Television

Loving/Hating AMC’s Preacher TV Series

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– by Brandon Rucker –

@ruckerwriter

Who as a fan of Preacher since originally discovering the comic in the Spring of 1996 has a complicated love/hate relationship with the adapted TV show.


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Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer.

It’s time I finally offer up a mea culpa to those who said the sanctity of the original Preacher comic series would be “ruined” by AMC’s TV adaptation, especially courtesy of exec producer/writer Seth Rogen (and his buddies/co-developers Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin). It’s one thing to change the story to fit into modern times — fine, I get it. But to significantly change the characters — I don’t care about cosmetic changes because it’s live-action actors versus drawings on paper — but to change them from the inside, to sully their original essence, well, that’s egregious. Having reached the finale of the second season, I’ve seen enough changes to Jesse Custer (played by Dominic Cooper) and especially Tulip O’Hare (played by Ruth Negga) that at times tempted to condemn the entire adaptation. But then there are times when the show proves to have some genius within its content. It’s been a roller ride of thoughts and emotions in that sometimes I’ve just found it difficult to care for these characters and their story, and without that, how the hell can I call this show “Preacher” beyond name only?

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Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy.

I must say, though, that one of the glowing gems of the show is Irish vampire Cassidy (played wonderfully by Irishman Joseph Gilgun). Minor (and major) changes aside, Cassidy has been pretty much great through both seasons, even if somewhat relegated to to the sidelines from time to time. 

I don’t remember every little detail of the source material, because yes it’s been YEARS since I read all the trade paperbacks (the series is now 22 years old), but I don’t even need to reread it because the heart and essence of something like that just stays with you. It leaves and indelible impression. Like I told the wife (whose never read the comics but has been watching it with me), the comic series was fundamentally about friendship, honor and Southernwestern-fried romanticism, with a hearty dose of dark (and absurdist) humor. The TV show lacks that romantic aspect, there’s no real emphasis on honor, the humor is dark only (Jesse, Cassidy nor Tulip ever really crack a true smile, let alone laugh often and mirthfully enough), and the friendship/relationship dynamic is askew way too early and with a very flimsy foundation between Jesse and Tulip, and a fast-tracked, yet muted bond between Jesse and Cassidy, meaning there’s very little ground work and development shown.

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Ruth Negga as Tulip O’Hare.

And speaking of Tulip, for fuck’s sake, she’s a bit one-noted with all sharp edges and none of the tenderness and heart of the original character from the comics. They’re filling her backstory with tragedy, but it’s all noise when you ultimately lack sympathy/empathy for a character. I don’t remember Jesse being so morose and out of control/violent. Well, not this early in the overall saga, at least. He was more balanced early on.

I will admit that in context of itself, it’s not a “bad” show, which is why I’ll still watch it with the wife, who has a completely different experience having not read the comics. My issue, as stated above, is in relation to the source material. Hell, not even so much the material, but the essence of it.

My friends can attest that I’ve never been a hardcore guy when it comes to adaptations. I’m always more forgiving and tolerant than most geeks I know when it comes to changes made in adapted material, say like the X-Men movies for example. So one has gotta figure some real shenanigans are afoot if I’m calling them out.


Some cool things about Season Two

  • Gave Cassidy a grown adult son Denis (played by Ronald Guttman) who was a dying old man that spoke much French and very little English and needed his vampire papa to ‘cure’ his illness.
  • Brought in Herr Starr commander of The Grail played wonderfully, dryly and hilariously by Pip Torrens.
  • A strange, creepy, trippy exploration of Hell.
  • Noah Taylor playing Adolf Hitler in Hell while mentoring Eugene Root/Arseface as he tries to escape the infernal realm that Jesse sent him to with the Word.
  • Julie Ann Emery playing a deceptively hot take on Lara Featherstone . . .
  • The Saint of Killers (played menacingly by Graham McTavish) . . . his pursuit almost went on too long though.
  • Scenes of Angelville with Grandma and company . . .

So . . . about that Season Two finale

*** SPOILER WARNING ***

Emotionally flatlined. What I mean by that is the climax — well part of it, where Tulip is shot and killed by Featherstone — lacks the emotional punch to the gut or heart that it’s supposed to have. Why? Because as I mentioned above, there’s precious little romance or even loving bond between Tulip and Jesse (and by extension, Tulip and Cassidy), and then if you factor in the fact that she’s not exactly been portrayed as especially lovable (that hard edge and lack of tenderness I mentioned), let alone likable, there’s not much emotion provoked from her ‘death’ scene.* The only slightly emotive aspect to the climax was Jesse and Cassidy in a knockdown fight due to the seeming demise of Tulip.

* The episode closes with Jesse and Cassidy headed to Angelville, apparently so that his creepy, crazy, too-evil-to-die Grandma to work some of her dark magic to hopefully revive Tulip . . . at a terrible cost to Jesse and friends.

How can I not return for Season 3??? Like I said, it’s a love/hate affair for Preacher and I.


Bonus Content

Here’s a flashback from my blog last year regarding Season One to further illustrate my love/hate relationship with the show.

++ After the excellent and humorous 6th episode “Sundowner” from a couple of weeks back, PREACHER and I have finally reached an accord with each other, I suppose. I’m starting to judge it less in comparison to its comic book/graphic novel source material, finally. Last week’s episode, “He Gone” was fairly good. Still, I have issues with Cassidy and Tulip hooking up so early in the overall scheme of things. And while Tulip’s TV portrayal has been a tour-de-force by Ruth Negga, her likability compared to comic book Tulip has been compromised, thus far, IMHO. Yet, overall, I’m still entertained and intrigued at this point, so I’m in for the long haul. — Me on July 17, 2016.


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The CBU’s executive editor Brandon Rucker is a former comics retailer during the boom-and-bust 1990s. Brandon is also a published author of short fiction and a former fiction editor. In the Summer of 2011 he was one of the three co-founders of a social media group of comics geeks. In 2014 this special collective needed a new name, so he suggested The Comic Book Underground and it stuck.

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