WARNING – This overview is full of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the TV series yet then watch that first. Please.
Preacher started out as a comic, as I think a lot of good TV series do. It had a cult following that has grown to reach far beyond its 75 issue run. First published in 2000 by Vertigo comics it told the story of Jesse Custer, a preacher who is possessed by the spawn of both a demon and an angel. This product of such an unholy coupling is called Genesis and although it has no specific will, it is both a combination of both good and evil. So up to this point the TV series and the book are running in tandem, but this is where the TV series splits from the comic.
In the comic, merging with Genesis causes the church to explode and kill everyone in the congregation. In the TV show, the whole town suffers a similar fate, but we have to wait for the whole series to be complete before we find out how this happens. Yes, I have spoiled the ending of the series, but it’s not the ending that makes it good – it’s how you get there.
The series is definitely character driven, from the slightly crazy owner of a meat packing plant who worships his product as a god, to the psychopathic but definitely not entirely unhinged Tulip, who seems unfazed by the fact that she knows a Vampire, (Cassidy). This is not a series where you can just tune in and pick up the nuances of what has gone before. In fact it takes us ten episodes to fully understand just what drives most of the characters in this series and my recommendation is that you watch all ten episodes and fully immerse yourself in the characters.
So what is the premise? Well, there is this force of nature called Genesis that has escaped from its storage container in heaven and has landed on earth after travelling across the galaxy. It instinctively starts looking for a host and goes through several different people – destroying them as it does so. A preacher in Africa who explodes soon after, members of a Satanic Temple in Russia and in a gathering of Scientologists, Tom Cruise, who also dies because of the attempted possession. In the end, Genesis successfully possesses a Preacher called Jesse Custer, who seems to be the perfect balance of both good and evil. This is important because Jesse is a man with a less than perfect past who is trying to redeem himself by serving God as a preacher.
At first he doesn’t realise just what has happened and wakes after sleeping for a few days none the wiser. However, he soon realises that he seems to have the power to control people with his voice – which makes for some gruesome and often hilarious moments. Even Angels have to do what he wants them to when he uses the voice. Could it be that even God may have to do what he wants? That might happen if he ever finds him. Unknown to the preacher God has disappeared and it leaves me wondering whether God almighty himself might be afraid of Genesis and what it might force him to do.
Unfortunately, whilst all this is happening, Jesse is dogged by what we are led to believe are two of the Adephi Angels who are charged with looking after the Genesis force. However, what questions my assumption on whether these are two angels is the fact that they act more like squabbling parents. One might even suspect that one of them is a conscripted demon – but that’s just my thoughts on the matter. They want to get Genesis out of Jesse and back into its storage tin. Yes I did say tin. At first they have no problem with trying to rip Jesse apart with a chainsaw but they are stopped by Cassidy, who is by this time loyal to Jesse. In the end, after a couple of failed attempts, and the need for a couple of resurrections, they decide to use a musical device instead. This seems to work at first, with the whole process seemingly successful. However, it is only successful up until the point that the Genesis force decides it wants back in. When they fail, they know that going back to heaven will mean some severe punishment, so they head to hell instead. Weirdly, they use an everyday travel agent to get there.
Now, if you are a fan of the comics you might find this a little slow going. Don’t tune out. This series is one of those that have a slow start and a good finish. It doesn’t really start to follow the path taken in the comics until the final minutes of the last episode but that doesn’t mean that the series is a waste. It is not in any way lacking because of this. The comics are by their very nature dated and apart from the stylisation this is not reflected in the series at all. You get to spend the whole series getting to know the three main characters in the comics and you also get a little understanding about how they have become the people they are. This isn’t like some TV shows where you have to wait for the next five seasons to find out the characters motivations. Most of it is concluded within the first nine episodes of this first season.
This may all seem a mishmash of story, religion and characterisation but it all works. In fact it has worked so well that Preacher has already been picked up for a second season of thirteen episodes. So we can expect to see Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer, Ruth Negga as Tulip and Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy return for at least the next thirteen episodes. I for one am looking forward to it.
Oh, and did I mention the Saint of Killers? Now that should be a great story arc.