The Preacher pilot reveals little - Great cast, though.
AMC's Preacher is the adaptation of a comic book that many would consider unfilmable. Watching the pilot that came out on May 22, someone unfamiliar with the story may not see why that would be the case.
This is achieved by the pilot being a slow and measured build up that only hints at the carnage that is to come. Know that Preacher, the comic, is one that quite literally holds nothing sacred and cares not a bit if you find it offensive. If the show is to be at all faithful to its source, subsequent episodes must show the inconceivable – I can't really imagine it'll have the courage to cross the lines the comic does, but I'm aware that The Saint of Killers has been cast. Fans of the comic will know what that implies.
There is very little in the hour-length pilot that's truly shocking, though there's more than enough to tell you what the comics valued: a cynical worldview, a lack of respect for all authority, fast-talking characters and lots of violence to those who cross our protagonists. It pulls no punches with its visuals: a man explodes in front of a church congregation. It even has a casual news broadcast running in the background of a scene that informs you Tom Cruise has also spontaneously exploded.
Preacher isn't just about being very naughty, it's primarily memorable for its trio of protagonists and I'm happy to say that every one of them has stellar casting. We meet Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), doubting, ineffectual preacher with a bad past; Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga), Jesse's resourceful, criminal ex; and Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), Irish vampire. It's hard to describe what I'd expect of an Irish vampire, but Gilgun hits all the right notes and I'm excited to see if he can handle the more emotionally complex Cassidy story arcs that happen later in the comics. Ruth Negga steals the show and it's worth watching the pilot just to see her kick butt and have the time of her life.
Less immediately winning is Dominic Cooper, but that seems to be by design. Jesse Custer is a complex character but the show version begins in a state of brooding and it's a long time into the pilot before we see him break loose and knock some heads together. This isn't criticism as Cooper, and his supporting actors, do a very fine job of depicting a well-meaning preacher trying to help his troubled flock, but powerless to do so. The problems are treated with more respect and gravitas than in the comics, where misanthropy transformed these characters into jokes. It feels more grown-up.
The trouble is that Preacher isn't terribly grown-up to begin with. It's possible that the show will be able to soften Garth Ennis' story for TV while retaining the sense of fun and outrage. It's managed it so far, with the meditative sections resting well enough beside the gory slapstick. Yet while the pilot's slow pace and lack of reveals (barely anything is explicitly identified) have worked well enough so far, they may be a mask for the showrunners' hesitance in getting themselves deep into the quicksand of Preacher's actual plot.
Great cast for a well-executed pilot, but with far too many questions left unanswered to be able to tell what sort of show it'll be going forward, let alone how good it'll be as an adaptation. Let's see if we can get some answers on June 5.