PREACHER: Episode 10, Season 1: 'Call And Response'
Cast: Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun, Ruth Negga, Lucy Griffiths, W. Earl Brown, Tom Brooke, Ian Colletti
Director: Sam Catlin
Matt C: The first season of Preacher has often been as mystifying as it has been entertaining. It was obvious early on that Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and showrunner Sam Catlin weren't going for a direct adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's seminal comic book series, but the decision to spend the majority of the ten episodes within the confines of Annville, Texas meant that what we got was a kind of prequel to what occurred in the comics, incorporating various elements from the source material but mostly working rather languidly towards a place where the characters could start truly behaving like their printed-page counterparts. It wasn't exactly the wrong decision to make because - as plenty of people have pointed out (including Ennis himself) - diving headlong into the first arc from the book would probably come across as a little too deranged to unfamiliar audiences, the weirdness requiring some sort of grounding before the more anarchic approach to storytelling beds in. Of course, you're not going find a TV show with Rogen at the helm that doesn't push the boundaries to some extent, and when things did get moving that sense of derangement came into the spotlight in a frequently amusing and inventive manner. What's held it back from being the show it really has the potential to be so far has been the way it's meandered on occasion, jerking forward via some out-of-character moments, and getting distracted by stuff that has ultimately proven to be inconsequential to the overall narrative.
Catlin really made his mark in the TV world as a writer/producer on Breaking Bad, and you see the influence that series has had on Preacher, from the sun-bleached visual aesthetic, to the black humour that constantly bubbles at the surface, to the inspired musical cues that set the tone brilliantly. Alongside Rogen and Goldenberg, he's made a very admirable attempt at converting the Ennis/Dillon tome onto the screen, and while there are things that haven't always worked - it still has a bit of a way to go before it becomes true 'watercooler TV' - there are far more positives than negatives on display, and the casting has gradually revealed itself to be on point. No, these aren't exact copies of the characters that fans have known and loved over the past couple of decades, but they definitely capture their spirit, with each of the main trio (Cooper, Negga, Gilgun) making the interpretations of their illustrated opposite numbers their own (Gilgun's mischievous charm resulting in the most satisfying performance). This season finale pays off many of the teases (although some should have been wrapped up far sooner) while at the same time not quite delivering the resolution to several plot threads that probably deserved more closure. When 'God' finally shows up, it's a hilarious and effective scene, as is the bloody aftermath, but the lingering question is: why was it entirely necessary to spend so much time with the freaks, weirdos and perverts that made up the supporting cast?
With the road trip now under way, and a certain gunslinger in pursuit, there's every reason to suspect that Season 2 is where Preacher will come into its own. When not concerned with digression, the show has been wildly entertaining on a regular basis, even managing to inject pathos into a world where you've got reincarnating angels in ten-gallon hats trying to order hamburgers in motel lobbies. It's taken such a long time for anyone to get Preacher onto the screen that Rogen, Goldberg and Catlin need to be given credit for the many, many things they get right. It's not perfect, but it's unquestionably heading in the right direction, and if the destination proves to be as violently funny as much of the first season has been, it will be well worth going along for the ride. 7/10