This past Friday I was one of the lucky souls to get a preview screening of the first episode of the latest comic-to-live action adaptation over at AMC, Preacher. We were treated to popcorn, drinks, little souvenirs, and even a Q & A with some of the cast and crew. Now, freebies are all well and good, and face time with the people that brought this comic to life is even better, but was it any good?
There are many ways to judge an adaptation, particularly a comic-to-live-action translation as it has become commonplace. How faithful should an adaptation be? If it's too faithful to the source material, it could end up losing something in trying to make a direct translation, like how Watchmen lost a lot of it’s meaning despite rarely straying from the source material by cutting out the black freighter material. If it moves too far from the source material, a large segment of fans of the source material could condemn it and potentially keep the show from taking off, like that live action Birds of Prey show that we all try to act like never happened.
The first episode of Preacher manages to make some fairly noticeable changes to the source material, even introducing characters we don't see in the comics until a few issues or so in, while staying true to the spirit and intentions of the piece. It changes gears from a reflective tale of small-town values, to black comedy, to supernatural grindhouse splatter-fest so smooth and seamlessly that it might take you a second to catch up.
AMC’s The Walking Dead has done a great job at balancing faithfulness to the source material with creating something new, which is why I have faith in this adaptation of Preacher. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the driving force behind this show, genuinely feel that Preacher is one of the greatest comics of all time. That combined with a good relationship and proper producing credits to creators of the Vertigo comic series, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, as well as bringing on Sam Catlin of Breaking Bad fame makes it hard to not have a little bit of faith in Preacher. The cast was all but entirely unfamiliar to me, and obviously that can make or break your show.
Now that I've gotten a chance to watch it, I can honestly say that Dominic Cooper as our preacher Jesse Custer, Joseph Gilgun as the morally ambiguous vampire Cassidy, and Ruth Negga as the one-girl army of Tulip O’Hare were the best choices they could have made. All of the dialogue comes off clever without seeming too clever for the people spouting it. Tulip may end up being the new kick-ass strong female protagonist that we all clamor over, and I think it’s great that they didn’t make Ruth Negga blonde just because Tulip is blonde in the comic. Even Ian Colletti as Arseface brings a surprisingly touching and sympathetic interpretation to the character that caught me off guard.
Every one of our principal characters is given the opportunity to shine in this first outing, and by shine I mean beat the living hell out of someone. We get to see Jesse try his best to be good, Cassidy find painfully funny ways to drink blood, and Tulip kill a man using something very unexpected. It may even be a first in television. You’ll know it when you see it. Oh, and they kill off a religious icon in a way that may end up being the best joke of this episode. Keep an eye out for it.
Preacher even gives us just a little bit of queerness. It really isn’t much, but there is a scene at a bar where a man accuses Jesse of being hit with a dark and handsome stick that’s taken well. Not the queerest scene on television, but it’s a promising scene for a pilot episode and gives me hope that we’ll see more queerness as the show continues.
I can’t recommend the first episode Preacher enough. In a world currently dominated by fairly formulaic superhero comic TV adaptations with varying degrees of success, Preacher is a blood-splattered, heretical breath of fresh air. I can’t wait until the next episode, and as someone that’s really bad at keeping on top of tv shows, that’s saying a lot. May this be the start of something great.
Despite my glowing recommendation, you may want to avoid showing this to kids, the deeply religious, and the faint of heart. Especially if they can’t take a joke.
Quality: 5 out of 5 stars.
Queerness: 2 out of 6 Kinseys.
You can catch Preacher on AMC Sundays at 10pm.