‘Preacher’ (Season 1): What Worked and What Didn’t

Preacher’s first season was without question an interesting one. As a TV show, it offered plenty of exciting, creative moments, even as some of its characters and story arcs got a bit lost in the shuffle. As an adaptation, it struck an odd balance, faithfully adapting some elements while changing others, all while taking the unique angle of working as a prequel to the classic comic series. Some stuff worked, some didn’t, but overall, it was a solid season of television.

The main focus of the show, of course, was the titular preacher, Jesse Custer, and Dominic Cooper did a great job bringing the character to life. The challenge of the prequel is that we were mainly seeing the character as he tried to keep his darker inhibitions in check, but Cooper sold the simmering rage that existed just below the surface. And, when Jesse began to let loose with the power of Genesis, he was an imposing figure, one we could feel the threat of even as we waited to see where his arc would take him next.

With Jesse playing a more subdued role for much of the season, it fell to Ruth Negga’s Tulip and Joseph Gilgun’s Cassidy to play the more colorful, dangerous roles. Both characters delivered, with Negga a frequent standout in the role of Tulip. The biggest problem with these two, however, is that the show didn’t always seem to know what to do with them. These are two of the most important characters in the comic, but by making this season a prequel, it wasn’t immediately obvious what their arcs would be. Cassidy fared better here, serving as a voice of reason for Jesse, but Tulip felt adrift for most of the season.

The rest of the cast, meanwhile, all filled their roles to varying degrees of success. Donny and his wife ended up being surprisingly compelling characters, given their messed up relationship with each other and God, while Emily Griffiths brought a warmth to what could’ve easily been a thankless role as Emily. And special mention should go to Ian Colletti as Eugene, serving as the moral center for the show until his tragic departure. That said, he seems set to continue on as a voice in Jesse’s head, taking on the role John Wayne held in the comics.

On the flipside, the rest of the supporting cast filled their roles, but didn’t stand out. Sheriff Root played big roles in the pilot and finale, but he sort of disappeared throughout the middle of the season. Jackie Earle Haley, meanwhile, did solid work as Odin Quincannon, but the character appeared sporadically, never feeling like the big threat he seemed to be early on. And the Saint of Killers, though important to the story, probably should’ve been saved for just a cameo appearance at the end, his story arc being an infrequent, unsatisfying part of the season.

Though the cast was hit-or-miss, the show fired on all cylinders stylistically. From the low-budget opening of the first episode to the goofy God effects in the finale, the show went for a grungy, grindhouse appeal that carried through all aspects of the series. The fights were appropriately over-the-top and exciting, with the opening battle of “Sundowner” a clear highlight of thrills and fight choreography. And while the show never felt too sleazy, it make Annville feel like an unappealing place with just enough light that you understood why Jesse felt it could still be saved.

Ultimately, though, Annville was doomed, with a methane explosion wiping the town completely off the map. This brought the first season of Preacher to an end, setting the stage for the comic epic to begin in earnest next season. While it wasn’t an entirely necessary approach, crafting a prequel to the original was an interesting decision, guaranteeing fans something new and exciting should the show not get the chance to return for a second season. As it, what we got worked well at exploring who Jesse Custer was before his world fell apart and his mission to find God begins in earnest.