AMC’s Preacher review: The series that was too dark for HBO

Ruth Negga as Tulip O’Hare - Preacher _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC
Ruth Negga as Tulip O’Hare in the Preacher season opener on AMC

A Texas preacher armed with the power of the word of God, his exceptional marksman of an ex-girlfriend and a hard-drinking Irish vampire. Just tune into AMC Sunday night at 10pm.

Preacher was probably the craziest comic book of the late 90s. Created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon, this creator-owned comic was a mash-up full of extreme violence, sexual depravity, and religious satire.

It was as perfect a comic book and certainly a story that I never expected to be brought to real life on television or the big screen.

It is one of the shining examples of how far the comics medium can go and if it had never been adapted into another medium, there would be nothing wrong with that.

Now, it had been attempted for years, practically since the day it became the talk of the comics industry. First it was pitched as a film before eventually landing with Miramar Films and filmmaker Kevin Smith.

Then it sat in development…and sat. From 2002-2006 it was clear that budgetary constraints would be the end of it until HBO came in to produce a pilot with Mark Steven Johnson who championed the book and an extremely faithful adaptation to the comic, but that died in 2008 when HBO found it too dark and controversial.

Sit on THAT thought for a moment, Too crazy for HBO?

Sam Mendes was eventually attached and by this point, Preacher had been considered the comic that couldn’t be adapted until a few years ago Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg swooped in to develop it for AMC, with The Walking Dead, a little show, having softened executives on bringing comic books to life.

The supernatural oh-s**ts of shows like Penny Dreadful, Game of Thrones and the upcoming Outcast is creating a fertile ground for Preacher and the only reason not to do a TV show is because the creators don’t sign off or the network doesn’t have enough balls.

Many chuckled at the initial thought that Rogen and Goldberg would succeed where so many have failed before, myself included.

Believe me, I’ll be one of the harshest critics if it’s royally screwed up but I know it has to be a little different.

What The Walking Dead has shown is that adaptations slavishly faithful without understanding the strengths of ongoing comics are different than the strengths of the moving picture and long form television.

After the pilot airs, I assure you that no one will be laughing — at Rogen and Goldberg that is — because after nearly 20 years since the comic first Preacher comic released, the TV show is a reality and we will be laughing WITH them.

If you’re familiar with the comic, there are surprises that await from day one. And those new to Preacher in any form, just sit back and watch it.

The opening episode expands on the story of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) before he’s introduced in the comic, when we find a down-and-out preacher who finds his glass bone dry of faith, despite his efforts to lift the small sweat stain of a town, Annville, Texas up with sermons and sometimes by his fists.

How can a man of the cloth lose his faith?

Meanwhile, there’s something wicked coming his way, a powerful supernatural force that was created when an angel and a demon consummated.

Now this Genesis creature has escaped and found its way to Earth where it is possessing holy men, only to be so powerful that it destroys them.

It’s coming for Jesse, but not before he reunites with his ex-girlfriend, Tulip (Ruth Negga) who comes back in town and pulls Jesse out of Annville.

At the local drinking hole, Jesse meets an Irishman, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), who has yet to reveal to him that he’s a vampire.

How does an Irishman end up in Annville? Would you believe that he just fell from the sky? No? Like I said, just watch.

Once you get past the visual difference of Dillon’s artwork and how different Cooper and Negga physically look (Gilgun is a dead ringer for Cassidy), you’ll see how they capture the spirit of the three focal characters, which is more important in the long run.

The violence, the wild and absurd world that came out of Ennis and Dillon’s grey matter is all there and there’s been little compromised.

Supporting characters like Arseface (Ian Colletti), Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) are already there, which means the Saint of Killers, the Sex Detectives (!) and God himself cannot be far behind.

Confused a little? Trust me, just watch.

Some other encouraging things is that there are a lot of conversations in store between the three main characters, between Jesse and Tulip, and Jesse and Cassidy and with one episode in, those scenes are some of the strongest in the pilot.

That bodes extremely well moving forward. Preacher is black hole dark, but it’s funny, too. It’s bats**t crazy and outrageously silly but can be heavy with a simple turn of the wheel.

It will rub tame viewers raw from one or more of the following subjects: religion, sex, violence, family, the South — and that’s just at first pass.

The series may only have one 10-episode season in the can, but the foundation has been laid down for many more.

The entire scope of the 75-issue comic saga is in that pilot, or at least shows the potential of it — and that should excite prospective viewers, in that there appears to be no road blocks ahead, no story that will be avoided.

So get in while the buzz is low, it won’t be for long. If you don’t believe me, again, just watch it… and have faith.


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