Preacher, Season One (Blu-ray / DVD)

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PreacherStarring Dominic Cooper, Tom Brooke, W. Brown, Ian Colletti, Jackie Earle Haley

Directed by Various

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s iconic graphic novel Preacher had many false starts along the way to a live action version. Over the years filmmakers like Sam Mendes, Rachel Talalay and Kevin Smith tried to make it a movie, but the epic narrative meant that was no easy task. Mark Steven Johnson planned an HBO series at one stage, which fell apart because the network was worried about the religious aspects. That, and maybe they figured the director of Ghost Rider and Daredevil wasn’t the best man for the job.

The series eventually landed at AMC, with adaptation duties falling to Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who aren’t really the obvious choices. It turns out they’re better equipped than most of the previous candidates, since they’re able to combine absurdist humour and graphic violence with a fair amount of heart.

The premise of the show has Jesse Custer, an ex-con turned preacher of a small Texas town, become possessed by a powerful spirit, which grants him the power to control people with his voice. While coming to terms with this ability, he has to deal with his vengeance-seeking ex Tulip (Ruth Negga), a trouble-bound Irish vampire named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) and a town of misfits, freaks and villains. Oh, and some angels want to cut the spirit out of him with a chainsaw.

Fans of the comic will be in for a surprise with “Preacher” since instead of diving into the central chase – which I won’t spoil for the uninitiated, it focuses on Jesse’s attempt to save his hometown. It takes time to develop the residents of Annville and lets Jesse do some actual preaching, which he didn’t much of in the comic. The show also remixes the source material, meaning events play out in unexpected ways.

Adapting the graphic novel was always going to be tricky, since it shifts gears from funny to emotional to horrific with ease. Ennis had a firm grasp on that shifting tone, but the show stumbles with it occasionally. The humour can be great when it lands, and awkward when it doesn’t. The comical British angels, for instance, aren’t the laugh riot the show thinks they are. Likewise, the shift between heavy dramatic scenes with tongue-in-cheek ones can feel jarring.

On the flipside, “Preacher” has acquired a great cast. Dominic Cooper exudes easy-going charm as Jesse, but he’s able to dig into the darker side, like the God complex the preacher develop thanks to his newfound powers. Ruth Negga is the perfect Tulip and pretty much steals the show with a mix of steeliness and vulnerability, even though the story often leaves her sidelined. Gilgun is a treat as Cassidy, tapping into his fun-loving persona, while also teasing his uglier side.

Even the supporting characters are developed in intriguing ways. Sheriff Root has more going on than being the mean-spirited arsehole he was in the comic, and his son – the aptly named Arseface – goes beyond being a gross-out gag. Graham McTavish cuts an imposing figure as The Saint of Killers, though he’s not given much to do in season one. The series also lacks a dynamic threat, with Jesse’s conflict with meat baron Quincannon failing to inspire much conflict. Jackie Earle Haley is a fine actor, but Quincannon is too much of a goofy stereotype to be taken seriously and is little more than a device to drive the events of the finale.

“Preacher” isn’t afraid to spill some blood either, with Cassidy’s intro and a showdown with an unkillable enemy being delightful. The religious aspects lack the bite they had twenty years ago, but it strikes a good balance between faith and philosophy, so believers and atheists alike should be able to get along with the show.

The season one DVD comes with deleted and extended scenes and a couple of featurettes. Some of the deleted scenes are interesting – like Elizabeth Perkins playing a gender-flipped version of Quincannon – but there’s nothing here the show misses. Likewise, the featurettes – “The Unfilmable Pilot” and “The Stunts of Preacher” – are mainly fluffy EPK pieces, though the occasional nugget of information comes out of them.

The first season of “Preacher” is messy and uneven, but it’s also fresh, funny television with a terrific cast. It was something of a slow burn, but the payoff is worth it, and since there’s so much juicy material from the comic yet to be mined, the future of the series is looking bright indeed.

Special Features:

  • Deleted & Extended Scenes
  • “The Unfilmable Pilot”
  • “The Stunts of Preacher”

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