Imagine, if you will, that Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and the late, great Sam Peckinpah conspired to adapt a batsh*t crazy '90's comic into a TV show. Think about that for a second - how awesome would that be? Well, we don't have those guys, but Seth Rogen and another Sam - Sam Catlin (from Breaking Bad fame) finally got 'Preacher' to the small screen - and, man oh man, what a fun this show is!
The epidsode begins in outer space, with a comet streaking across the universe, until it finds it's way to the 3rd rock from the sun. It descends down to Africa, and hurtles into a ramshackle church, where a preacher is warning his flock that "a war is coming." The comet hits the preacher head-on, knocking him into the back wall of the church. He not only survives, but jumps up, seemingly empowered by the blow. The flock, thinking they have witnessed a miracle, are in awe.He screams at the cheering congregation to "Be quiet!" and of course they do, being freaked out and all. He smiles wide and proclaims that he is the "chosen one." Not so fast! That very second he EXPLODES, in a cascade of blood and viscera, all over the congregation! Now THAT'S an opening. But don't take it from me - see for yourselves my children:
Son of a Preacher Man
Next we see our hero Jesse Custer rising from what appears to be a bad night of drinking and who knows what else. He has a flash of a memory about his Dad, the former preacher of a church in Annville, Texas, asking him to carry on his legacy. And that is just what Jesse intends to do, even though he is horribly ill equipped for the gig. He's back in town after a rather lengthy absence, where he was probably up to no good. He takes a few weathered pages from a table, not noticing that one falls to the floor, and heads off to the church.
He walks the dusty trail to the church to the tune of "Time of the Preacher" from Willie Nelson's amazing album Red Headed Stranger. Let me tell you folks. once I heard that song I knew we were in for something special - add to that the eerie Johnny Cash version of "The Beast in Me" later on and it's clear the show runners "get it." As Jesse comes upon the church sign, the usual message of hope and affirmation was changed to "Open your ass and holes to Jesus." So yeah, if you're a religious type, maybe this show MIGHT not be your cup of tea. Once inside the church, Jesse starts reading from the pages for his sermon. The problem is, the sermon has lots of references to things like the '70s Dallas Cowboys and such. It's obvious this an old sermon from his Daddy, and Jesse gets stumped once he comes to the point where the missing pages are. The congregation is bored and couldn't care less. Clearly Jesse has some work to do.
Mile High Madness
Next we cut to a private plane in flight, with a rowdy Irish bartender catering to a well lubricated group of businessmen. Everyone seems to be having a blast, so bartender Cassidy excuses himself to the restroom. Once he finishes his business, he finds a bible with some serious craziness scrawled inside. The men on this plane are up to no good, and Cassidy knows that he's the target. He calls them on their BS, and we now discover that the men are vampire slayers, and that Cassidy is a vampire! What follows is a high octane, martial arts fight- fest with guns, spears, a crossbow, fire, golf clubs, and even a medieval ax! It's so cray cray that I can't possibly do it justice. so check it out:
My favorite part is when Cassidy uses the bottle that is impaled in the pilot as a tap for a quick drink of his blood - brilliantly hilarious. How to escape the crashing plane - no chute? No problem - just use an umbrella! Turns out that wasn't such a stellar idea, since he goes splat when he hits the ground, creating a huge crater to hold his horribly broken body. That's the bad news. The good news? A curious cow sidles up next to the hole, and Cassidy literally eats him all up. Regeneration complete - problem solved!
Tiptoe with Tulip
Our next introduction is a mystery woman with a tight connection to Jessie. Seen in a flashback, it involves an unbelievable fight scene inside a car careening 90 mph through a CORNFIELD! Insane, right? Don't believe me? Roll the tape!
The fight scenes in this show are the best I've seen since those in the recently departed show 'Banshee', and that's saying a lot! As a matter of fact, 'Preacher' and 'Banshee' are almost kin, as far as the off kilter storytelling and frenetic, violent action scenes are concerned. Turns out the bad-ass in question is none other than Tulip O'Hare, thief and former girlfriend of Jesse back in the day. Tulip stops the car, dispatches the final bad guy with an ear of corn shoved down his throat (after she bites his ear off, of course), and takes a map from his pocket. Two young kids are witness to the Tulip rampage, but rather than off them, she decides to enlist their help. The dead man's phone shows that an incoming chopper is bearing down on Tulip, so she comes up with a plan to defend herself. With the help of the two young 'uns, a gallon of moonshine, a few coffee cans, and the young boy's tin soldiers, Tulip fashions a home-made bazooka - yes, I said bazooka! She hides the urchins in the storm cellar, and proceeds to blow the chopper out of the sky, leaving tin soldiers impaled everywhere. Bad-ass indeed.
Later that night, Tulip and Jesse meet for the first time in a long time. Tulip tries to talk Jesse into getting back to the life they had, begging him to help her with her next job. Jesse is torn, but the vow he made to his Dad wins out. Seems that Jesse broke Tulip's heart before, and there is much more to this relationship than meets the eye. I'm sure more will be revealed as time goes on. A word about Ruth Negga, the actress who plays Tulip. She is, in my opinion, the breakout star here, and Negga plays her with a blend of sexiness, sass, and vulnerability that is intoxicating.
I've Just Seen a Face
Jesse leaves Tulip and walks to the Sheriff's house to visit the sheriff's troubled son, Eugene. Here's where it gets REALLY weird. The sheriff wants Jesse to counsel Eugene, who had a failed suicide-by-shotgun attempt recently, leaving his face disfigured. How disfigured?
THAT disfigured! His nickname is 'Arseface'. You know you're thinking what I'm thinking! AND he slurps raw meat smoothies through a straw - yuck! Arseface wants to know if God forgives him for his suicide attempt, and Jesse lies, telling him yes. This makes Arseface very happy, but it shows that Jesse is empty inside; feeling no Holy Spirit, as a preacher should. Jesse is in crisis, questioning the existence of the big man while trying to minister to his flock - not a good situation.
Jesse makes his way to the local watering hole, where he strikes up a fast friendship with the now regenerated Cassidy. A bunch of rednecks come in and give our guys some trouble, and a bar fight ensues, with Jesse gleefully kicking ass along with Cassidy. This begins to show us the dark side that Jesse is trying to suppress, which I imagine will rear it's ugly head again. The fight lands both guys in jail, where more bonding takes place. Jesse eventually gets out of jail, and goes to the church to once and for all ask God what the deal is.
It Came From Outer Space
The b-side of the ep follows more episodes of the comet 'possession' thingy, where the entity moves from Africa to a satanist in Russia, with the same explosive results. And in one of the funnier, more subversive moments, the entity possesses and then blows up Tom Cruise real good - love it! After each event, two mysterious guys named DeBlanc and Fiore show up and investigate. Hmmmm, something weird is afoot! Back at the church now, where Jesse demands an answer from God. He sees a light outside the church doors, and the comet entity blows in and consumes Jesse, knocking him out cold! Jesse wakes up 3 days later, in his house, with Cassidy and his church assistant Emily keeping vigil. Unbeknownst to Jesse, Emily is warm for his form, which might mean trouble with Tulip later - look out, Emily! Even though he just woke up, Jesse realizes it's Sunday and he wants to tell his flock that he's giving up the preacher thing. Before he gets inside the church, Ted, one of his flock, accosts him for what seems like the hundredth time about his controlling mother in Florida. Jesse has told him over and over to be honest and open his heart to her, and repeats the same advice. But this time, something happens to Ted, and he runs away from Jesse, repeating the words over and over. Next we see Ted on a plane to Florida, then meeting his elderly mom at her nursing home. He vents his concerns to her, then tells her he has to open his heart - which he does - LITERALLY. Yep, he whips out a knife, plunges it into his chest, opens himself up, and cuts his own heart out, and hands it to her as he dies. No he di-int?! Yes, he did!
So it seems that Jesse has the power to make people bend to his will - he just doesn't know it yet. He reverses course at the church, and tells the congregation that his job is to save them, and save them he will! Cassidy and Tulip are in attendance, and that pleases them greatly.
Outside the church now, where DeBlanc and Fiore await. And one of them evidently likes eating tea bags - yeah, that happened. They look at the church, and one says to the other, 'It's here.' Could it get more creepy? I hope so!
So after the debacle that is 'Fear the Walking Dead', it would appear that AMC has hit on a winner with 'Preacher'. It's profane, crazy fun, and hopefully it will continue to build on what is a fantastic first ep!