Last night’s premiere of AMC’s newest outing based on the DC/Vertigo comic series of the same name was, in a word, glorious.
Spoilers for the Pilot Episode
An other worldly spirit crashes thru our solar system before making its way towards Earth where it quickly inhabits a priest in an African village while he is in the middle of his sermon. Shortly after, the priest explodes, covering his parishioners in his blood. The being goes to at least two other people (a Satanic Minister in Russia and Tom Cruise of all people) and does the same to them before making its way toward Texas.
While the being is exploding religious leaders and Scientology crazed actors, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), the preacher of Annville, Texas is struggling with his role as spiritual leader to the small town he grew up in. After a long absence raising hell, he has returned because of a promise he made to his father shortly before the man is shot in the head. After a lack luster sermon one Sunday, a young man named Chris (Thomas Barbusca) comes to Jesse for help. Chris’s father, Donny (Derek Wilson) beats on his mother, Betsy (Jamie Anne Allman), and he wants Jesse “take care” of Donny for him. Jesse turns him down, not wanting to return to the violent life he led before. When Chris asks for Jesse to pray for him, Jesse replies “If anyone were listening, I would.” When Jesse asks the town sheriff, Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown), to look into the matter, the law man states that he will if Betsy would make the complaint herself.
Above Annville on a flight, an Iris flight attendant named Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) gets a horrible surprise when he realizes the men on his flight are vampire hunters looking to take him out, him being a vampire and all. In an action sequence that surely took up a big portion of the budget, Cassidy kills all the men and jumps out of the plane with an umbrella to protect him from sunlight and some spare blood to help him recover. Unfortunately, that blood lands too far away from the eviscerated and flatted Cassidy to reach, so he drains a nearby cow to help heal himself.
In Kansas, Priscilla Jean Henrietta O’Hare (or Tulip if you are friendly, played by Ruth Negga), is trying to get herself out of a bad situation. She shot and killed one man in her car and is trying to get another man who is strangling her with a wire off of her, all while driving thru a corn field. Eventually she bests the second man trying to kill her and ends up on the lawn of a house where two kids are playing. She enlists the help of the ten year old girl and her younger brother to build a bazooka with some tin cans, moonshine, and toy soldiers to take down the other group men coming to get her. She stashes the boy and girl away in their cellar while she shoots down a helicopter and more thugs. All that for a map.
Trying to do what he can for Chris and his mother, Jesse pays a visit to Betsy and tries to get her to go to the police when she confesses all of the violent things her husband does to her. She balks at the request saying she enjoys what he does to her. While Jesse checks in on Walter, a parishioner that isn’t doing too well, he hears the sound of Tulip singing while in the shower. She is staying with her Uncle Walter until she can convince her ex-boyfriend, Jesse, to do this one last job with her. She already did the hard part of getting the map. Jesse turns her down, but tells her that he never hated her “I wouldn’t know how.” “Don’t make me teach you, then” she fires back.
Still reeling from his encounter with Tulip, Jesse pays a visit to the charming sheriff’s son, Eugene (Ian Colletti), who is generally known as Arseface after the boy shot himself in the face leaving him with a mouth that looks permanently like an anus. Eugene has stopped coming to church because he is afraid God is mad at him for his suicide attempt. Normally when he prays, he can “hear” God talk back. But lately the man upstairs has gone silent to Eugene’s prayers. “God doesn’t hold grudges,” Jesse assured both himself and the young boy. He tells the kid to come to church and not to worry about being a possible disruption as his father says he might be.
At the local bar, Cassidy and Jesse meet when Cassidy tries to figure out exactly where in the hell he is. Jesse replies that he can’t understand a word thru the drunken Irish brogue (and frankly neither can I). Cassidy stomps off to make a call to his bosses as Donny and his buddies make their way into the bar after a long day of reenacting the battle of Fredericksburg in Pecos. Donny knows that Jesse has been asking his wife about what the couple does behind closed doors and lands a few good punches to the preacher before telling him that he is going to beat on his son for being the rat. That is what sends Jesse over the line as he beats the ever living snot out of Donny and his friends with a little help from Cassidy. As the sheriff attempts to calm Jesse down, he breaks Donny’s arm to send his message home.
Sitting in jail, Jesse and Cassidy get to know one another a little better before Emily (Lucy Griffiths), a young, widowed mother of three comes to bail him out. Emily is a volunteer at the church because of her love for
Jesse God. Jesse confesses that he made a mistake coming back to Annville and taking on his father’s pulpit. Come Sunday, he is going to tell the few members of the church that he is leaving and thanks Emily for being “such an asset.”
In a last ditch effort to communicate with God, Jesse walks into the church and asks God for forgiveness one last time. God doesn’t answer, but then thing that has been causing other religious leaders to explode hears him and knocks Jesse on his butt. While out, Jesse dreams of the night he made the promise to his father to grow up and be one of the good guys. Upon waking he learns from Emily that he has been out for three days and it is Sunday, the day he planned on quitting. Also Cassidy has moved into the church’s basement. Contemplating exactly how he is going to quit, Jesse is confronted by a particularly annoying parishioner, Ted (Brian Huskey), who has been complaining to the preacher every chance he gets about the verbal abuse he receives from his mother. Jesse gives one final command to the man to “be honest and open his heart” to his mother. Ted immediately flies to Florida to confront his mother and tells her how her words hurt him, then he takes a knife and LITERALLY OPENS HIS HEART TO HER!
While Ted is following orders a little too well, Jesse decides that he cannot quit on his followers. He vows to save them much to the delight of Emily and horror of Tulip who was sitting in the pews. To make matters more interesting, two men who have been following the thing killing religious leaders has come to Annville.
Quick thoughts on the Premiere:
Cooper made his name playing the original genius, millionaire, playboy, philanthropist in Captain America and Agent Carter, but he really turned on the dark side with Jesse Custer. When discussing what exactly Chris wanted him to do with the boy’s father, the look of near pleasure when talking about violence was unnerving. Later when beating Donny and his buddies, he had a very disturbing look of joy on his face. This is a man desperately trying to not enjoy such horrible things, but can’t help it when he is forced to act. Later when talking to Eugene, the boy is so happy to hear that God does forgive him, but Jesse doesn’t feel that same happiness when he thinks about forgiveness. He can barely look Eugene in the eye when talking about God because Jesse is not sure he believes it himself. It isn’t until that thing takes over him that he starts to feel something in his faith.
I could babble all night about how amazing the cast is, Cooper is marvelous, but Negga and Gilgun really help sell such oddly amazing characters. Tulip is my new favorite person in TV closely followed by Cassidy. Love her sexy badassness and passion and his dark humor is perfect for this kind of show. How fantastic were their introductions? How hot was the banter between Tulip and Jesse?
To clarify for those who have not read the comics, the thing is a baby that was conceived when an Angel and a Demon had sexual relations. When it took over Jesse, he was given the its powers. One of the things Jesse can do is when he tells someone something, they have to do it. Unfortunately for Ted, he took the meaning too literally. The two men looking for the baby are known as DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) and Fiore (Tom Brooke) two angels looking to retrieve the thing and bring it back to God to deal with.
With Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg at the helm, I was a little worried that the two would inject too much silly humor into the series to balance out the intense and religious nature of the source material. So far my fears have been for not as the moments of comedy were few and dark. The fight over changing the racially outdated mascot for the high school into something more appropriate was about as silly as it got.
I’m glad we only see Tom Cruise exploding as a headline and not something that actually happens on screen. Interesting how they pick him as the religious leader and not the controversial real head of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige.
What did you think of the premiere of Preacher? Did you enjoy the strangeness of the show and its characters? Were you freaked out when Ted started to cut out his heart? Let me know what you think in the comments section below. Next week will be an encore presentation of the first episode followed by the first installment of Talking Preacher. An all new episode will air June 5th at 10pm EST/9pm CST.