It can be confusing. It can be borderline disorienting at times. Yet with great characters, writing and editing, Preacher takes what would normally be detrimental to a new show and has instead created a unique style which allows this opening season to stand on its own whilst setting up an enticing storyline to come.
Taking place prior to the cult comics on which it is based, season 1 of Preacher is best described as a character studying preview season headed by Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a heavy drinking criminal turned Texan town preacher. Corrupt clergymen are nothing new but Cooper’s performance brings an extra dimension by making the character increasingly dislikeable the more he takes on the preacher persona over the crook, often to the point where he becomes a de facto antagonist. This direction makes Jesse not only an intriguing anti-hero but also an enticing allegory in a show not afraid to take a stab at religious morality.
As strong as Jesse is, it’s the side characters which steal the show. Headlined by the mad Irish vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), we see characters who entertain not only on a surface level with their bizarre characteristics, but also in how they defy they very roles the show sets up for them. Take, for instance, Donny (Derek Wilson) and Quinncannon (Jackie Earle Haley) whose introductions would typically cement them as antagonists. Yet through their interactions with Jesse they develop organically to become fully fledged characters rather than simple archetypes.
The decision to develop so many characters simultaneously does result in an opening half which plays out like a slow, elongated introduction. Combined with editing which rapidly jumps between characters and even time periods, the pacing can drag at times. Thankfully characters like Cassidy keep the show from stagnating and viewers are soon rewarded with an impactful second half which combines fast narrative pacing with some of the most creatively shot action sequences seen this year.
Preacher’s use of violence quickly became one of its more surprising elements. Through the rise of shows such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, shocking audiences with sudden character deaths and gore has become almost formulaic. Yet whilst there is certainly high quality gore to be found, it is used in an almost Tarantino-esque manner. For Cassidy, we can get balls to the blood covered wall lunacy. Elsewhere we see brief glimpses before cutting away to highlight the sound design and acting. This not only helps make the bloodshed we do see more impactful but also brings more attention to other elements of the action. Put simply, the violence is used to accentuate the scene and characters rather than acting as a source of attention.
Much like season 1 of Breaking Bad, Preacher is a show which may require extra patience on the part of the viewer due to the slow and somewhat abrasive nature of the opening half. However, characters like Cassidy keep the show entertaining and the reward is a second half which takes the show beyond initial expectations and sets up an enticing future.