Hallelujah and bless AMC! For Preacher is here!
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been dying to feast your eyes on this bad boy since the very first moment AMC made the world privy to its arrival. I expected good, but good just don’t do Preacher justice …
It begins with a bang — literally. A “meteorite” shoots through space and beelines it to Africa where a man preaches passionately to a dedicated congregation. He shouts, “Something is coming!” He doesn’t know how right he is.
That “something” smashes through the door of the church and knocks him to the floor. When he rises to his feet, his followers believe it’s a miracle, but their marveling is cut short when he “hushes” them in a voice straight from the bowels of hell. Lordy!
He proclaims himself a prophet and then explodes. BANG! Bloody fantastic!
Covered in gore, his congregation runs screaming from the church. (Note to self: continue to not attend church.)
Then we’re in Texas, where Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) wakes to ready himself for the day’s sermon. Before we see his face, we see his scarred and tattooed back and a table littered with emptied bottles of booze. Willie Nelson’s Time of the Preacher accompanies the morning routine, which includes quickly donning a black shirt and clerical collar, grabbing a pack of smokes and dropping one page of his wrinkled sermon as he bolts out the door.
Our Preacher is, well, an ungodly mess.
Before welcoming the parishioners to All Saints Congregational Church, Jesse walks out to rearrange the letters on the sign board from ‘OPEN YOUR ASS AND HOLES TO JESUS’ back to ‘OPEN YOUR HEARTS AND SOULS TO JESUS.’ I giggle because I’m a heathen.
During the sermon — which is akin to one of the terribly unpracticed and ridiculously awkward speeches I so often witness in my classroom — the congregation seems bored and confused. Yep, I get that. Jesse finally gives up and asks the sign scoundrel to stop messing with it but is cut off, out of pity, by the church organist. He looks relieved.
After church, there’s a gathering of sorts. It’s exactly what I’d expect from Texas tiny-town life (sorry Texas tiny-towners). My exposure to the state has been mostly through every Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie produced, so I have very little to go on.
Jesse is disdainfully listening to parishioner Ted talk about the nothing in his life that is horrible, when a freckled boy approaches. (Yes, that is the same kid who plays the world’s most irritating Peter Pan in the GEICO ad. No, you’re not the only one who would be just fine if something terrible happens right now). Jesse is grateful to wave off the man with mommy issues. The child has a beer to offer. Ted departs grumbling to himself. Jesse takes the beer and sits back to listen to the youngster’s qualms.
The youth hates his daddy … the daddy who finds it okay to shoot squirrels right out in front of the church … the daddy who is abusive to his mom and not so nice to him. He informs Jesse he knows the preacher “did things” before coming back to Podunk (which is actually called Annville) to preach. Jesse insists on another beer before he’ll hear anything more. Then Jesse sees Daddy grab Mommy and he asks the kid exactly what he wants done, says violence only leads to more violence and gets weird but finally snaps back to the Holy Book. The youngin’, disgusted with the outcome, asks Jesse to pray for him as he storms off. Jesse looks dejected. Prayers don’t get heard.
Later on in the evening, Jesse’s downing a bottle of bad whiskey in his truck, and wearily watching the townies battle over mascots (Indian or the more liberal prairie dog?). The sheriff steps up to his truck and requests Jesse stop in to talk to his son, Eugene. Jesse agrees and then mentions his earlier conversation with the freckled boy. The sheriff says he’ll intervene when Mom files a formal complaint. Jesse, displeased with this response, doesn’t seem surprised. Me either.
SUDDENLY, we are whisked up 30,000 feet into the air! WTF? It’s a plane party. There’s doobage, booze, pills, coke, $100 bills … and an Irish steward named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun). Only, he’s not just an entertaining steward. He’s … something else.
After taking a crap, Cassidy stumbles across a very creepy, scrawled-upon bible in the loo. It inspires the events to come — and they’re good, though I wonder why there are crossbows, spears, battle axes and machetes just hanging about on the aircraft.
Cassidy returns from his dump, talks some shite, smashes a giant bong on a passenger’s head and starts a first-rate fray. He becomes that something else, quickly dispatches the rich bastards on the plane, says ‘wanker’ a few times (I so love that word) and then helps himself to the jugular of the last man standing. Noting a fire on board, Cassidy spies a way out and then grabs an empty bottle which he fills with blood before jumping from the emergency exit with a mere umbrella. Mary Poppins he is not.
Man! We aren’t even half way through the episode! This is epic stuff!
In the Podunk diner, Jesse and the cute organist discuss church business, and it’s clear she’s sweet on him. I say stand in line, babe … I’m a little sweet on him myself.
Back in Africa, two guys who look like they’re on safari step out of a Jeep. They’re in front of the church we saw at the start. Their outfits say ridiculous, but the soundtrack screams ominous … who are they? And who sent ‘em?
At the behest of a concerned citizen, Jesse goes to check on a “Walter” who did not show up for work at the diner. Upon arrival, he finds Walter passed out on the couch. When he goes to retrieve a shirt for the snoozing man, he sees a gun and hears a voice. He recognizes both and leaves lickety-split. A naked woman stands at the window and watches him drive off. She softly sings, You’re So Vain.
Suddenly, we’re in Kansas. A flashback. A car speeds down the road, a shot is fired, and blood splashes the passenger side window. A woman is driving while a man in the back attempts to strangle her. She flips over the seat, and the two fight viciously as the car for later), regains control of the wheel, exits the cornfield and stops in a clearing to finish it. With a kick in the nuts and a corncob jammed down his throat, her assailant is, indeed, finished. He was a bad man.
Unfortunately, she has an audience — children — so she spends some time winning them over with her special version of “arts and crafts,” which includes some of their daddy’s cornshine, some coffee cans, and toy soldier shrapnel. It’s never too early to learn the art of crafting a do-it-yourself bazooka. They finish up just in time to hear a helicopter.
She challenges the kids to a game of hide-and-seek. They’re ushered into the cellar and told not to come out until the noises stop. First there is gunfire, then an explosion, then a crash, then begging for mercy, and then more gunfire. The tots come out when the noises stop and react to the carnage the same as they did when they first met their new friend … “AWESOME!” Children. So desensitized these days. Damned TV and vid-iot games, am I right? OK, I also think a toy soldier sticking out of some guy’s gourd is awesome. I just learned something about myself. Guess TV is educational after all.
As the woman leaves, we find out she’s Pricilla Jean Henrietta O’Hare (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Ruth Negga). Her friends call her Tulip … and she’s Jesse’s ex-girlfriend, tracking him down to shake sh-t up.
Meanwhile, in another field. Lying in the crater he made after falling 30,000 feet with a his little umbrella-chute, Cassidy observes his guts strewn about and an unfortunately nosy cow. The implication: all he needs to pull himself together is a good steak. Oh, and the thing that happened in Africa happens in Russia too. “Holy” men all over the world are exploding.
Inevitably, Jesse and Tulip meet up. He’s not real surprised to find an ear in her car. Tulip tosses it out the window and offers him a “job” he doesn’t want. She’s not happy with this, but Jesse is steadfast in his “faith.” He’s done with their past shenanigans. Tulip begs to differ. He can’t hate her, but he has to go. As he walks off, she shouts, “We are who we are, Jesse Custer!” He doesn’t respond.
Just who are they?
After leaving Tulip, Jesse pays his promised visit to the sheriff’s son. In the comic, he’s called “Arseface,” for reasons known to those who follow. I’m spillin’ no beans. The sheriff is blending up some over-Tabascoed dinner for Eugene, who can only drink through a straw, because, you know. His face. He hands the brew to Jesse and sends him up the stairs.
As I said, I’m not talking comics … it’s TV, so who knows where all of this is going? But Eugene did something that he thinks God will never forgive. Jesse tells him he’s wrong. God doesn’t hold grudges. Eugene is so grateful for Jesse’s words, he bear-hugs him, but it’s obvious Jesse speaks without conviction.
After his chat with Eugene, Jesse finds relief at the local watering hole. We find out, via the bar’s TV, that Tom Cruise has also exploded. Is the blowing up about false prophets? Methinks it is, and the news of Mr. Cruise seals the deal.
A fully intact Cassidy walks in and orders a drink … or a bottle, rather. No decent Irish whiskey in the house, so he settles for the local “rat water.” He drains the bottle like it’s Kool-Aid. BRAVO! My head aches for him, though I suppose he’s definitely got an advantage over me and my sh-tty tolerance. I’m only one-quarter Irish.
Cassidy tries to strike up conversation with Jesse, but Jesse can’t understand his Irish lingity-dingity, and neither can I. The two part ways, and Donny, the rotten abusive dad, enters with his Civil War reenactment posse. Earlier, Jesse talked to Mom and she said she actually likes being roughed up. Seriously? Donny, aware of that chat, greets Jesse with a punch in the kisser.
Cassidy dials a payphone. How many kiddos are watching this with total confusion? Trick question. The answer should be NONE, because this ain’t kid stuff. Anyway, he’s explaining the whole dropped-out-of-the-plane incident to someone who tells him to ditch his credit cards and hide. I’m pretty sure he’s not talking to his mum. Who is on the other end of the payphone? We don’t know, because he/she/it hangs up the second he asks for money. Maybe it is his mum …
Meanwhile, Jesse has it out with Donny and his crew of douchebags. The preacher kicks major ass with a smile and expert finesse. The whole scene is beautiful. Cassidy, who catches the finale, is more than impressed. The sheriff attempts to intervene, but Jesse’s not done. He promised Donny “a bunny in a bear-trap,” and he delivers. Donny’s arm is snapped before Jesse goes off to jail. Cassidy’s hauled in too, just for spectating. What? Well, I guess stuff doesn’t have to make sense if it moves the storyline along.
In the clink, Cassidy asks, “Jesus! What kind of a preacher are you?” It’s a fine question and that goes unanswered really … maybe surface answered, but that’s it.
Throughout the episode, we see black-and-white flashbacks to Jesse’s dad. Turns out, he was also a preacher, but ended up on the wrong side of a gun. At this point, we don’t know why, but we do know Jesse is trying to make something right.
In jail, Jesse and Cassidy have a heart-to-heart about honor. Cassidy believes it’s all relative, but Jesse believes it’s something more. Promises and faith are important to Jesse. Cassidy … not so much.
Jesse makes bail, but before he leaves, he and Cassidy shake hands. A friendship has begun.
Turns out, the cute organist is the one who posted bail and comes to fetch him. Jesse has a revelation on the ride home. He’s gonna quit the preaching thing. He’s done. He’ll announce it come Sunday. He is who he is, and she doesn’t argue. She acknowledges he was never really there in the first place.
Once he’s gone, her attention turns to her kids arguing over an I-Pad. Annoyed, she breaks it over the dash, throws it back to them and tells them to share. I’d do the same. I hate over-teched children. They all need to read a damn book.
Jesse’s phone rings. It’s Ted, still bitching about his mom. Jesse notices something weird about his little church and tells Ted he’ll call him back. He won’t. The church ain’t right.
He enters through unlocked doors. None of the lights work. He walks down the aisle between the pews and looks at the altar. He remembers Eugene’s words … God has been quiet. Now Jesse wants an answer, too.
He gets down on his knees and begs, but nothing comes … at least not yet. He gets up, plops frustrated into a pew and fires up a smoke. Then he hears the church doors creak open. His answer?
Well, yeah, I guess it is. It’s the “meteor” that’s been going around popping preachers … only it’s not the same for Jesse. It sort of floats in, making that same strange noise, then moves the pews around as it approaches Jesse. But it’s not an instant blammo thing. It kinda hovers like a fog before knocking him on his ass … and he doesn’t explode.
He wakes from another dream of his dad. He finds the organist sitting at his bedside. He discovers he’s been out for a few days and that Cassidy has moved into the church attic.
It’s Sunday, and Jesse has to tell the congregation that he’s leaving. He jumps out of bed and prepares himself. On his way into church, Ted approaches him yet again. Jesse tells him the same thing he’s been telling him all along: Say what you feels. Open your heart. This time, Ted seems to get it. He scurries off on a mission.
Inside the church, it’s grisly. As probably the only Goth in Annville sings a hideous rendition of “Amazing Grace,” Tulip walks in and sits down, and Cassidy rises from a pew like it’s a coffin. Jesse takes it all in, rolls his eyes and gets up to address his flock.
He says there will be no sermon, that he’s been a bad preacher and that he’s only going through the motions. Eugene, who hasn’t been to church for a while, is there with his parents. Everyone quietly listens to Jesse denounce himself. And then he changes his mind. He can’t quit. He promises his congregation he’ll be better … that he will now live soley to preach the word of God.
It’s his best non-sermon yet. Hell, I’m even inspired, and I don’t do religion.
Meanwhile, Ted catches a plane and repeats Jesse’s words about opening his heart. He’s headed to his mom’s nursing home. She’s surprised to see him. He tells her to stop calling at all hours and that he’s not perfect, but he’s pretty OK just being Ted. Then he literally opens his heart … with a giant butcher knife. Dang!
Oh, Jesse … what have you done? Meantime, the two guys checking out the situation in Africa have made it to Texas. I think they know the answer.
Okay folks! This is episode numero uno, and it’s KILLER! What do you have to say about it? Characters you love? Characters you don’t. Have you read the comics? Are you going to start? Sound off in the comments! And Tweet along with me — @KimberlyThies1 — during the show!
New episodes of Preacher air Sundays at 10/9CT on AMC.