Season One, Episode Ten — “Call and Response”
By Jarrod Jones. Crazy as it may seem, the first season of Preacher is at an end. What was once a wild fantasy of fanboys and girls the world over is now a substantial reality. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s hilariously macabre and utterly bittersweet tale of revenge and madness roaring down the backroads of the United States of America is now a television program. Will wonders never cease.
And yet, after taking several detours through the little town of Annville, Texas, that fantasy has transmogrified into something that more closely resembles that of a sloppy, unfocused wet dream straight from the id of some middle-aged dude. And that’s kind of what it was — Preacher spewed forth from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who are about to give us the exceptionally juvenile Sausage Party, a movie frequently advertised during Preacher‘s airtime) and Sam Catlin (who co-produced and co-wrote certain episodes of Breaking Bad), three dudes who obviously have a certain amount of reverence for particular parts of the source material — mostly the gross and violent bits. Which is fine, I suppose. But as far as capturing the spirit of the hallowed Vertigo series, to make an often funny, sometimes sad meditation on Southern Gothic horror, Preacher instead farted into a mason jar, took a picture, and slapped a sepia filter on it.
“Call and Response”, as an episode, had a certain amount of inevitability attached to it. That’s primarily because the cast and crew have often said that this first season has been merely setup for what should be a more recognizable series down the line. With its revisionist origin story, featuring all-new characters who ultimately contributed nothing to the series as a whole (especially after that ending) — Preacher wound up looking and feeling like a rather expensive proof of concept for Goldberg, Rogen and Catlin; a pilot season that looked and sounded gorgeous (its soundtrack is magnificent), but rattled around as if something small was clanging around its gargantuan, hollow insides.
So weep no tears for Emily, or Sheriff Root, or even that Mayor McCheese — Preacher will likely pay none of them any further mind. We just watched a ten episode trailer for what should be a vastly improved second season (AMC will feel more confident in throwing Preacher extra cash next season), provided the showrunners learn what it means to not be so goddamned cynical and pull from what is inarguably a nigh-perfect comic book series. It doesn’t do to try to improve upon perfection.
WHAT WORKED: I’ve said in the past that the first season of Preacher would be most fondly recalled for its visual language — the hotel room bloodbath, the hanging tree outside of Ratwater, the opening B-movie intro during the pilot, etc. — and if I found any promise in this show at all, it was with these sequences. Whether an episode was directed by Michael Slovis, Guillermo Navarro, or Rogen and Goldberg themselves, Preacher had a consistent visual flair to it that makes my head spin when I set the actual story of the comics through its prism. There is a perfect alchemy that can be achieved here, but these guys just can’t cinch the formula.
Same with the soundtrack. Woody Guthrie, Willie Nelson, ? and the Mysterians, Lucinda Williams — Preacher has one of the best soundtracks of any television show since The Sopranos. Now somebody put a playlist togethe–oops, somebody already did. Perfect.
Even though the show made him far more pathetic and wretched than was necessary (and then sent him to Hell for some damned reason), Ian Coletti’s Arseface was the true revelation of the series. His big-ol’ doe eyes set above a twisted, broken face made Eugene Root a visually and emotionally charged character that provided the show with some of its better moments. And while it looks like Eugene is taking the thematic role that was once inhabited by John Wayne himself (more on that in GONE TO TEXAS), there is still the sweet, sweet promise of more Arseface to come. And that’s not for nothin’.
WHAT DIDN’T: We need to talk about Tulip. Ruth Negga is a fine actor. She’s captivating, she’s energetic, she has a tremendous, intimidating physical presence — all qualities befitting of the comic book character. But for reasons I’m still grappling with, Tulip’s TV persona became the show’s biggest problem (beyond simply being weird for the sake of being weird). She was a perpetually angry, constantly hostile, utterly unappealing character for reasons that only became clear once the show decided to finally reveal them with this season finale. (That leaves nine episodes of sheer antagonism and shitty feelings rippling behind in its wake.) Her relationship with Jesse subverted the manipulative, on-again-off-again dichotomy from the comics (not a bad thing, not necessarily), but somehow Tulip devolved into a spiteful, lying, double-crossing asshole, one who constantly screamed in the face of practically everyone in Annville. (Oh, lord, did she scream a lot.) Someone get Garth Ennis on the phone. Preacher royally fucked up Tulip O’Hare.
I don’t know why it took this show an entire season to explain why Carlos was so deserving of death, and I really don’t care. Tulip kicks all this dust for ten episodes for what amounts to absolutely nothing (“It’s the thought that counts,” she says to Jesse, finally), which is consistent of her character. (Why did she fuck Cassidy? Anyone?) Tulip’s miscarriage (an innovation from a show that really thought this was a great idea) may explain her erratic behavior, but after ten episodes, I was barely hanging on enough to care. Same can be said about what little development we got from the majority of Preacher‘s peanut gallery: Donny, Betsy, Miles, Emily — what little we learned from these characters, other than they are all damned in their own peculiar ways, amounts to little as of this week. I suppose they’ll serve a grander purpose to the show dead than alive. (Something has to stir The Grail to action. And if you don’t know what The Grail is and you loved this season of Preacher, you’re doing it backwards.)
“Oh, Sheriff. I’m not an asshole. I’m the asshole.” – Cassidy.
BEST MOMENT: This week? When the Trinity hops into Tulip’s cherry hot rod and fucks off down the highway. Preacher never felt more like Preacher than it did in its last moments.
SEASON’S MVP: I’m giving it to Joe Gilgun’s Cassidy. Of all the characters in the show, Cass is the most consistently written (even though we did have to sit through three episodes of fallout after he schtupped Tulip in the backseat of her car for no fucking reason whatsoever). Gilgun’s rubber-faced mugging is going to take this show far, farther than it likely deserves to, if the show doesn’t straighten up and fly true.
GONE TO TEXAS:
– All Saints Says: “Today: Meet God. Tomorrow: TBD.”
– Y’know, it’s funny. Jesse’s godawful fright wig he wears in flashbacks is almost a damn facsimile of his hairstyle in the comic books. That’s one more thing about Preacher that isn’t translating well to TV. Still pretty funny, though.
– Prairie Dog Mascot Sighting: Three this week — first it’s seen hiding behind venetian blinds, then it’s seen at church, and then… well. And then.
– So I’ve mentioned before that Jesse Custer’s wobbly sanity allowed his deification of John Wayne to take root in his psyche (The Duke acts like Jesse’s guardian angel in the comics), but it looks like his guilt over sending Eugene to Hell has put Arseface in that position instead. Will we ever see Wayne in AMC’s Preacher? I highly doubt it. (The amount the network would have to pay the actor’s estate — I don’t even want to think about it.)
– Deblanc isn’t the one to die by the Saint’s hand in the comics. But he does send poor Pilo (a fellow angel) on the doomed mission to awaken O Saint, which ends almost identically to what we see this week.
– The ‘let’s go get that sumbitch God’ chit-chat in a diner — that’s taken directly (not verbatim, mind) from Preacher #1.
5 out of 10
Season One Score: 4.5 out of 10
Before: “El Valero”, here.