SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't yet watched this week's episode of Preacher, then turn back now! This contains spoilers and key plot points.
This week, many comic-book TV shows are wrapping up for the season, including Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham. With Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl already finished, what's a comic-book-TV fan to do? Luckily, there's a new show in town, and while it is definitely not your average superhero story, it is absolutely incredible.
We're talking about Preacher - based on the cult '90s comics of the same name and starring Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun and Ruth Negga. The series premiered Sunday, giving us an episode packed with comic book call-outs, complex characters and plenty of blood, guts, and shocking moments. It's not all horror and gore, though. Preacher opened with an impressive first episode which balanced some of the more gasp-worthy scenes with brilliant portrayals of human emotion.
Something Is Coming
The opening scene isn't what you might have expected from the trailers - rather than Texas, we're in outer space, watching a screaming "comet" heading to Earth. First stop: Africa. An enthusiastic priest is mid-sermon when something (almost invisible) bursts into the church and knocks him out. It seems, for a moment, as though he has been touched by God... before he explodes. Ouch. Our "comet" bursts out of the church again, knocking the cross off as it passes. It's the last we see of the African church, other than two men in comically inappropriate safari suits driving up to stare at it.
The same two men appear in similarly ridiculous Russian outfits when a Russian priest exploded mid-sermon, just like the one in Africa. It seems that this is happening all over the world. Later, we see that even Tom Cruise, leading a Scientology service, meets the same bloody end. That one comes via a TV news channel, though - Cruise himself may have been less-than-thrilled to appear in the show!
The Time of the Preacher
In Texas, the show slows down a little. We get to meet Jesse Custer, who seems about as exhausted and unsure as a preacher can. Dragging himself out of bed, we can see empty bottles, cigarettes, scars... everything that you wouldn't expect from a man of the cloth. His actual preaching seems to be going reasonably well (if not brilliantly), but when he realizes that a page of his notes are missing, he is utterly lost. It's difficult not to feel sorry for him, and it seems like his congregation is simply waiting for him to be done so that they can go enjoy a barbecue.
He's working with Emily, the organist and church volunteer, to try and raise funds for the church. It's not going well - the combination of his lackluster preaching and a nearby megachurch complete with a Starbucks makes it difficult to get the congregation reaching for their wallets. Outside of her church duties, Emily is doing the best she can as a waitress and a widow, but it just seems like it isn't enough.
30,000 Feet Up
As far from small-town Texas as you can get, we cut to a private plane where a group of men and a man in a casino uniform are consuming pretty much every substance known to man. The man in the bow tie is Cassidy, and he makes an interesting discovery in the bathroom - a bible, covered with scrawled handwriting. "Yes" is written over and over again, and while some people might be a little frightened by this, an evil grin spreads over Cassidy's face...
What follows is one of the best fight scenes we've seen since the infamous church scene in Kingsman: The Secret Service. It seems that these guys aren't the Vegas party-boys they appear, as they wrench axes, spears and other weaponry out of hiding places and attempt to take Cassidy down. It's harder than it looks, though. Bottles, DIY flamethrowing with a can of air freshener, even a champagne bottle become deadly in his hands, and nobody stands a chance. Especially when Cass gets to his last victim, and a whole lot is revealed... Cassidy is a vampire, and these guys knew it. With the pilot also dead, Cass leaps from the plane with an umbrella...
Which doesn't end well, given that he's not Mary Poppins. Of course, it doesn't end too badly, either, as a vampire is a hard thing to kill. Despite having his guts spilling across the ground, a local cow provides the means for Cass to feed and heal. Impressive trick!
My Friends Call Me Tulip
After Jesse heads over to a man's house to check on him, he hears a woman singing in the shower. She watches as he drives away, and then the scene cuts to her last stop before Annville: Kansas. It's another violent scene (shocker!) , as she is in a car speeding through a cornfield, with one passenger dead and the other doing his level best to kill her and take a map from her. Luckily, Tulip is more than capable of taking care of herself, and between her fists, her switchblade, and her willingness to bite off a man's ear, she is able to pull the car over and take him down with an ear of corn.
Which happens in front of two kids... oops. Luckily, Tulip is so much more than the two-dimensional "strong woman" that we have seen too much of. Her maternal side comes out, and although she sees that there are more men coming in twenty minutes, she takes the kids under her wing; dispensing kind advice, making some "arts and crafts" (*cough bazooka *cough), and keeping them safe - telling them to hide until the noises stop. At which point we see that she has managed to not only kill the back up, but take down a helicopter. Not bad for a woman with only a few tin cans, toy soldiers, cornshine and duct tape.
Back in Texas, Tulip meets with Jesse, and it's clear that they have some history. It's also quickly clear that the rumors about Jesse's past are at least partially true, as Tulip wants him to come on a "job" with her. What exactly that job is, we don't know. All we do know is that these two have a past, and it's probably illegal.
When a young boy comes to Jesse for help, we find out that Jesse does still want to help people - but it's not easy. Chris reveals that his dad is hurting his mom - and given that the father in question appears to be the epitome of a squirrel-shooting, wife-beating redneck, we're not overly upset that Chris is asking Jesse to do more than just talk. It seems that the rumor around town is that before Jesse returned home to the church, he did some very bad things. For a moment, Jesse loses his look of exhaustion and gets very intense - talking about violence he seems, just for a moment, to come alive.
In a more reasonable attempt to solve this issue, Jesse first talks to the sheriff. Of course, the sheriff is less than competent, as he is ignoring a brawl to talk to Jesse, as well as ignoring the fact that Jesse is swigging from a whiskey bottle in his car. It's therefore unsurprising that Sheriff Root is also willing to ignore the report of wife-beating unless a "format complaint" is made.
Next, he heads to the wife herself. Betsy is quick to admit that her husband Donnie hurts her. Problem is, she's not willing to make a complaint... because she likes it. Awkward....
What Kind of Preacher Are You
Jesse is definitely not your average religious leader. He has a past, he's most likely a criminal, and he's spending his time at the bar. While there, Cassidy strolls in - all regenerated and wearing clothing that looks like it was stolen from a nearby washing line. He orders an entire bottle of whiskey, and drinks half of it in one go. He calls from the bar phone to ask for help, but whoever is on the other end of the line just tells him to hole up and lay low. Which means Cassidy is sticking around Annville.
Meanwhile, Donnie turns up at the bar with his friends, and socks Jesse for talking to his wife about their... situation. Not just that, but he whispers that he'll be dealing with the "snitch" who told Jesse in the first place. When Jesse tells him not to, Donnie arrogantly says that he's going to "beat the living s**t out of the preacher". More violence up ahead! This time, it's Jesse's turn to show us just how capable he is at kicking ass. Turns out, he's incredibly capable. Not only does he take down Donnie and his gang, he snaps Donnie's arm... and he seems to really, really enjoy it.
After a visit to Sheriff Root's son Eugene (who has a particularly hideous face), his conversations with Tulip and his barfighting, Jesse is struggling with his faith. He doesn't believe that God is listening, he doesn't believe that God truly forgives, and he only seems to come fully alive when he is talking about violence (or being impressively violent himself).
He tells Emily that he is going to leave. He has let the town down. And miserable as she is about this announcement, she accepts it (mostly). Jesse heads to church, and tries, just one last time, to pray. To ask for a sign, or a reason to stay. Which he gets, as the "comet" bursts into the church doors and knocks him out.
The Final Moments
Unlike the religious leaders that the "comet" visited before, Jesse doesn't explode. He passes out for a few days, but then wakes up feeling... kinda different. Emily has been taking care of him, and he gets up to head to church and do a little preaching. The congregation includes Cass, who has moved into the attic, and Tulip. Jesse makes his announcement, but it's not that he's leaving. He announced instead that he has been failing the town - and that that is going to change. For the first time, we see a Jesse who starts to stand up tall, take control of himself, speak with passion - something is definitely different. As he speaks, we see the major players one by one: Tulip painting her toenails and looking at her map, Cassidy sitting outside with a bottle, Eugene being tormented by his peers. And Jesse is standing tall for the first time. Finally, the two men who have been tracking the comet appear - cowboy hats at the ready.
On Jesse's way in, he runs into Ted. We've seen Ted throughout the episode, constantly complaining about his overbearing mother - and Jesse has been at his wit's end trying to deal with him. Today, he gives him the same advice he has before: Be brave, tell her the truth, open your heart. But this time, Ted takes it. He turns and leaves immediately, flying out to see his mother. He sits down across from her, and tells her everything he wanted to... before plunging a knife into his chest and opening his heart - laying it right out there on the table.
What's Next? Season 1, Episode 2 'See'
After a start like that, episode two has a lot to live up to, and from the looks of these sneak peeks, it will.
We can see Jesse trying to do his best to live up to his latest promises, baptizing the crowd... but we also see what looks like him breaking into a building. He's still drinking, and Tulip is still trying to persuade him to work with her (and doing a little flirting, too). The two mystery men (Fiore and DeBlanc) are tracking him, but it seems that they haven't approached quite yet... In short, everything is just getting started!
Things We Want To Know This Week
Fans of the comics will probably have a good idea of the answers to these, but newcomers to the story of Jesse Custer will still be wondering... (Please keep the comments spoiler-free!)
- Who are the two guys who seem to be tracking the entity that's blowing up religious leaders? Comic book readers may recognize their names, but TV viewers are left wondering why these two are following it, and (more importantly) who on Earth is choosing their outfits!?
- Who shot Jesse's Dad? We get a couple of flashbacks to Jesse watching his father (also a preacher) pushed to his knees, about to die. But who is doing the shooting? Why? And why was Jesse there to watch?
- What happened to Eugene's face? In a short scene, Jesse goes to see Sheriff Root's son, Eugene... who seems like a sweet kid, except that he has a face like a rectum. Which begs the question - what the hell happened? Eugene talks a little about "what he did", so does that have something to do with it?
- Who is after Cass? We can accept that Cassidy just is a vampire, and a hard-living one at that. But who is after him? Who is helping him? What kind of underground vampire madness is going on here?
- What's the job? Tulip has a map and a plan, and that's all we know. What's the job? Even comic book fans won't know this one, as it's completely new for the series.