Spoiler Warning: A discussion through “Sokosha,” as well as a mention of what does (and doesn’t) happen in the comics through that storyline are below:
Last year on AMC, Preacher introduced us to Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare, and Cassidy, as well as the quirky and violent world of Annville. Custer, a preacher for the small town, found himself bestowed with the power of Genesis, an otherworld force that gave him the ability to make anyone follow his commands. Tulip was Jesse’s ex-girlfriend, attempting to win him back by following his every move, while simultaneously plotting revenge against the man who had caused the loss of their unborn child. Cassidy, the hard drinking, drug loving Irish vampire, simply followed both Jesse and Tulip while looking for a good time (while also harboring a crush on Tulip).
In the first season, the trio lived among the normal, albeit slightly “off,” citizens of Annville while unraveling a mystery that led them to the realization that God had abandoned heaven. They clashed with Odin Quincannon, attempted to save the souls of the church’s partitioners (albeit poorly), and struggled with Jesse’s new powers. The first season, in a nutshell, was an outing rife with potential that struck out on its own path away from the source material of the comics. But after feeling like one long, useless prelude, it ultimately failed to stick the landing. The second season also is a departure from the original comic stories, yet manages to excel past its predecessor.
When it comes to the original Preacher comics, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan. I read the original story on an annual basis, relishing in taking in the funny, often tragic story of this band of misfits. While I understood the need for change in presenting the story to a new TV audience, the first season seemed more like an unnecessary prequel than a worthwhile jaunt through the story of Jesse Custer. Changes about Jesse’s father, about Tulip’s relationship with Jesse having started when they were kids, and about the town of Annville (which now took center stage in the story) made the show feel like it was spinning its wheels. For a show in it’s first season, especially one as gloriously ghastly as Preacher, this brought my excitement level down a few pegs. When all was said and done in the first season, nearly every character and development that had been nurtured was brushed away, making it all feel inconsequential. All of those characters that you got to know outside of the main three who were citizens of Annville? All blown away in a giant explosion that swallowed the town.
Season 2, in many ways, felt like a reset and what the first season should have always been — a focus on our three protagonists as they bounce around the country on an ill-fated road trip to find God, hunted by a supernatural juggernaut in the form of an old timey cowboy. The difference, though, is that the second season makes just as many changes from the source material as the first season did, if not more. However, the theme and the spirit of the source material shines through all the brighter in the second season. While I don’t think the show will ever compete with my love of the original comics, I found myself having a great time with this new and improved season, and specifically the most recent episode, “Sokosha.”
“Sokosha” represents the inherent weirdness of Preacher while exploring new avenues. I was legitimately confused and anxious to discover what on earth the company was taking from people out of their knee caps during the beginning of this episode, which turned out to be 10-15% of folks’ souls. To see Jesse plead with a practitioner of voodoo to help him find a soul, only to have said voodooist reveal that the market has been cornered by an almost “Apple-like” franchise that takes pieces of souls to sell on the black market was a fantastic twist. It’s not something that was in the comics, yet it felt like it was. Also, the idea that the “Word” didn’t work on the Saint of Killers because he didn’t have a soul, only to be susceptible to it once he received one percent of Jesse’s, was another great twist that is again original to this series. But what matters the most is that Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy remain true to the characters they were in the comics, with Jesse being a kind yet hard man; Tulip being a badass, stubborn woman; and Cassidy seeming like your best friend while plotting like your worst enemy.
On top of this, poor Eugene’s trip into hell is another completely different take on what happened to Arseface in the comics. The poor kid still can’t catch a break like his comic book counterpart, but is now exploring a completely new story in the underworld. Making friends with Adolf Hitler — only to later kick him into submission in an attempt to fit in with his fellow prisoners in the depths of hell — is preposterous, but it’s gleefully “Preacher.” It’s that kind of black humor that made the original story so noteworthy, and Season 2 now feels more like a spiritual successor. This season even managed to fix a major concern I had with the first in Arseface’s origin, retconning it to be more ridiculous tragedy than Eugene being a straight murderer.
Preacher is weird. No one would say otherwise, but I don’t think that’s the main selling point of the property or this series. It’s in Preacher’s heart that the series truly shines and this latest episode really managed to do that, specifically with Cassidy. For the better part of this season, Cassidy has been living with an old man who didn’t speak English, cursing his way across an old Louisiana manor. Through the past episodes, I’m sure most assumed this man was an old friend of Cassidy’s that the vampire met when he was young, ravaged by time. And while he was certainly the latter, the former was heartbreaking. Cassidy is in fact staying with his own son, keeping tabs on him, and reluctantly watching him dying following the Saint of Killer’s visit. In the comics, Cassidy tells Jesse he never wanted to visit his children, of which he had many, to save them from even knowing him. The show adds a new dynamic to Cassidy simply by having the Irishman visit his son and try to make peace with him. Well, that or simply use him till the end — you can interpret for yourself the intention behind it (I tend to lean toward the good here). Regardless, it’s a fantastic way of creating something fresh that the comics hadn’t touched.
With all this being said, I am looking forward to seeing where Preacher will go with its changes. The Walking Dead, while changing many characters and their fates, still seems to stick to a certain timeline established by the comics, where certain story beats must be hit in order to keep moving forward. Preacher doesn’t have these restraints, and while that seemed like a hinderance in its first season, it’s coming across as a benefit in it’s second. Herr Starr, for example, will certainly not be the character that we knew from the books, but if the spirit of the antagonist is there, then it’s all gravy.
As I’ve said many times before, the best comic book movies and television shows are able to be true to the spirit of their source material while pushing past it in new ways. As a whole, I don’t think AMC’s Preacher has managed that yet, but Season 2 is certainly on the right path.