In less than one week, Preacher will start its final season. For some, they couldn’t be more excited to see how the story of Jesse Custer finally ends. For most, they probably never heard of the show. In the age of high quality TV shows, not every show is able to get the audience that it deserves. Not every show can be Game of Thrones, or light the world of pop culture on fire. With that in mind, it’s almost a miracle that were were able to get a show based on Preacher in the first place.
I’ve made it a mission of sorts to talk about this show at any opportunity due to how unique and excellent it’s been. It’s been a favorite for a few of us here at Flixist, relishing being able to talk about each new episode as it airs. I love this show because of just how unrestrained it is. Most modern TV shows play things safe and easy, offering up content that may be thematically and intellectually compelling, but don’t quite offer up the thrills that I would have liked. Every episode of Preacher offered up a new level of insanity that at times was controversial, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
So with the fourth season confirmed as being the show’s final season, I wanted to take some time just to celebrate how this bizarre show was able to amass a cult following and look back on how we got to this point. How did we go from a one of the best mature comics of all time into an AMC television series where a preacher from Texas, his vampire best friend, and his criminal girlfriend go on a road trip to find God.
AMC’s version of Preacher wasn’t the first attempt to make a TV show out of the comic series. Out of the many, many attempts to transition the property into TV and film, the most notable one comes from HBO’s attempt to create a show based on the franchise. The original plan was for the show to have been helmed by Mark Steven Johnson, the director of Ghost Rider, and Howard Deutch, who has been involved in multiple TV shows like several seasons of American Horror Story and Young Sheldon. Johnson wanted to turn the 66 issue series with 9 one-offs into a saga where each episode was an adaptation of a single issue. Unfortunately the project was canned when new HBO executives thought it would be too religiously controversial. When HBO says something is too controversial, you know it’s something special.
But what exactly makes Preacher such a controversial subject to adapt? It mostly has to do with the incredibly dark tone it has and the very critical light it sheds on Christianity and the concept of God. In the series, God has abandoned Heaven when a being called Genesis escapes Heaven. Genesis is the child of an angel and a demon with the power of both and when in possession of a human host, grants the host the power of the “Word of God,” a power that will make anyone obey the host’s commands. SO God leaves Heaven and the Reverend Jesse Custer, the host of Genesis, seeks him out to find out why he left and why the world is as shitty as it is.
But while the general plot can easily be viewed as odd, but effective, it’s the side characters that really push Preacher into the obscene territory. There’s a Pope figure that is 1,000 pounds and opts to kill people by sitting on them. The descendant of Jesus in a 28th generation inbred who flings his own poop at people. Odin Quincannon is a racist meat baron that… let’s just say he knows his meat really well. Jesus de Sade, a character who is set to appear in Season 4, is an active pedophile. There are so many shocking situations the characters enter into, some of which can be viewed in poor taste when taken out of context, that it’s no wonder it took so long to get a successful adaptation.
And yet it finally got one. AMC gave the go ahead for a pilot in 2013, with the first season premiering in 2016 to strong praise. Unlike most other successful TV shows based on comic books, Preacher plays fast and loose with how it adapts the comic. The first season is set in the town of Annville, Texas, where Jesse is the local preacher until Genesis possesses him. However, all of the side characters and plot points are taken from much later in the book, specifically the Salvation arc which occupies issues #41-50. In short, longtime fans of the series were in for plenty of new surprises as the show aired.
In fact, as the show progressed, the show began to deviate more and more from the comic, introducing sideplots that were not present with mixed results. I love this show, but I cannot ignore that Season 2 was by far the weakest season of the show (so far…) due to its odd pacing. While Seasons 1, 3, and 4 are all 10 episodes each, Season 2 had 13 episodes that didn’t really adapt any specific arc. The season spent a lot of time watching the characters mill around in an apartment doing little, if anything. It isn’t that shocking to find out then that most of that season was original material that left most audiences indifferent towards the show. It just felt like the show was dragging with no real sense of direction, which made me worry about the third season.
Oh how I was wrong to worry. If the second season had no sense of direction, the third season kicked everything into high gear and only seemed to get better as it progressed. We got ourselves Satan, hillbilly Fight Club, gay vampire love, Nazis fighting the Angel of Death, Gimp God, and a man eating a horse. Preacher is at its best when it loses its mind, yet plays it completely straight. It presents God driving on a motorcycle in a Dalmatian suit with a prostitute as being completely normal. It plays its lunacy completely straight, making it all the more memorable.
That isn’t to say that Preacher is a weird show for the sake of weirdness. The darkness in the original comic is still here, with frequent conversations about the failure of religion, the nature of friendship, and overcoming trauma. Every character has their own burden to carry, whether it’s self inflicted like Cassidy’s self-hatred, Tulip’s belief that she’s cursed, Jesse’s abusive family, or the Saint of Killer’s guilt for failing to save his own family from disease, the show never makes it easy for them to overcome their obstacles. Our heroes are all fundamentally damaged people. You could argue that Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy are bad people, yet they’re trying to become better.
Unlike most other shows of this type, there’s been a good amount of screentime where all of our main characters hate each other. There are moments where everyone gets along, like when the Season 2 premiere shows our trio evading cops while singing “Come on Eileen,” but a ton of time is spent focusing on how much everyone screws each other over. Cassidy screws Tulip, Jesse screws Cassidy, and at times their friendships seem to be out of necessity rather than by genuine bonding. But that dynamic keeps the show fresh because you don’t know how each character will react to a situation. Sure, Jesse may look out for everyone, but it’s also in character for him to screw over Cassidy because Cassidy is a genuine asshole. I never know what to expect, so that surprise feels all the more gratifying.
This isn’t even mentioning the show’s antagonists, which are arguably more memorable than the main heroes. Each of the show’s main antagonists all look like caricatures until you actually get to know them. I wouldn’t call any of the villains relatable, because if you can relate to Hitler then you have some issues, but they’re compelling to watch. Most, if not all of the villains, are introduced brilliantly with scenes that tell you immediately who this new character is and why they’re such a threat, all tinged in Preacher’s delicious black humor. If you’re not a fan of Herr Starr after watching his introduction, I don’t know what will make you love him.
Indeed, Preacher’s humor is what makes it stand out from the crowd. Sure, a series where a group of misfits go on a roadtrip to find God sounds interesting, but tune into any episode and you’ll find some of the blackest and most outrageous jokes you’ll see all year. Half the time you can’t believe that AMC is getting away with airing this, but then you’ll remember that this was the show that helped give AMC’s its cutting edge moniker. I can’t say that Preacher single handedly made AMC into a more mature network, but I dare you to find any other mainstream TV show that gets away with as much as it does as Preacher.
And now it’s coming to a close. On August 4th, the show’s final 10 episode season will begin to air, though at least it will conclude in the way that the showrunners (Seth Rogen, Sam Catlin, and Evan Goldberg) wanted it to. I’m not one to throw out praise lightly, but with the exception of maybe Hannibal, unless Preacher utterly fails in its final season, I think I can safely chalk up this show as being one of my favorite TV shows of all time. It’s dark, irreverent, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before on television. If you’re even remotely interested in this show, it’s not to late to hop of the bandwagon before it all ends. The apocalypse is almost here, so let’s party.