The road to adapting Preacher has been a long and rocky one. But now, 20 years after the DC/Vertigo comic book debuted in 1995, the adaptation is finally here, and fortunately for fans, the wait was well worth it.
Like the comic, the debut episode tells the story of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a small-town Texas preacher with a sordid past, full of crime and regret. Now he's returned to his hometown to keep a promise he made to his long-dead father. But Jesse's heart isn't really into leading the good people of his town, and his past continues to haunt him, thanks to all the misdeeds he's done.
Things get even worse when Jesse's old crime buddy, Tulip (Ruth Negga) shows up and asks him why he's even there in the first place. The pilot episode sees Jesse finding his reason (and the comic book's origin story for the character).
For those comic book fans worried about the level of violence of the original story getting toned down in the TV series: don't. This is probably the most violent and gruesome show currently on TV, and that's even in comparison with The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. AMC shows a no-holds-barred approach to the over-the-top violence from the books and it's likely that a few scenes in the pilot episode will even make viewers squirm.
But what really makes these scenes so disturbing is the dark humor that accompanies them, especially for those with a twisted sense of humor (which was necessary for reading the comic book series). Some of these moments are even laugh-out-loud: it's a delicate balance between the crazy violence and the humor that fans of the Preacher comic book will expect.
And that's what's important here: the Preacher TV series will, expectedly, take small departures from its original source material, but if the pilot episode is any indication, the tone of the comics is very much in place, right from the beginning. The dark humor, the twisted scenarios and the characters all just feel like the early '90s Vertigo books that fans loved.
The casting is also spot on: Cooper brings a real gravitas to Jesse, and once he gets hit with "the change," it's evident that everything is about to get even more interesting. He's a man struggling not just with faith, but with everything, and he plays it well. Joseph Gilgun is also brilliant as the vampire Cassidy, although Misfits fans might see little hints of Rudy thrown in for good measure. Ian Colletti has his work cut out for him as Arseface, but he creates a character that is actually sympathetic.
It's Negga's take on Tulip, though, that really shines in the first episode. She balances the character's innocence with a butt-kicking attitude that makes her a joy to watch: a scene where she interacts with two children comes to mind. When she leaves those two kids, she's a hero to them, although in reality, she should probably terrify them.
One thing to note, though: a lot happens in the first episode. There is very little time for any kind of quiet reflection for any of the characters and they get launched into action head first with very little warning. It often feels jarring for the show to move at this pace, but when compared to AMC's other comic book adaptation, The Walking Dead, it's also refreshing. Don't expect characters to just sit around and pine about life in Preacher: there's too much to do.
Preacher premieres at 10 p.m. EDT on May 22 on AMC.