There are two ways which I could approach the review of this first episode of Preacher. The first is to directly compare the episode to the comic and the second is to assess the episode from the outside looking in. This is where it is possible for conflict to occur. As a fan of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s comic series which has been running since 1995, I’d was surprised the find that the first episode was somewhat divorced from the first book. However, this is no bad thing. You don’t have to have any prior knowledge, nor will it help. But I can image sales of Preacher spiking after this.
The first episode is a fine achievement of how adaptations can work when the viewer is not familiar with the source material. The episode is a prequel, in many respects, as each character is established. It serves to lay the foundation of a much larger story.
Executive produced by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, who have found fame writing and directing films including (Bad) Neighbours, This is the End and The Interview (to name a few) for them to produce something like Preacher proves that they are able to make something exceptional, because I hated most of their other works (sorry lads).
In this opening episode, there are sequences of ultra-violence and dark comedy and it blends perfectly, morphing genres with a mastery that you’d only really expect to get from a comic. At times it felt like I was watching one of Robert Rodriguez early works and I was hasten to add that in my opinion his cinematographic influence can be seen throughout this.
It’s often disappointing to find that the writers on adaptations attempt to tell the story in a specific style, or perspective; and often part of the story or the characterisation is lost. I’m happy to report that Preacher feels like a fully realised adaptation with few corners being cut – But I say with a caveat, because this is a first episode…
Dominic Cooper has finally found his voice – and his accent, which is excellent. He takes the lead as Jesse Custer; the takes-no-shit preacher in a small Texas town. The town people’s attitude towards Custer is apathetic at best and even his own enthusiasm is waning. Custer’s life though is about to go batshit crazy when he is joined by Tulip (Ruth Negga) his former girlfriend who’s a couple of cans short of a six pack. Then there is Cassidy. When I was watching the episode I text a mate simply saying “Cassidy. HE IS EVERYTHING”. For me it would be quite easy for Joe Gilgun to utterly steal the show – but he doesn’t overshadow the other performances. There is a synergy between the casting that has given each character carte blanche to really take the dangerous and unpredictable nature of their Ennis’ creation to new heights and those levels that fans of the comic may be afraid the producers would dilute.
The producers have, however, taken some creative licence. As this episode feels like it’s leading into the comic series, it’s hard for me to criticize this. The television is an adaptation after all; fans may have approached this is trepidation because the source material is just so out there it begs the question “would it be any good?” What the producers have managed to do with this first episode is to ground the supernatural and zany elements in reality without it feeling artificial. The world that we’re presented with is littered with contradictions and the plot has many threads, but rather leaving the audience dumbfounded, it left me wanting more.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me I’m going to get into bed with a nice cuppa tea and get back into the comic.
Preacher is showing Sunday evenings on AMC Stateside, and is available on Amazon Prime in the UK, Germany and Japan now. Episode 2 will be available from June 6th with subsequent episodes released every week the day after the US broadcast.
A review copy of the episode was supplied by Sony Pictures International for an honest spoiler free review