Practically everyone I know who’s watched this first season of Preacher (the show has been renewed for a thirteen episode second season) loves every minute of it, and every review I’ve read has been high in its praise. Very few of these people seem to be familiar with the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon original series, so they have the freedom to approach it without expectations and enjoy it solely in terms of what they see, without the shadow of the comic hovering behind them.
But I don’t think that’s necessarily why I have mixed feelings against the series. It hasn’t been faithful to the comic, not so much in what changes have been made to put it on screen, but rather in the sense that this entire season has been effectively a prequel. Season 1 ends in issue 1 of the comic, physically, though Jesse Custer’s determination to find God is essentially the outcome of the first Graphic Novel collection (of nine).
Preacher started very effectively, high action, pace, a roaring headlong leap into the world of Jesse Custer, with bravura performances from his future partners-in-crime, Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) and Cassidy (Joe Gilgun). Gilgun in particular made a spectacular debut. It felt hot, it felt good, and it carried on in exactly that fashion through episode 2, which was also directed by the Executive Producers, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Episode 3 was slower, less kinetic. This seemed a wise decision at the time, can’t have everything at fever pitch all the time, the audience has to breathe some time. But, for me at least, the pace never picked up again. Everything moved so slowly, especially Dominic Cooper as Jesse, who became less believable as each week went by.
Sure, there was good stuff in every week, outrageously funny or bloody or, as was more often the case, both at once. But it was surrounded by long, slow, dull stretches in which nothing really happened and it took it’s time about it.
Given that the setting was a hot, flat, empty, sun-broiled section of Texas, the pace was appropriate to what life must be like, in the Deep South, especially for people who have so little to begin with. But it didn’t enthuse me, and slowly, as the episodes accumulated, my enthusiasm drained away. That Cassidy had progressively so little to do robbed the show of the imperturbable energy that Joe Gilgun brought to the part.
Having read the comic, I wasn’t surprised that the season ended by wiping Annville off the map, and with it poor Lucy Griffiths, who was given far too little to do in the part of Emily, which basically involved standing around, looking modestly pretty, with her mouth half-open in unspoken surprise at what was going on around her.
She had her moment last week, feeding Mayor Miles to Cassidy, and she provided the best moment in the final episode when, after sitting near-mute at the organ, all through God’s appearance to his creation, once the spell was broken and things began to descend into chaos, she started to smile and began playing something that resolved itself into Question Mark and The Mysterians’ “96 Tears”…
Oh yes, God. Jesse promised to call him down and using the Angelphone, he did just that. And what a fine, cliche-Christian God he was, white robes, long flowing white hair, Santa Claus beard, thundering voice, bethroned above us all. But a fake. God’s missing, run away, panic in Heaven. Oh shit.
So that piece locked into place to set up season 2, thanks for that. And Annville gets destroyed by a shit-explosion, a methane gas build-up that leveled the town, and poor Emily, Sheriff Hugo Root (a world away from the character in the comics) and evil ol’ Odin Quincannon, called forward from the seventh Graphic Novel in order to swell out the prequel, same as Arseface.
Look, I didn’t dislike the series. It was not, in any way, the travesty that calls itself Lucifer, and I will happily watch season 2 next summer, but please, please, speed it up a bit! Or, if you’re going to do thirteen episodes, please try to have thirteen episodes of great stuff to fill them with because the ultimate disappointment of season 1 was that it ran ten episodes but probably only had enough genuinely brilliant stuff for about six, and it showed far too clearly.