This review contains spoilers.
1.10 Call And Response
One of the biggest kudos I can give showrunner Sam Catlin and the rest of this show’s producers and creative staff is that they’re not afraid to be controversial. After all, this is a show in which the titular Preacher sends an otherwise innocent kid to Hell simply for being obnoxious. This is a show in which a man gets his dick shot off. This is a show in which Jackie Earle Haley does Jackie Earle Haley things like murder a whole bunch of environmentalists. There’s not a lot of places where this show won’t go, but one of the places that I assumed Preacher would pull up short would be the show’s more controversial religious aspects, such as Jesse calling God via the Angel Phone.
I’m not sure why I’m surprised that Preacher didn’t blink when it came to depicting God as an absent creator and the throne of heaven as empty save for an angel doing a poor imitation of the Almighty, and yet I am. It’s a fun moment, and it’s played out about as well as can be expected by Sam Catlin, who both wrote and directed this episode. Jesse struggles with the angel phone for what feels like eternity, but is probably only about five minutes in the actual world of Preacher.
Still, it’s wonderfully awkward, and perfectly paced. Jesse just can’t quite get the hang of the phone, and when he does figure out how to use it, he’s not getting an answer until long after he might expect to get an answer. When God—technically an angel pretending to be God—appears in all his bearded, white man glory, it’s actually pretty funny. At first glance, it’s everything popular culture would display as God. Big booming voice, seated on a throne, robes, blinding light, the sun outside going dark at his first appearance, and yet… while most of the people of Annville buy into it, Jesse included, the story begins to fall apart the more God is questioned.
Full credit to Sam Catlin, there are some good answers from Pretend God. However, the ruse doesn’t last, because this particular imitator doesn’t know that Jesse sent Eugene to Hell. Oops. The people of Annville respond in a pretty typical way; when they find out that God is missing, they start to riot and smash the place up. Children murder a paedophile, a man dressed as a Native American hangs himself next to his lover (I assume) in the full-body mascot suit, and no doubt the town hookers find themselves very busy, at least until a massive explosion blows Annville off the map.
It’s a bold move to close out an opening season. You introduce a whole town of characters, then you wipe them off the map with a massive poop-fuelled explosion. Of course, it’s not surprising that Jesse, upon finding out that God is missing, decides to go hunt him down and either help him or attack him, depending on how God responds to being hunted down by Jesse, Cassidy, and Tulip. Still, presumably, everyone else is dead. Donnie, Quincannon, Hugo Root, Emily… they’re all gone. That might be the bravest move of any show in recent history (assuming they all stay dead, and I believe that they will).
Granted, most of them had nothing to live for. Emily served the church; without that she was just a single mom who killed her boyfriend the mayor. Quincannon had the meat child he constructed, but all of the rest of his family were dead. Donnie was morose while his wife was frustrated. Hugo and his wife were missing their son, who they loved but who was also kind of annoying. Every good step taken by the people in the episode is wiped out by that revelation: Root’s forgiving Cassidy, Tulip and Jesse letting Carlos go alive, Donnie’s redemption by showing the preacher mercy and hiding him from the cops.
Given the town’s almost instant descent into violence and chaos and suicidal depression, a quick, sudden end by massive explosion might not be such a bad way to go. It sure beats falling into a well full of liquid waste. Meanwhile, next season of Preacher is shaping up to be a road show, which could provide plenty of opportunities for shenanigans.