Anyone expecting the second episode of AMC’s latest comic book adaptation to slow its roll after the frenetic pace of the pilot was in for a dizzying experience, as Preacher introduced more characters, more timelines, more gore, and more mystery.
We opened with a sequence set in the Old West of 1881, and the introduction of a cowboy character in search of medicine for his sick daughter, clearly meant to delight established fans of the comics and intrigue noobs like me. The prologue was like a mini John Ford movie in and of itself, with cinematic shots of sweeping vistas, Graham McTavish‘s grizzled features picked out by firelight, and the bodies of scalped natives swinging from a tree, as the silent rider made his way to the deliciously named town of Ratwater. Indeed, the whiskey bearing the cowboy’s silhouette and the name of that ghost town was the only apparent connection between that story and present day Annville, Texas, where preacher, Jesse Custer, was guzzling it like it was going out of fashion.
Still, he has cause enough, what with one of his parishioners having cut out his own heart in front of his elderly mother, an ex-girlfriend hell-bent on tempting him back into a life of less than righteous deeds, an Irish vampire living in his attic, and the town’s paedophile bus driver confessing his sick fantasies about a young girl passenger.
Curiously, we never got to witness Jesse’s reaction to the news of poor, perpetually sweaty Ted’s death, but instead saw him discovering his new abilities through a series of escalating moments – silencing a dog. Ordering the bus driver to forget the child he lusted after. And finally attempting to wake a girl in a coma. While Jesse may intend to use his dark gift for good, it’s already clear from the very literal result of his suggestion to Ted, that there is plenty of scope for his words to backfire with horrific consequences.
If the pilot episode was like being thrust into a room of bizarre party guests with no introductions, this week felt a little more like the small talk after an aperitif. While we still don’t know a great deal about what it is Tulip wants her ex to do, other characters were more forthcoming with the personal details. Cassidy told his new friend that he was a 119 year-old vampire from Dublin, being hunted by some kind of sect, information Jesse seemed understandably sceptical about. The burgeoning bromance between the blood-drinker and the holy man was also used to reveal a little about Eugene who came about his ‘face like an asshole’ in a failed suicide attempt by shotgun. Again, those in the know will recognise this as an elusion to the possible future identity of this guilt-ridden kid.
Less clear was who (or what) the freaky government agents Fiore and DeBlanc are, and what they want with the strange entity Jesse is unwittingly hosting inside him. In a set piece which looked like the result of Quentin Tarantino and Peter Jackson going on a three-day bender together, the men in suits tried to exorcise the paralytic preacher with the aid of a coffee tin and a lullaby before deciding a chain saw would be a more efficient method. Luckily for Jesse, Cassidy (himself responsible for the brew which had rendered the padre insensible) came to his rescue, meting a little slicing and dicing. Surprising then, to see both agents up and about at the end of the episode…
And there were other mysterious additions as Jackie Earle Haley joined the cast as a magnate of some kind, forcing an elderly couple to sell him their house before razing it to the ground. Why, was not clear, but that’s the beauty of this show. While non-readers of the graphic novels may be left scratching their heads as to how all these tantalising pieces will eventually fit together, the stunning visuals and bizarro, stand-alone story segments, the tonal shifts from laugh-out-loud to gross-out horror to downright creepy, the blistering soundtrack, and fantastic turns from the entire cast, ensure this is a fun and intriguing enough ride to want to stay on for the duration.
Final Grade: B
+ I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of Dominic Cooper, and he’s not an obvious choice for Jesse, but his boyish looks and large eyes make it even more chilling when the darker aspects of Jesse’s nature surface. Great chemistry between Cooper and Ruth Negga and Cooper and Joseph Gilgun, and fantastic performances all round from an impressive cast.
+ Some excellent one-liners tonight from Tulip after her charged baptism (“thanks for getting me all wet”) and the scene-stealing Cassidy, whose hatred of The Big Lebowski got a belly laugh from me!
+ Can we talk about how beautiful this show looks. The tree of death in the prologue was gorgeously gruesome. Breathtaking stuff.
– The refusal of the show to pander to those unfamiliar with the source material isn’t a bad thing, but I do feel like there are a lot of nods and references I am missing.
– Not a whole lot of development with the Tulip and Jesse storyline. Their interactions, while fun, were basically going over the same ground as they did in the opener, and after Tulip’s explosive introduction, it would be good to get into her history.
– Poor Jesse was a little passive (and literally unconscious) for much of this episode, with Cassidy undoubtedly getting the money shot of the episode. As our main character, I’d like to see the preacher causing more havoc next time around.
So what did you think? Is Preacher a blood-spattered thrill ride so far, or are you more confused than Jesse after drinking Cassidy’s moonshine? Sound off in the comments or hit us up on Twitter!