WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Season 3 premiere of Preacher, "Angelville," which debuted Sunday on AMC.
With its Season 3 premiere, AMC's Preacher finally feels as if it's found a balance. Season 1 favored giving the major players more of an origin story than Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's cult comic does, to the frustration of many fans of the source material, and Season 2 became bogged down in tedious conflict between Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy, despite featuring compelling subplots involving Eugene and Hitler, and the introduction of Herr Starr and the Grail. But Season 3 finally reaches an adaptation sweet spot where the comic series is more faithfully represented, and enhanced by a stellar supporting cast.
For the uninitiated, the episode's title "Angelville" refers to Jesse's other childhood home -- the bayou plantation owned and operated by his mother's side of the family -- the L'Angells. We learned last season that the family was practiced in voodoo and other forms of darker witchcraft, for lack of a better word, but this week we get a far more intimate introduction than provided through Jesse's flashbacks (not that his memories of being buried alive in a swamp as punishment weren't enough to tell us how things worked there). This episode makes it clear what the residents of this demonic and dilapidated house are capable of -- in more ways than one.
The episode picks up where the Season 2 finale, "The End of the Road," left off, with a desperate Jesse and Cassidy heading to Angelville to save Tulip, who died from a gunshot wound. Once they arrive, Jesse convinces his estranged grandmother Marie to bring Tulip back to life, but, of course, that kind of magic comes at a high price. Jesse agrees to remain at Angelville for the rest of his life, and Gran'ma seals the deal with Jesse's blood on a cloth napkin. It remains to be seen whether Jesse's corrupted soul will affect the validity of that agreement, but considering Herr Starr and Co. are set to return, and that the L'Angell's relationship with the Grail is promised to manifest in some fashion, it's safe to say Jesse might get out of this one on a technicality -- but not for a while.
And that's a good thing from an entertainment standpoint, because Angelville features some of Preacher's most compelling performances. In the comics, Marie L'Angell is as terrifying and ruthless as she is unpleasant to look at, and her henchmen Jody and T.C. make everyone in Deliverance look like prep students. This warped trio doesn't lose any of what makes them special in the translation to the small screen, but they're given added dimension that makes them more provocative than we had any right to anticipate.
Collin Cunningham's T.C. is delightfully backward in an innocent, but thoroughly disgusting, way. He provides the kind of comic relief Preacher's made its brand. He happily hops to any task set before him, and comments on how tight Tulip's skin is while he and Gran'ma prep her corpse for revitalization. His cheerful acceptance of the weirdness that surrounds him contrasts well with the audience's presumed horror and reminds us that part of this show's mission is to tickle as well as shock.