“Boring ain’t the worst thing to be, Cass.”
After a rather good pilot episode, this week saw the first episode in the series proper of cult comic adaption Preacher. This is often where a show can hit problems, which are usually indicated by big, noticeable changes from the pilot – once again, NBC’s Constantine is a good example of this, with the putative female lead written out in the pilot’s closing minute and the lead character’s smoking habit suddenly reinstated.
Preacher, though, seems to have got the formula right first time, and this second ep follows as naturally from the pilot as if they had been produced as a series from the start. As was noticeable last week (and confirmed by showrunner Seth Rogen), it’s clear that this isn’t going to be a slavish adaptation of the comic’s many and lengthy plotlines. Rather, it’s utilising the comic’s 75 issues as a sort of grab bag of plot elements, while retaining the characters and tone – pretty much what The Walking Dead does.
That can lead to a deal of incoherence, as seen in the 2005 film adaptation of Constantine (Hollywood seems incapable of doing a Hellblazer adaptation well). The film cherrypicked various fan-favourite plot elements and set pieces from the comic, shoehorning them in before considering how they might cohere as a plot (answer: they didn’t).
On the basis of these first two eps, though, Rogen and scriptwriter Sam Catlin have put a deal of thought into the plotting, with the result that, while it isn’t the story we know, it’s similar enough – and coherent enough – to work. This week introduced at least two characters who, in the comic, aren’t seen for a while yet. The first, unsavoury meat packing magnate Odin Quincannon, was hinted at last time with the mention of his company (here reinvented as Qunicannon Meat Packing and Power, which is surely significant).
Ol’ Odin is incarnated with relish (see what I did there?) by Jackie Earle Haley, whose portrayal of Rorschach was one of the better things about the disappointing Watchmen movie. Haley looks and sounds the part as remembered from the comics, but thus far has had little to do beyond coercing an unwilling husband and wife to sell their property so he can build a meat-packing plant on it. Still, seeds have been sown plotwise, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him.
But the big introduction this week (given prominence in a pre-credits teaser) was of a mysterious cowboy with long-hair and a permanently shadowed face, shown traversing the West in 1881 in search of medicine for his sick daughter. Comics readers will know instantly who this is, though I’m not going to mention it here for fear of spoilering those new to the series. The direction (again by Rogen and Evan Goldberg) made the most of this sequence, giving this enigmatic figure a dominance and power despite the fact that we never saw his face and he spoke precisely three words.
Again, we didn’t see any more of him after that cold open, but again, he’ll obviously be back. Given more prominence this ep, though, were the odd couple of unidentified men seen last time turning up at the site of the Mysterious Force’s attempts at finding a host. Fiore and DeBlanc (for presumably it is they, and that’s not really a spoiler) are played in an oddly mannered way (there’s a reason for that) by British actors Anatol Yusef (the short one) and Tom Brooke (the tall one).
Their involvement this week greatly upped the already considerable gore quotient to rival that of Ash vs Evil Dead, in a blackly funny sequence involving the church, Cassidy, an unconscious Jesse, and a chainsaw. Given the sort of material he was presumably used to from Misfits, Joseph Gilgun was clearly having a whale of a time as Cass this week, his Irish accent a little less shaky and his vampire abilities to the fore.
He even flat out told Jesse the truth about himself, in one of the bromance-building scenes that the show’s already doing so well, as they got blitzed together in a church pew after dark. This is definitely the Cassidy we remember from the comics – fun to be with, a good mate, but completely oblivious to the often unfortunate consequences of his actions. Still, he did get to remark of the unfortunate Eugene Root, “he’s walking around with a face like an arsehole”, which will bear fruit later. And despite AMC’s quota of permissible cusswords, it seems his near-constant use of the word “shite” is just fine.
Jesse too was still consistent with his comic counterpart, Dominic Cooper following well from the character arc started in the pilot. This week saw him still rejecting Tulip’s pleas to return to a life of crime in favour of saving the souls of his congregation. Trouble is, as we saw last time, some of them probably aren’t worth saving. We saw that again this time with a creepy school bus driver/paedophile who received an unfortunate baptism at Jesse’s hands in a boiling hot bath.
This sequence also showed Jesse’s dawning realisation of his new power – the Word of God, which those who hear cannot help but obey. It’s taken a while – two full episodes – which is perhaps a measure of how the show is adapting the comics’ storylines to its own plot. I suspect this first season will probably end up set wholly in Annville and leading up to the confrontation that sends Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy on their roadtrip in search of the neglectful God.
Having pulled off what I suppose you could call the “difficult second episode” with ease, it looks like the show is consistent in terms of tone – black humour, violence and profanity. I particularly like the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it running gag of the rearranged church noticeboard (this week, “Jesus – free with store purchase”). Only two eps in, and it’s already a must-see for me. So I’ll continue to review it, but once in a while it would be nice if a show I took a look at was absolute shite – mockery being so much more fun than praise 🙂