There’s more than enough happening in the pilot episode of AMC’s Preacher to keep your head spinning in nine different directions. But, in the midst of all the chaos and madness unfolding – from the opening scene of a preacher in Africa exploding, to a heart-stopping fight in a car hurtling through a corn field, and all the wildness in between – a connective tissue is visible. There are seemingly two sides to Preacher, the real, violent pasts of central characters, and something much more wicked, threatening, and supernatural headed to town.
Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), our titular preacher, is not a very good man of the cloth. He leads a congregation in Annville, Texas, a dusty land forgotten by time and occupied by scoundrels and burnouts. The words he delivers on Sunday are spoken without conviction, or knowledge, and he spends the rest of his days and weeks counseling townsfolk and trying his damnedest to remember Jesus-based catchphrases. Because Jesse Custer is a man with a past not tied in with the seminary, and we catch a glimpse of that past when Jesse has to take care of a local domestic abuser.
Our introduction to Jesse and his world is merely one cog in this globetrotting episode. The opening scene shows a preacher in Africa explode all over his congregation. We meet Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), a supernatural Irishman of some sort who finds himself in Annville after an incredible showdown in an airplane. Then there’s Tulip (Ruth Negga), Jesse’s old partner whom we meet in that cornfield in Kansas “Not Too Long Ago.” Jesse is trying hard to avoid his old life and cling to the idea he’s a man of faith. But it isn’t working, though it seems these two worlds battling inside him may have to come together to save Annville. Near the end of the episode ,something happens to Jesse, and he’s a changed man. The wheels are put in motion.
It’s all still being set up, and it’s being done so beautifully.
Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin, the developers and directors of Preacher, seem like an unusual team to adapt Garth Ennis’s popular graphic novels. But the wicked humor and grotesquery at the heart of the show starts to make that collaboration make sense as we transition from bloodshed to ketchup splatters on a dinner plate, and Cassidy chomping up a cow in a pasture into a scene inside a meat processing office. The humor is wicked and the violence unabashedly gratuitous and gleeful.