AMC’s newest drama is PREACHER. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the series follows a Texas minister in a small town where danger and the supernatural seem to exist in abundance. It is shocking and action-packed, while also being a compelling character study of a man who is trying to do good and frequently failing. In short, it is worthy of being on this top-quality network, and makes a good addition to AMC’s morality-questioning slate.
The protagonist and titular man of the cloth is Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper, Agent Carter, Fleming). Ingrained in him by his ill-fated father is a drive to do good in the world. But in a position he doesn’t want in a place that, for the most part, doesn’t want him, and with a past he isn’t proud of, Jesse is struggling to feel like he’s living up to his potential. As the story begins, he’s about at a breaking point and must decide what his path forward would be.
There is no shortage of others who either want to help him or hurt him on his path. Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun, Misfits) is a vampire lying low who is drawn to Jesse’s violence. Tulip (Ruth Negga, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) is his ex who seeks to involve him in her latest scheme. Emily (Lucy Griffiths, True Blood) is the busy mother who is devoted to the church. Sheriff Root (W. Earl Brown) is the lawman who doesn’t put up with Jesse straying, while Hugo’s son, Eugene (Ian Colletti, Rake), is devoted to a God he thinks may have abandoned him. And there’s also Donnie (Derek Wilson, In the Now), the abusive husband that Jesse confronts.
Each of these play a role, most of them quite loud and large. Cassidy and Tulip, in particular, are introduced in extreme scenarios that reinforce the graphic novel roots of the source material and certainly keep things exciting. This is a show that will not shirk from its action sequences, and has no qualms about showing death and destruction.
Yet, for the run of the pilot, Jesse himself is the calm center of the storm. He doesn’t react largely. He doesn’t do anything too crazy. He exists in the midst of everyone else’s drama, which is not what one typically expects from the main character of a series such as this. It’s unlikely he will stay that way for long, probably taking lead in the bigger sequences going forward, especially given what happens at the end of the episode. But it’s a very interesting choice to make to introduce him in the way that he is.
There’s also a phenomenon not yet explained that will play a very large role in PREACHER. Seen at the beginning and during a few interstitials, a being of energy has arrived on Earth looking for a host. After some false starts, it chooses Jesse as its vessel. Neither obviously good or bad, it’s the nth embodiment of Jesse’s own internal conflict, and promises more than just a slow-burn character-driven drama that would likely be good, but what we get is even better. With two mysterious men (Boardwalk Empire’s Anatol Yusef and Pirate Radio’s Tom Brooke) on the hunt for it, Jesse won’t just be able to live the life he’s been living.
I found the first episode of PREACHER to be terrific. It draws you in appropriately, feels fresh and original, despite a few familiar elements, is amusing in a sly way, and lacks the types of plot holes or gratuitous things that bog down most new series. Each moment seems carefully calculated to build towards something, and with fascinating characters populating the world, I look forward to seeing where it goes.
PREACHER airs Sundays at 9pm EST on AMC.