The following review contains ***Spoilers*** for the Season 1 Finale of Preacher. Lots of cool stuff happened and in a much better way than I can describe. Go watch it if you haven’t, otherwise proceed at your own peril. ***Spoilers*** ahoy.
What started with one of the best pilot episodes in recent memory, Preacher ended its first season in explosive, daring fashion with “Call and Response”. What happened in between was vulgar, violent, twisted, funny, tedious, and occasionally baffling. For all the ups and downs of this series’ first year, it was never stingy with the payoffs. Other series (looking at you, Walking Dead) will deliberately delay a plot setup for multiple episodes; Preacher knocked them down almost as soon as they were set up.
The story was pretty straightforward leading up to the Sunday of Truth. Jesse is still on the run. Tulip checked her voicemail and cut her mission of mayhem short. Cassidy was in jail getting tortured by the sheriff, who figured out Cassidy was a vampire. In general, the whole town of Annville had God Fever and we were certainly on edge.
It wouldn’t be Preacher without a couple of gems before the big finale. First was the soundtrack, which, while good all season, was in rare form with its usual doses of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson mixed in with such deep cuts as 96 Tears by one-hit wonder ? and the Mysterians. Second, we finally saw Genesis work for the good, long term. Donny, of all people, remembered Jesse was merciful back in the showdown in the men’s room of that gas station. That good turn led to Donny and his wife harboring fugitive Jesse in their home and giving Donny the peace of mind to spank his wife with furious abandon again. Lastly, Tulip and Jesse reconnected over Carlos, who made the ride to Annville in the trunk of Tulip’s car. There was some bickering over whether Carlos should pay the “eye for an eye” price for leaving their pair on a job in a fit of jealousy and causing Tulip to miscarry. Instead, they chose mercy, which meant beating Carlos to the point where he’ll eat through a tube and poop into a sack for a long while.
The crucial Sunday arrives and Jesse starts Face Time with the Almighty. It was so much fun to see the chaos in the church when the “bearded white guy” blazes on the screen. This God tells the congregation exactly what it wants to hear. By virtue of this call, they are all saved. Odin’s daughter is in heaven. Jesse feels something is amiss when “God” picks his nose. Jesse uses Genesis; the confession comes. While God does exist, He has gone missing and is presumed to be on Earth.
Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy decide to skip town and go get French fries. The rest of the town realizes a substitute teacher is watching the class and indulges in all kinds of sin. This opens the door for a creative decision that is bold for any TV show. With Odin’s number-one troubleshooter dead from ecstasy, the reactor blows its top and wipes Annville and its residents off the map in a brown mushroom cloud.
It’s crazy that the show spent nine and three-quarters episodes developing Emily, Donny, the dueling mascots, Sheriff Root, and Odin with his meatbaby, only to wipe them off the board with a broad stroke.
The heart of the Preacher comic is that it’s a road story about a mismatched trio traveling the countryside on a bounty hunt for God, and it was that way from the first panel. Television is a different (and perhaps less sophisticated) way of telling a story. People and places have to fit together in an obvious way. Even sophisticated AMC audiences won’t buy three mismatched people jumping in a muscle car and setting off on an adventure. There needs to be connection and chemistry between the primary characters. To find that blend and start the road trip, Preacher‘s creators had to build and blow up an entire town.
This first season was pretty much an unqualified success. Despite those lulls in the action, Preacher always delivered something in every episode. Whether it was a laugh or a new detail about a character, each episode had a craftsmanship to it that is rare for a show in that genre. With Season 2 following the comics more closely, the best of this series is yet to come.