SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers from the latest episode of AMC’s “Preacher” (and the Vertigo comic book series it’s adapted from) follow.
The very first scene in Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon‘s “Preacher” comic book series shows the three main characters — Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy — seated at the Five Aces Diner. As they enjoy breakfast, Jesse explains the power of Genesis, how it led to his entire congregation getting burnt to a crisp, and then preps the trio to embark on a mission to find God; to confront him on why He abandoned Heaven.
After an entire debut season — a stellar, blood-soaked one at that — the AMC adaptation of the comic finally arrives at this point, concluding its finale, “Call and Response,” with the gang’s car driving off into the distance. There’s one final money shot of The Saint of Killers gunning down the Seraph and growling “Preacher,” but going into Season 2, it looks like the show has more or less caught up with the comic.
The hour that precedes it might be the most horrific installment of “Preacher” yet, not only because of the shocking violence that overruns Annville (although that certainly plays a part), but because of the existential question at its core: How would the faithful respond to discovering that their God is actually horrible? It’s almost worse than finding out that God doesn’t exist at all. How would a fundamentalist Christian act if they saw their Creator on a video conference call, then found out he was merely an impersonator, and that no one knows where the real God actually is?
Simply put, a lot of people would go nuts, just like every last member of the congregation does. The mascots hang themselves, Odin Quincannon tries to bring back his daughter via meat sculpture, several schoolgirls murder the pedophilic bus driver (through castration, it appears), and — in the most consequential act of all — the employee at the reactor plant gets lost in an S&M fog, leaving his dominatrix to man the controls. Needless to say, she’s unable to keep the methane gas from igniting a fireball that sweeps across the town.
With the exception of Becky’s severed legs popping out of the rubble in the final scene with the Seraph, the episode doesn’t show who exactly gets killed in the blast, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire Annville population bit the dust. After all, it would be in line with building a second season that’s closer to the trajectory of the comic. Think about it. So many of the the show’s main characters (Mayor Person, Emily, the Schencks, etc.) were brand new, and the one that wasn’t (Sheriff Root) is long dead by the time that diner scene begins. Even Odin’s story is somewhat satellite to the main narrative of the Veritgo series, so the only people the show really needs to proceed with a faithful retelling are Jesse, Tulip, Cassidy, The Saint, Eugene and at least one of the angels — all of whom are still alive.
So if that’s the case; if “Call and Response” is meant to be a house-cleaning of sorts, it does beg the question: what was the first season for? Was there a point to expanding the “Preacher” universe just so it could wipe it out in the finale? Maybe. The further adventures of the main characters will no doubt be all the richer now that we’ve gotten to see how they fit in (or didn’t fit in) to small-town life. Their adventures will be all the richer now that we know more about where they came from and why they are the way they are. But it does seem a bit cruel to cut the stories of the aforementioned secondary characters short just as things are about to get cooking, particularly ones like Emily, who just had a major shift in her persona in last week’s “Finish the Song.”
Then again, what do I know? The second season might take a note from the first and completely divert from the comic by keeping some of these roles alive. Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and the rest of the writing team may have some very unconventional ideas in store for the rest of their series, in addition to some of the new folks they’ve introduced. If anything, their gleefully demented and painfully human first season has taught me to trust them as translators. “Preacher” may not be the typical comic book adaptation, but it is one of the best (so far, at least), and much like its source material, its success lies in not playing by the rules. So let’s hope it keeps breaking them.
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