Preacher has all the trademarks of an AMC show. It's crude, it's violent and it's remarkably gory. The amount of gore used in the first episode of the newest show on the network makes Doom look like child's play.
And while its dedication to the blasphemous comic is impressive in itself, the question is how well does the adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillion's comic work on television?
For the most part, pretty damn well. The tone is almost spot on for those worried that restrictions and limitations would be put in place and the portrayal of the characters from the cast is better than I could have hoped for.
Still, there are a few issues that are hard to overlook. The actual filming of the show moves so rapidly that it's almost nauseating at parts and there are narrative moments that feel particularly weak.
I enjoyed Preacher and will continue watching for the remainder of the season, but it would be remiss of me to not call out a few elements of the show that don't work, and unfortunately, they do exist.
Better than I could have hoped for
For the most part, Preacher is a wildly successful adaptation. For fans of the original series worried that the tone of the comic would be lost or too much would be changed, you can rest assured that executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were nothing but faithful in incorporating as much of the comic as they could.
The pilot episode starts with a mysterious cosmic event taking place, which may be a bit confusing for newcomers to the franchise, but it delves into the gory nature the comic is known for within the first five minutes. In keeping this review spoiler-free, I won't describe the nitty and gritty details of what occurs, but it's the kind of unapologetic, nonsensical violence that we all enjoyed from the comic.
From that moment forward, it's a nonstop descent into maelstrom with every scene in a competition with the previous one to out gore what the audience has just seen.
While Rogen and Goldberg walk the fine line between exploitative and loyal, nothing that happens in the pilot ever feels out of place. Even the most ludicrous moments feel justified. There's just enough context given within the first hour of the show to pardon any notion of ridiculousness that comes with some of the scenes, especially for those new to Preacher as a whole.
A large part of the reason Rogen and Goldberg are allowed to get away with some of the more questionable moments in the pilot is because of the strength of their cast. Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun make up the main trio of characters: the preacher Jesse Custer, his ex-girlfriend Tulip O'Hare and the Irish vampire, Cassidy.
In order for a series like this to really work, there needs to be a cast that can sell the insanity of it as a believable premise and these three actors do that remarkably well. Especially Negga, who deserves an entire article devoted to her portrayal of badass Tulip to properly explain just how fantastic she really is.
Tulip is, without a doubt, the best part of the series. So much that everything else that happens to be great pales in comparison. She's smart, charming and above all else, fiercely independent. Not only is she the best character, but she also has one of the best scenes in the pilot, which recalls Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse.
To her credit, Negga nails the two sides of Tulip's character, switching seamlessly between an almost innocent girl on the run and a no-holds-barred criminal with a taste for blood. While Custer and Cassidy are interesting characters in their own right and while each has a show-stealing scene, it's Tulip that you become most interested in and whom you desperately want to see more of.
There's also quite a bit of action happening for those that were worried it might be a little too slow-paced. One scene in particular, featuring everyone's favorite alcoholic vampire, perfectly combines gore, violence and comedy that fans are going to be looking for coming in. For me, it was the precise moment I was looking for coming into the series and felt most like the Preacher I had come up reading, despite there being more accurate scenes within the show itself.
The question of whether or not it feels like it's too gory or it's too violent is most prominent within these scenes and it's hard to give an answer to that question because it's so subjective in nature. If you're someone who doesn't like heavy gore or violence, Preacher probably isn't the show for you.
On a scale of AMC's least violent show, Halt and Catch Fire, to AMC's most violent show, a toss up between Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, Preacher is by far the most gruesome. But that's because it needs to be. In order to feel like the comic and appease fans of Ennis and Dillon's work, there couldn't be any restraints on just how bloody violent — or bloody and violent — the show could be.
If you're someone who doesn't like heavy gore or violence, Preacher probably isn't the show for you.
And it's AMC's decision to not put any restraints on the show in that regard that ultimately make it as successful as it is.
However, as I said at the beginning of this review, there are a few problems with the series that distract from time to time and should be acknowledged.
The most glaring is the actual filming, especially during action-heavy sequences, that can come across as rather disorienting. There were moments where I needed to turn away, not because of the amount of blood splashing across the screen, but because the camera movements were so jarring it was like a light tinge of vertigo. There's a way to capture long and complicated fight scenes well — just look at John Wick — and a way not to do them well. Preacher is a perfect example of the latter.
The choreography may be wicked, but I found it hard to watch all at once without turning away at least once because of the quick movements.
Like The Walking Dead, Preacher can be slow-moving. Unlike the television adaptation of Robert Kirkman's zombie comic, however, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg don't want to indulge the quieter moments and explore them.
Instead, they're rushed through to the next joke or violent encounter. While that's their decision to make, there's something to be said for allowing lollygagging from time to time.
Still, these issues are minimal, and as a whole, Preacher delivers just the right amount of carnage and blasphemous storytelling we were hoping for.
AMC wants it to be their new flagship series, taking over for The Walking Dead whose end is slowly creeping up. While it's difficult to say for certain whether or not Preacher can be that show, there's a good chance it may be. There's just enough curiosity to make me want to watch every new episode the minute it's available and I genuinely don't know what to expect out of each new scene.
Hook, line and sinker, AMC.