By James Hancock June 6th, 2016
Last week I watched an interview with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg that partially made me rethink my initial reaction to the pilot of Preacher (See Review for Preacher Pilot Here). In the interview they explained how doing a faithful adaptation of the comic as written by Garth Ennis was essentially impossible from an economic standpoint due to the deliriously ambitious storytelling of the source material. I totally agree. One of the beautiful things about comics is how a great writer and artist can allow their imagination to go wherever it likes without ever thinking about budgets, casting, the shooting schedule, how to build the sets, etc. So with that in mind, I decided I needed to try and judge the show on its own merits and not obsess over the fact that the story featured in the show bears little resemblance to one of my all-time favorite comics. Apart from the names of the three central characters and the basic overall premise, Preacher is a brand new story that at best will use the comic as inspiration for various springboards throughout the life of the show. But even with my more forgiving attitude toward the show, I’m on the fence over whether or not I should keep writing about Preacher. My suspicion is that each week I’ll end up complaining about how the comic is better, blah, blah, blah, and that I’ll end up repeating myself like a senile old man. So while this might be my last written review, I think I’ll stick with the show as a viewer in that the show does just enough things right that I believe I can have fun with it as long as I’m not obsessively taking notes about all my minor gripes and grievances.
***spoilers ahead for those who have not read the comics***
So let’s start with a few things I like about this latest episode called ‘See’. The episode opens in 1881 with a story that fans of the comic will immediately recognize as the origin of the Saint of Killers. With a sick daughter in need of medicine, the character played by Graham McTavish leaves his wife and daughter to go in search of help. As he enters the town of Rateater, we see a shot of scalped Native Americans hanging dead from a tree, giving me hope that the origin of the Saint of Killers will be just as dark and disturbing as it needs to be to justify what he becomes. This was my favorite part of the episode and I’m willing to hang in there with the show just to see how well they capture his fascinating origin story. Another positive is that all three lead actors, Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun are all starting to grow on me. I don’t necessarily like the material they are being given to perform but all three lead actors seem to be giving the parts their all and trying to imbue their roles with as much heart, humor and gravitas as possible. As fans of the comic can attest, Jesse and Cassidy spend a lot of time getting completely shitfaced together and this episode served up one of their classic drunken soul searching conversations.
On the negative side, I’m ready for the story to start. One of the reasons I stopped watching AMC’s The Walking Dead was because of the painfully decompressed style of storytelling where one issue of the comic would be stretched thinly into ten episodes on the show. The comic Preacher packs an incredible amount of manic storytelling into each and every issue and I worry that AMC is going to dilute Garth Ennis’s rich brew with a similar approach to that used on their other massively successful comic book adaptation. But my biggest complaint with the show is how the show is changing Jesse’s origin. ***If you haven’t read the comic, stop reading. Massive spoilers*** As readers know, at the beginning of the story when Jesse is possessed by Genesis, the only reason Jesse is working as a preacher is because he has been trapped by his insane, fundamentalist family and forced to work in the church in order to prevent them from murdering Tulip. Jesse was a teenage runaway and was living the life of an outlaw deeply in love with Tulip until Jesse’s grandmother’s minions Jody and T.C. caught up with him and brought him home against his will. But as depicted in the show, Jesse is truly devoted to his role as a man of God. Perhaps his actions are all an elaborate act to keep Tulip at bay and safe from his family, but with the amount of time she spends trying to lure him back into their outlaw lifestyle, it seems to me that Jesse’s family can’t be anywhere nearby or Tulip would already be dead. I really hate second guessing all the storytelling decisions made for show but the only reason I do so is because I regard the comic as one of the best things I’ve ever read. Every time the show goes in a different direction from the comic, a little geeky part of my soul cries out in dismay.
So I think that is enough complaining on my part for one week. In spite of all my griping, I love the fact that this show exists. If the show becomes a monster hit, that only opens the door for other great comics to be made into possible shows or movies. No matter what changes the show might make, or what aspects of the story they choose to emphasize, Garth Ennis’s comic is not going anywhere and will always be there waiting to be discovered by anyone with a taste for one of the most delightfully insane stories ever conceived by a human being. So I hope everyone is having a blast watching the show. If I fall in love with the next episode, I’ll be back at keyboard to sing its praises. If not, I’ll quietly stew in my own frustrations and save everybody some time by not vomiting my unsolicited negativity onto the internet.
I am one of the Co-Hosts of Wrong Reel.