Preacher: Call and Response

"WHERE IS GOD?"

This season really just came and went, didn't it? Before I get into what I thought of it overall, here's how they left things in the finale. There's a lot to cover, so strap in.

It's Sunday, and everyone in Annville is anticipating the arrival of God, as foretold by the preacher Jesse Custer. Jesse's still on the run, and Cassidy's been caught by the police. I felt like I accidentally skipped an episode when I first watched this, but no.

Jesse and Tulip

Having received Jesse's impassioned phone message, Tulip comes back to Annville and learns he has fallen into Donnie's clutches. Only it turns out, Donnie and Betsy are allowing Jesse to hide out at their house because Donnie had some sort of weird epiphany during his last showdown with the preacher and now thinks he's a truly righteous man. This was a jarring turn-around for Donnie; I couldn't tell if the episode was suggesting that he now wants to be enlightened or if it was implying that he was really enlightened all along. Weird.

Anyway, Jesse and Tulip are ready to rekindle their old flame. Until Tulip pops her trunk to reveal their nemesis Carlos, bound and gagged. She tells Jesse to prove himself to her by killing him. We then learn via flashback that Jesse, Tulip and Carlos were a criminal trio back when Jesse had a mullet. Carlos grew jealous of the love they had for each other, which led him to betray them during a bank robbery. He stole the loot, released an innocent guard whom Jesse was forced to kill, and somehow caused Tulip to miscarry her and Jesse's baby, I guess. For all this, Tulip argues that Carlos must die. Until Jesse's actually about to perform the execution that is, at which point, Tulip loses any interest in killing Carlos. Ultimately, they opt to just the beat living hell out him instead. So that whole storyline was anti-climatic.

Cassidy and Root

While this was all happening, Cassidy was confined to a prison cell and interrogated by the deranged Sheriff Hugo Root. Root still wants to know what happened to Eugene, and he's discovered that Cassidy is a vampire. So he decides to torture Cassidy with repeated gunshots until it's time to go to church. This is also an anti-climatic bit.

It does however give us a little better insight into Cassidy's past and the dark side to his character. Root reads off the vampire's rap sheet, with various crimes over the last hundred years, including a very graphic "attempted murder" in New York. Cassidy also shows his manipulative side, using Root's insecurities about his son to taunt him; he may be a cool guy, but he's still a monster. After getting his fill of putting bullets into a helpless prisoner, Root releases Cassidy.

Calling Heaven

Finally, everyone in town shows up at the All Saints church to witness Jesse call down God Himself using the angel hands and heavenly telephone. At first, it appears to not be working. Then a great darkness falls over the church and God appears as if on a big glowing screen before the congregation. This God is basically an exaggeration of the popular Christian portrayal of God: White man with white hair and white clothes, long hair and big beard, a thunderous voice, wrathful but loving. This God seems perfectly willing to answer everyone's questions. Only his answers are all pretty convenient, and the ones that aren't convenient are merely flimsy.

Jesse catches on and calls this "God" out as an imposter, finally resorting to the power of Genesis to demand to know where the true God is. It works, and the angel impersonating God spills his holy guts. God is gone, and none of the other angels know where He is. He could be on Earth, for all they know. The message abruptly ends, and everyone is changed for the worse. This anti-climax was at least intentional.

The End of Annville

The news that God has abandoned Heaven and humanity altogether hits the people of Annville pretty hard. Everyone loses hope, and they were all pretty hopeless to begin with.

Emily tries to reassure her children that their happy Christian way of life won't end just because there's no God. Meanwhile, the two rival sports mascots commit suicide together. Root and his poor wife can do nothing but watch Tom Cruise's ashes get rocketed into space on TV. Donnie and Betsy can no longer take solace in their kinky sex games. Mrs. Loach smothers her comatose daughter while her son takes a selfie. Linus the bus driver is murdered by the school children, apparently after he tried to molest them. Quincannon cradles a meat puppet he made as a substitute for his daughter. Finally, the Barometer guy decides to cheat on his wife with one of the local hookers, only to die during the act, leaving the hooker alone to deal with the town's power reactor as it overloads. Needless to say, she does not save the day. A cigarette ignites the excess methane and the whole town explodes.

The Unholy Trinity's Road Trip

Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy are understandably over the God talk. In fact, while chatting at a diner, Jesse lets them all in on his new mission in life. He intends to search for God, to help God should he need help when they find him, and to kick God's ass if not. This sounds like Tulip and Cassidy's sort of road trip, and now we've finally reached the premise of this whole damn series.

Though they all look like cool customers with nothing to fear when they set out on the road in the end, we can tell already that their journey will not be as clear-cut as they make it seem.

For one thing, Jesse doesn't appear to know what happened to Annville. And it was his revelations that ultimately brought about the town's doom. How will he feel when he learns his desire for answers led to the deaths of everyone he swore to save? The news of that ought to make for some compelling drama later.

What will be more dramatic, though, is the love triangle between Jesse, his girlfriend and his best friend. Cassidy's lingering look as Jesse and Tulip have their big kiss gives me the sense that history is going to repeat itself; that Cassidy, like Carlos, will be the one to ultimately divide Jesse and Tulip.

And, of course, the biggest problem of all comes in the very end. In the midst of Annville's ruins, the Saint of Killers has arrived like a bat out of hell on a mission to kill Jesse. It might even be that the Saint's ascent from Hell was what brought about the town's obliteration. For all the flaws in this episode, I have to say they picked a bold way to end the season: After gunning down the Seraphim angel assassin, the Saint gazes upon the destruction surrounding him, uttering the name of his prey and the title of this show. Very cool.

Overall

My thoughts on AMC's Preacher are a bit complicated.

I've tried to separate the part of myself that knows the source material, to avoid comparing the show to it too much. However, that is quite impossible. Because, as I guessed when I first heard Preacher was coming to AMC, the TV series is a very different beast while relying on key elements (and even certain scenes) from the entire comic series. Even more so than the network's other comic adaptation, The Walking Dead. For example, this whole season has basically been a mostly original build-up to the point where the comic's story actually begins. To go deeper, the three main characters are fundamentally changed. Jesse and Tulip of the show bare little resemblance to their comic counterparts, not just in appearance but as characters; they were originally a fairly heroic on again-off again romantic duo, whereas here they are darker, crazier and not as relatable. I believe this change was made so they would both be on the same level as Cassidy, who, as a result, has gone from being the most morally ambiguous character in the story to being a sort of Jiminy Cricket figure for his fellow anti-heroes. It's a tad disappointing, because I felt their original characterizations were so strong and integral to the story as a whole.

That said, all three actors are well-cast and do a good job with the material they're given, especially Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy. When the show is faithful to the comics, it's especially excellent. This is best observed in Jesse and Cassidy's odd friendship, which is almost exactly as I hoped it would be; their conversations were one of my favorite bits of this season. I also loved the portrayal of Arseface, Odin Quincannon, and the Saint of Killers. While they too were drastically changed to adapt to the new medium, it was beautiful the way they breathed life into these unreal characters. And there were elements I really enjoyed that were original to the show too, like the way they portrayed angels and heaven, or the way they slowly developed the town of Annville. As befits an AMC series, the style of music, editing and cinematography is all wonderful too. The only real issue I have is the huge emphasis on mystery or ambiguity in each episode. It was like they wanted the audience to be as bewildered as can be. I appreciate a little mystery, but this is nearly to the same extent as Lost and I feel it's a little unnecessary.

It's a very entertaining show, I must say. Full of stunning visuals, powerful moments, thought-provoking themes, snappy dialogue, and general weirdness. And violence, I mustn't forget that. Just about every episode had me fully engaged by the first scene and kept my interest until the end credits. And now that it's no longer confined to Annville, hopefully the show will have more room to breathe and evoke the spirit of Preacher even better than it already has.

Bits and Pieces:

* Angels don't seem a whole lot more impressive than humans. They can be bumbling amateurs like Fiore and DeBlanc or bad actors like the angel feebly impersonating God.

* The news report said there likely weren't any survivors in Annville. That's a bunch of storylines cut rather suddenly, and not just minor characters like Linus and the Loach family. We never find out what's really going on in Emily's head after she fed Miles to Cassidy. We only get a little bit of insight into the depths of Hugo Root's insanity. There was a lot of time given to fleshing out Odin Quincannon, Donnie and QM&P too. I guess they were all just damned from the start.

* Fiore returns from Hell, but he's all alone. Did DeBlanc die for good when the Saint of Killers shot him? The angel assassin seemed pretty permanently dead when the Saint shot her in the end. I suppose this is keeping with the comics, where the Saint can kill anything.

* Jesse is still determined to free Arseface from Hell, and he still sees the disfigured young man in visions.

* Although I think it is pretty overrated, I must say I do love The Big Lebowski. Sorry, Cassidy.

* Ironically, there was a gas leak in my town on the day that I watched this episode. Thankfully, it was not lethal.

Quotes:

Cassidy: Uh oh. Manilla folder time!

Jesse: You came back for me.
Tulip: Yeah, well, after that phone message, how could I resist? "Hi Tulip, um... I just ate pancakes."

Sheriff Root: This world... vampires... government agents... psychopathic preachers -- it's all an unmitigated monster swamp.

Cassidy: Just, come on, be honest with me now, right. Could there not be... like a teeny-tiny part of you that would be happy if he was just gone.
Sheriff Root: ... Eugene's a good boy.
Cassidy: Oh I know, I know that. But he's sort of annoyingly good, though. Am I right? Always talking, asking his questions, and that face. I just... I honestly -- I don't know how you do it. Having to wake up to that giant, puckered arseface staring at you across the breakfast table, day after day--
Sheriff Root: (unloads his pistol into Cassidy)
Cassidy: (groaning) You'll see. This just proves my point exactly. Nobody's perfect.

Odin Quincannon: Yeah, well, it is a big day. Today, we answer mankind's most pressing question. Namely... what in the hell's goin' on? Now, Preacher Custer here argues, not only is there a God, he's going to call him down right into this room and we're all gonna talk to him. Ain't that right, Preacher Custer?
Jesse: Something like that.
Odin Quincannon: What I say, my say in all of this is that Preacher Custer, like every preacher, priest and holy man since the dawn of time, is full of shit. The only true god -- the only real god -- is the God of Meat!
Everyone: ......
Odin Quincannon: ... Well anyway, who's ever right, you know, gets the church. So, uh, enough with all the preamble-izing. Let's get started, shall we? Uh, Preacher Custer? Show us God!

Jesse: You're not God, are you?
"God": I am the Alpha and the Omega.
Jesse: No, you're not.
"God": I am the bright morning star.
Jesse: I just saw you picking your nose.
"God": No, my son, I was... scratching it.
Jesse: You're an imposter.
"God": I am the Lord, your God!
Jesse: You're not God.
"God": (frustrated) Yes, I am! Jesus.

Saint of Killers: ... Preacher.

Now that we've established what the show is going to be about, I'm looking forward to seeing if they can keep it going and improving upon what they have. Three out of four destroyed churches.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tulip never wanted to kill Carlos..She wanted Jesse back so to speak. She even plainly says it.
I love the random happenings and crazy random characters on this show...We can all nitpick the many faults this show has but i for one am glad a show like this exists. Its silly and does not make sense but its not trying to.
Never has a show had me laughing darkly at something like Odin hilding a meat child, then seconds later it dawns on you just how tragic that scene is.
First show i can think of where i liked all the characters despite the fact that none of them are particularly likeable..Even characters that i didnt like at the start, Donnie's wife, Emily and the sheriff all grew on me.
I simultaneously loved and hated the whole town seemingly dying at the end...I especially wanted to see what Emily did next but at the same time the balls it took for the show to end on that note, you have to admire it on some level.

Logan Cox said...

Tulip absolutely wanted to kill Carlos. She talked very seriously about killing him or torturing him to death more than once, not just with Jesse but Cassidy too.

But yeah, it's awesome that a show this creative and nutty has a chance to thrive on mainstream TV.

And you are right about the town's destruction, though. They managed to make it really sad because of how hopeless everyone is, but it's also fitting considering how twisted and morally bankrupt they all were. It is an impressive, ballsy way to leave things. I'm glad they're getting a season two.

Anonymous said...

I believe if Tulip really wanted to kill Carlos she would have when she found him.
It was more important for her to have Jesse back which is why she brought Carlos back..They made her whole arc about vengeance against Carlos when she just wanted Jesse back in her corner.

Count me in for season 2.

Jeslipidy said...

Hey Anonymous, of course she wanted to kill Carlos ...

The fact that she didn't speaks more to her transformation in the course of season one. If she found Carlos earlier, he would be dead.

Don't care if Carlos was dead or alive ... I'm just sad the whole town and it's crazy characters are gone ... except arseface ...

Anonymous said...

Jeslipidy

By all means she wanted to kill Carlos i don't dispute that. I also agree that she had a transformation over the season..I was refering to the reviewers notion that the plot point with Carlos was anti climatic, when he was just the plot device/catalyst..It was about Jesse and Tulip and how they broke apart.
However it was more important for her to get Jesse back and know for certain he was on her side...If Jesse didn't show her the twisted conviction/commitment he had for her in the final episode im certain she would have killed Carlos as readily as she would have at the start of the season.

Henrik Bennetter said...

I struggled a bit with this season, but really liked the cookines and insanity which I thought was portrayed well.
I would probably have stayed closer to the source-material but am content with the way things ended - what an apocalypse!
Looking forward to season 2 - thankyou for fun an insightful reviews!