Preacher is weird. Really weird. No, I mean it – it’s very, very high up the bonkers scale of weirdness. Even having seen all ten episodes of the first season, I’m still not sure what it was really about or trying to do or where it is attempting to go, or even whether I enjoyed the process. That said, I did end up watching all ten episodes, and in this day and age where time is short and distractions are many that has to stand very much in its favour.
Preacher is based on a cult favourite graphic novel created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon which I confess I’ve never read. It’s been adapted for the screen by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Breaking Bad alumni Sam Catlin (who does the lion’s share of running the show and writing the scripts) with apparently a lot of changes being required to make it fit into a format suitable for serialised television. Fans of the graphic novel are understandably not wild about some of these changes, but I myself came to Preacher with no preconceptions and simply judged what I saw on the screen with no knowledge of what might be different or where the original story might be heading.
The plot defies description, but here goes with the basics: deep in Texas, former bad boy and small time crook Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is belatedly trying to follow in his father’s footsteps as a small town preacher. Jesse’s ministry is bitterly opposed by Annsville’s richest man, cattle baron Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley), but on the brink of losing his faith Jesse is inhabited by a supernatural entity that gives him the power to command people to do exactly what he tells them. Two angels from Heaven, Fiore and DeBlanc (Tom Brooke and Anatol Yusef), arrive in hot pursuit to reclaim the entity and return it to its domicile – which is a battered old coffee tin, naturally. Jesse is also confronted by his former lover and partner in crime Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) who wants to lure him back to his old wild ways, and there’s also a thousand-year-old Irish vampire called Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) who makes a big impact after literally falling out of the sky before taking up residence in the church and declaring himself to be Jesse’s best friend. Stripped in to the main narrative are flashbacks to the town’s past in 1881 and the quest of a taciturn frontiersman (Graham McTavish) to get medicine for his sick daughter, although exactly what this could have to do with Jesse remains obscure until the very end of the series – unless you happen to be a knowledgable fan of the graphic novel.
Preacher is not big on story or character logic – things happen which don’t make a lot of sense and which no one feels too inclined to explain; perfectly decent people can suddenly decide to arrange a murder for no obvious reason other than to deliver a shock to the audience. But really, Preacher is so weird overall that it would almost be silly for it were to fall into conventional narrative structures, and so you simply have to go with it and accept that the thing is a strange and separate world all to itself. It’s Twin Peaks as reimagined by Quentin Tarantino by way of Supernatural, or Fargo twinned with Dogma relocated to Texas by Robert Rodriquez. If you can get on board with such a thing then there is much to admire, with some laugh out loud black comedy, some spectacularly bloody and brutal fights, some really cool intertitles, and a lot of startling imagery and beautiful photography of the unflinchingly harsh desert landscapes where sandstorms hide a dozen corpses hanging from a barren tree.
It really is quite bizarre, and as I mentioned at the start I’m not really all that sure how much I liked it, if at all. The characters are the main appeal as far as I’m concerned, and there’s a strong cast who clearly feel free to have a ball with this twisted and strange material. Some have criticised Cooper’s Texan accent but it sounds fine to my ears, but it’s true that his morose character gets somewhat sidelined by brilliant work from Negga and Gilgun. The two angels are wonderfully quirky and consistently steal the show, while Ian Colletti as the Sheriff’s facially disfigured son Eugene is a standout supporting performer.
Would I recommend it? You’ll know within 20 minutes as to whether Preacher is something that you can bear to watch or whether it will send your blood pressure soaring to lethal limits. If you can try the first episode for free (as I was able to thanks to my Amazon Prime subscription) then I’d encourage you to go for it. It’s not however something I would suggest spending a lot of money buying the DVD unless you’re already sure that it really is for you. And if it is, then you’ve probably bought it by now anyway.
Rating: ★ ★ ★
Preacher S1 is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and on Amazon Prime. A second season had been commissioned for later in 2017.