‘Preacher’ was a little uneven in season one but the second season has made the AMC adaptation from the popular comic book one of the best shows on television…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Nearly 20 years ago, the first attempts to transform Garth Ennis and Steven Dillon’s comic series ‘Preacher’ into a film first began when the story was sold to an entertainment company with hopes of turning the Vertigo title into a feature film.
While the story was popular amongst some of the edgiest filmmakers in Hollywood, no one seemed willing to put real financial muscle behind the project, often times worried about the overtly religious and sacrilegious tones of the source material.
Not until 2013 when AMC decided to take a shot at ‘Preacher’ with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on board to produce did serious discussions start to take place about transforming the comic book into a television series. AMC was riding high off the success of ‘The Walking Dead’, which was another controversial comic book that ended up being one of the biggest series on television so it only made sense that the network would take a shot at another project that seemed plagued by people too afraid to make it real.
Of course, Rogen and Goldberg were well known in Hollywood for their work in numerous comedies, but how would these childhood friends manage to take the original stories from the ‘Preacher’ comic book and turn this into a television series?
When ‘Preacher’ finally debuted in 2016, it was clear that Rogen and Goldberg had a very specific plan in mind that wouldn’t sacrifice any of the eye-popping source material written by Ennis. The dynamic duo even managed to throw a few new wrinkles into ‘Preacher’ including a debut montage that included Tom Cruise being blown to smithereens.
‘Preacher’ season one ultimately played out more like a prequel than an actual start to the series, especially for comic book readers who knew the story of Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare and Cassidy the vampire. Rogen and Goldberg rolled the dice by telling an elaborate back story about Jesse’s union with an entity known as Genesis that gave him the power of God and his relationship with a backwater town in Texas were he grew up.
The gamble sort of paid off.
The first season of ‘Preacher’ was edgy and original but still seemed to lack the real narrative punch that fans of the comic series were waiting to witness. It’s understandable considering the bulk of the ‘Preacher’ comics is built upon Jesse and his friends going on a hunt for God — a plot that begins almost immediately after the comic book starts.
It was almost a waiting game of sorts for Jesse to truly understand his new powers before determining that his true mission was finding out why God abdicated his throne in heaven. 10 episodes later — and one town being evaporated from the map — finally set Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy out on their mission to find God and when season two of ‘Preacher’ got underway, the show not only veered in a new direction — it became one of the best series on television.
“I think the nature of the story, the first season we’re kind of compressing the spring and this season we’re really letting it go,” Rogen said when discussing the second season of “Preacher’ at San Diego Comic Con. “We always knew that was going to happen. It’s a weird strategy cause we could have just been cancelled and then that would have been really frustrating.
“But in the end we weren’t so we were able to do the thing that we were slowly building towards.”
The second season of ‘Preacher’ has been jam packed with so many compelling storylines it’s tough to keep them all straight yet each one has been meticulously crafted throughout the episodes.
At the core of it all, Jesse Custer (played by Dominic Cooper) is on a mission to find God and his part-time girlfriend Tulip (played by Oscar nominated actress Ruth Negga) barely seems like a willing participant while Cassidy (played by the wonderfully British yet playing Irish Joseph Gilgun) is more interested in finding a good bottle of whisky than he’s concerned about locating God but he’s found two true friends and he will follow them to the ends of the Earth.
‘Preacher’ season two has also added two legendary villains — The Saint of Killers (played by Graham McTavish) and Herr Starr (played by Pip Torrens) who chew through scenes like Pacman gobbling up ghosts while high on a power pill.
The end result has been a hilarious romp through New Orleans mixed with action, heart and truly compelling story telling that is not only riveting but truly original and that’s not easy to do considering the hundreds upon hundreds of television series that debut each year on a multitude of formats across network television and streaming services.
“I think we are all very comfortable with one another and the characters now” Gilgun said about the changes in season 2. “There’s a bit more breathability. I remember in the pilot and in the first series, we were still really trying to find the direction we wanted to take these characters in. This year, there’s much more trust and it feels like a collaboration. You feel like you can invest a piece of yourself into it.”
“The writers getting to know us as well,” Cooper added. “You can sense that, the kind of work we like doing and the characters we’re portraying and how we’re portraying and I think they like writing for us for that reason.”
In season two, as Jesse and his friends are on the hunt for God, they are confronted by an unstoppable murder machine known as the Saint of Killers — a character that was the basis for the band Boba Flex and their track ‘Bury Me with My Guns On’ — who has been set loose to kill Jesse Custer and return Genesis back where it belongs rather than giving the power of God to a mere mortal being.
While the Saint of Killers doesn’t say much — his unrelenting hunt to track down Jesse takes up a big part of this season and results in some of the most exciting and brutal gun fight scenes ever seen. Of course there is tragedy that also follows the Saint of Killers around due to the death of his family that has left him tormented for many years and his only true wish would be to reunite with them in the afterlife.
As the Saint of Killers has pursued Jesse throughout season 2, his macabre methods have not only left a trail of bodies in his wake but it forces Tulip to face a serious case of post traumatic stress disorder after she was nearly cut down by him in one particular episode. Tulip being haunted by the Saint of Killers is actually a very poignant bit of story telling to address PTSD in a serious manner and Negga’s performance is nothing short of stunning.
Then there’s Herr Starr — the German born member of The Grail, who’s indoctrination into the organization (which can be seen below and does not spoil the series whatsoever) may be my favorite five minutes on television in 2017 alongside Daenerys Targaryen attacking her enemies on the back of her dragon on ‘Game of Thrones’.
Herr Starr is the oddest combination of humor and sadism that’s ever been packed into one character. His mission is to preserve the Christian God as the one true deity on Earth and he roots out any pretenders to the throne but when Herr Starr comes up against Jesse Custer, he may have met his match.
Oh and we can’t forget the introduction of Adolf Hitler in ‘Preacher’ season 2.
Yes, that’s right, Hitler has somehow become an integral part of the story in season 2 after Jesse accidentally sent a kid named Eugene Root — nicknamed Arseface after a suicide attempt ended with his mouth being remolded into a shape of…well you get the point — to Hell. It’s there where Eugene meets up with Hitler, who is serving an eternal sentence in damnation.
If that all sounds rather insane, that’s kind of the point when it comes to ‘Preacher’. In fact, Rogen says that when it comes to inspiring the writers on the show, he actually encourages them to ratchet up the jaw dropping moments in the show because pushing the envelope is kind of what this entire series is about.
“That was something we really encouraged the writers to try to do is indulge in the tone and take big crazy swings and not be afraid to try and be funny or irreverent and really try to push the boundaries of the tone of the show as much as humanly possible,” Rogen said.
Rogen says even AMC has embraced the philosophy of ‘Preacher’ from the start of season one until now. Admittedly, Rogen says he had to get on the phone a couple of times with some executives when it came time to pitch Hitler being added to the show but ultimately he’s been able to make ‘Preacher’ the way he always envisioned it.
“They are generally really cool about it,” Rogen said about his partners at AMC. “If anything when I watch the show — like most everything in my life — I’m shocked with what we’re able to get away with.”
There’s only one episode remaining in ‘Preacher’ for season 2 and a third season hasn’t officially been ordered yet, but AMC would be fools not to stick with this series for as long as Rogen, Goldberg and the cast want to make it.
Unfortunately, awards shows probably aren’t going to pay much attention to ‘Preacher’ when it comes time to hand out some gaudy gold statues, but that doesn’t mean the performances don’t deserve it. Cooper, Negga and Gilgun all deserve praise for their portrayals on the series and if Pip Torrens doesn’t at least get a couple of honorable mentions this year then something is broken with the people picking the best acting on television in 2017.
‘Preacher’ isn’t just about shock value although it is a very shocking show.
It’s a series that will make you laugh, probably make you cry, will definitely make you uneasy and thanks to the unavoidable religious tones of the story, you might even find yourself asking some questions about faith and ideology.
Perhaps the best part about ‘Preacher’ is the originality.
The success of ‘Game of Thrones’ has seen other networks take a shot on fantasy storytelling with more than a few knights clanging swords on television these days. ‘The Walking Dead’ has spawned seemingly dozens of shows trying to cash in on the zombie craze.
But there’s only one ‘Preacher’ and that alone is plenty of reason to start this series now if you’re not already watching.
The season finale of ‘Preacher’ airs Monday night at 9pm ET on AMC.