Before catching Preacher at SXSW, I set aside a little time to check out the comic. Though I didn’t have time to get through much, it turned out that even a limited knowledge of the source material definitely enhanced my experience with the pilot. Individual sequences are great, but without the background knowledge, I’m not sure I would have cared much for the big picture.
The show opens up with a comet hurtling through space. Eventually it makes its way to Earth, then to Africa and then into the body of a preacher where things get, well, explosive. After that the focus shifts to Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a preacher with a small congregation in Annville, Texas. He may not give the best sermons, but there are some folks who trust and respect him, and Jesse does his best to support them. Jesse certainly isn’t the most riveting character of the bunch, but Cooper does have an inherent warmth that draws you to him, and he’s also a pro at subtly expressing emotion through body language, facial expressions and minimal dialogue. There’s no doubt that the pilot episode is just the start of a profound journey for the character, but given that AMC only shared that one episode of the show at SXSW, at this point, Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun are the scene-stealers.
Gilgun pops up first as Cassidy, a cheeky, quick-talking drifter with charisma for days. In an effort to keep his big moment a surprise, we’ll do without a description, but Gilgun absolutely lights up the scene, pairing some vicious action with some very character-appropriate comedic beats. Negga also scores one of the pilot’s most unforgettable sequences as Tulip, Jesse’s ex-girlfriend who has a hand in some illicit dealings. While on the run she has an encounter with two kids, and the interaction quickly sells her as a highly likable strong, sassy, and confident female lead.
Ian Colletti also stands out with minimal screen time as Arseface – and no, he doesn’t just make an impression because of the self-inflicted facial wound that earned him his nickname. After reading some of the comic I was especially curious to see how Arseface would translate. His face is unsettling to say the least, but surprisingly, it isn’t distracting because Colletti makes it feel natural, as though his character has been burdened with the deformity for quite some time and has grown used to it.
The show definitely boasts a number of assets, including the aforementioned characters and some wildly vibrant action, but there’s a chance the series could alienate viewers unfamiliar with the comic series. Again, AMC only shared the pilot and you most certainly can’t expect everything to connect after one episode alone, but as someone who’s only scratched the surface of the comic, the pilot episode does feel a little scattershot and disjointed. The only real structure comes from the aforementioned comet which pops up again and eventually makes its way to Jesse’s church where it jumpstarts the character’s journey.
A Preacher TV series has been a long time coming for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, but the production value of the pilot is through the roof, and it’s abundantly clear that they’ve used the time well and are hellbent on honoring the source material. Could that ultimately work against them? It’s possible, but as a Preacher newcomer, there were more than enough incredible individual sequences to make me curious to see more.
Click here to catch up on all of our SXSW 2016 coverage thus far or peruse links to our reviews below:
- Don’t Breathe
- Everybody Wants Some
- In a Valley of Violence
- Midnight Special
- Operation Avalanche
- Sausage Party
- Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey
- The Trust
- Vice Principals