There was a time not too long ago when the summer brought along re-run season. But now thanks to streaming services, on-demand and a shifting landscape — where we’re now in a perpetual 365 day a year binge — the months between June and August are still ripe with content.
AMC’s wickedly stylish — and at times utterly bizarre show — Preacher has returned and promises a sophomore season even more ludicrous than the first.
Equal parts dusty Western, thriller, comedy and critique of organized religion, it is definitely one of the most unique and strangest TV shows around right now.
But much like with fashion, being weird for the sake of weird isn’t always a winning combination. However, Preacher strikes the perfect balance; giving you characters that you care about, situations that demand logic, and an amount of celestial happenings that transport you to a different world without making it feel ungrounded.
Whether you’re one of those people that has already drank the Kool-Aid, or someone who may have completely missed out on season 1, here’s everything Preacher has going for it.
Small town preacher, Jesse Custer, is a man questioning his fate when he is inhabited by a spirit called Genesis who gives him what he thinks is the “power of God.” Viewing it as a sign from the Almighty, Custer is resolute in healing all those suffering around him.
While on paper it sounds like a man looking to come to grips with his faith, Custer’s checkered past and the cast of colorful characters around him cause him to abuse his power — thus making him force feed his spirituality as punishment rather than salvation.
Often times, anything dealing with religion is a major “no go” for those who don’t consider themselves spiritual. But much in the same way that HBO’s The Young Pope formed a cohesive narrative about the Catholic church without giving you something you’ve already come to expect, Preacher is its distant and Southern cousin who prefers bourbon, tobacco and cowboy boots over papal wine.
It’s also quite effective to position supernatural elements alongside the religious undertones which creates an interesting contrast between what stories we deem to be unbelievable, and the Biblical feats and mysticism that many of the devout hold to be truths.
If there’s a single theme to derive from the first season, it’s that you have to acknowledge God just as much when times are bad, as when things are good.
As Tulip puts it in the comic book in which the series is based, “The way I hear it, there’s two good places you can look for God: in church, or at the bottom of a bottle.”
From the very outset of the show, you have the understanding that this isn’t your typical genre fare when dealing with spirits, the undead and other things that go bump in the night.
This is reinforced by key early moments like an African holy many literally exploding during a sermon, Tom Cruise finding an untimely end, an Irish vampire running amuck on an airplane, and one of the most badass heroines on TV (Tulip), killing a man with a piece of corn before fashioning a bazooka out of household items and subsequently shooting down a helicopter.
Even the creators themselves, Sam Catlin, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen thought they would have much more pushback from network executives about the tone — especially as it related to killing off Tom Cruise as one big fuck you to both him and Scientology.
“We wanted to have this entity try out a lot of different hosts,” Sam Catlin told The Hollywood Reporter when discussing how Genesis ended up finding Jesse Custer. “We went with a devout preacher in Africa, then we went to a Satanist and then we were like … well, what else do we do? And I said, ‘What if it’s Tom Cruise?’ We immediately realized that we had to do that. We kept waiting for someone to tell us we can’t do that. I think they were getting ready to, but once they realized how funny it was, I think they started to wait for somebody else to tell us no, and by then, it was too late.”
Goldberg and Rogen, the guys behind films like Superbad, This is the End and Sausage Party, have a sense of humor that transitions well to audiences whose attention span has eroded due to the Internet and social media.
Whereas other television creators might find something shocking or funny — and are rooted in old world thinking as it relates to content — Goldberg and Rogen know that each element needs to be ratcheted up that much more to make it to the watercolor the next day.
The Side Characters
Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy certainly provide ample entertainment and intrigue to fill up the hour running time. Yet, it may be the characters on the periphery who ultimately provide an authentic vision for what spirituality means to those that have it, lost it, and never even considered it.
First, there’s DeBlanc and Fiore – cowboy hat gumshoes/detectives who are slowly revealed to be custodians for the aforementioned spirit, Genesis, who has entered Jesse’s body. Literally on a mission from Heaven, they completely smash the angel archetype through a series of bloody escapades and are ultimately forced to travel to Hell to make a deal with the devil.
Then there’s Eugene Root, who carries the unfortunate nickname “Arseface,” after an attempted suicide with a shotgun has rendered his mouth area to resemble a butthole. Racked by guilt for not only what his suicide try has done to his father, he’s also struggling with the aftermath of another violent act which led him to consider self-harm in the first place.
Finally, the first season’s main antagonist is Odin Quincannon, a cattle rancher so enamored with killing that he has a live audio feed in his office of his cows being slaughtered. As a devout atheist who worships at the alter of meat, he’s in direct conflict with Jesse and his own spiritual quest to infuse God into the lives of Annville’s residents.
One of the biggest reveals of the first season is the tangible appearance of God — much to the delight not only of the residents of Annville, but Jesse himself, who feels like his spiritual journey is now complete.
This moment is fleeting and carries a realization not dissimilar to Dorothy’s discovery about The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Not only is this celestial being not God, but God is actually missing from Heaven.
It’s particularly rewarding because it checks two boxes: God does exist, but he’s also missing and quite unpredictable which gives him qualities and traits not often associated with the Alpha and Omega.
From the opening moments of the premiere episode of season 2, the insanity not only continues, but it has been ratcheted up to a ten.
Whether that’s the aforementioned trio discussing how baby foreskins are used as lotion, cops administering mace to their own balls, Tupid siphoning gas using exposed intestine or Cassidy eating a cat, Preacher continues to be the most entertaining and unpredictable show on TV.
- Featured/Main Image: AMC