Jesse is grappling not only with his past, but his current tiring situation and his faith overall. The people of Annville are all too content to be assholes every day but Sunday, and everywhere he goes it seems that he’s either unwanted or his help doesn’t make a difference. He vows to quit, tells Emily as much, and retires to a pew inside the church. It is here that the supernatural force finds him and strikes him down, for three days. On the third day, he rises to find Cassidy has moved in and it’s time for him to tell his congregation that he quits. As people file in, Jason Lee’s nervous man-child again lays his problems at Jesse’s feet. Jesse repeats the advice he’s always given, but this time the words have a more profound impact, and with unintended consequences.
As we see these consequences play out, Jesse begins to tell people he’s giving up, but something inspires him to reverse his position. Indeed, he’s going to save the people of Annville, whether they like it or not.
I’m not going to do a whole lot of comparing between the comic and the show, because they are very different. The graphic novel itself is very much a product of the ‘90s and though several adaptations of it have failed, it remains a damn good read, one of those “essentials” if you like comics. The show’s success is that it’s somehow more ridiculous than the books, but has its toes in reality. It’s gory, campy in parts, and pitch perfectly dark and dryly humorous. I was so damn entertained by this first episode and I can’t wait to see the rest of this odd cast of characters make their debut, if Cassidy and Tulip are any indication of how they will make their entrance.
Written by A Play On Nerds contributor, Jerry Herrera - Lover of horror, sci fi, and fantasy in that order. Semi-permanent Disneyland resident. I'm at least one of the droids you're looking for. Twitter: @FrankenJerry - Instagram: @GeraldoPedro