This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 3 Episode 1
I didn’t realize how much I missed AMC’s gonzo comic book adaptation of Preacher until its season three premiere, “Angelville.” This one episode contains the elements that make for such off-the-wall television: quirky, twisted humor, supernatural shenanigans, brutal brawls, and characters we love to hate. Indeed, Preacher is good with bad guys—the worst kinds of people. Unsavory malcontents with mean streaks a mile long. Odin Quincannon. Herr Starr. The Saint of Killers. Season three adds a few more baddies to this formidable rogues gallery. But let’s not forget, our heroes aren’t exactly saints themselves. Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare, and the vampire Cassidy—these are flawed people with mean streaks of their own, and rogues in their own right. But I suppose their sins, such as they are, mean very little in a universe in which God has shirked his Almighty duties and gone rogue himself.
Which brings us to Preacher’s raison d’être—Jesse’s search for the errant Almighty. What started off at the end of season one as a road trip among friends has, over the course of the show, become an interesting study in the many creative ways in which people (rogues or otherwise) are made to suffer. Sometimes characters languish in Hells of their own devising. Sometimes they languish in the actual Hell itself, whether they deserve to be there or not. Preacher excels at these sorts of morality plays. We get more of the same in this episode—but more about Purgatory in a bit.
“Angelville” picks up where last season’s finale left off, with Tulip slumped in the back seat of her car, dead from a gunshot wound. Jesse and Cassidy, who had very different ideas of how to save her, are still at each other’s throats. But they’re not the worst people in the room. No, that honor is reserved for new characters Madame “Gran’ma” L’Angelle (Betty Buckley) and her faithful enforcer, Jody (Jeremy Childs).
Gran’ma is an ugly, hideous person like she is in the comics. But unlike the comic page, her ugliness appears to only be on the inside. It’s an interesting concession for the show to make, given the fidelity to Eugene’s horrific (and dare I say iconic) disfigurement. Buckley is so well-cast and so convincing in the role, though, that to me, she is Gran’ma—no special make-up required.
As for Jody—after this episode, I can’t imagine anyone else but Childs playing the part. He’s as mean and as nasty as you’d expect or want Jody to be, a giant of a man who’s anything but gentle. He truly seems like he stepped right off the comic book page.
Between Jody and Gran’ma, it’s easy to see why Jesse ran away the second he could. Were it not for Tulip, Jesse would likely never go back to that house of horrors. And who could blame him? After all, if Madame L’Angelle could inflict such terrible cruelty upon her own daughter, what sort of traumas did young Jesse endure? (This is a rhetorical question if you’ve read the comic. I only hope the show delves more into what has been hinted at in the first two seasons.)
But Jesse Custer hasn’t cornered the market on traumatic upbringings.
Tulip may be dead, but her soul is biding its time in Purgatory, a nondescript limbo passing itself off as some sort of hellish sitcom replete with a grating laugh-track. Except there’s nothing funny about this situation. Tulip is forced to relive moments from her own troubled childhood. Mom is turning tricks in the next room while Tulip’s fresh-from-prison father tries to start over again. But as Tulip has said many times before, the O’Hare name doesn’t carry much weight in the world. This is a family doomed to fail.
Meanwhile, Jesse and Cassidy work together to bring Tulip back, though not out of loyalty to one another. Their friendship is in a purgatory of its own—and there may not be enough magic in the world to resurrect it. Preacher doesn’t shy away from this dynamic. Indeed, the episode doubles down on this bad blood, positioning Cassidy as someone who may truly be in the running for Tulip’s affections. Whether this is due to genuine interest or black magic is hard to say, but I’m hoping it’s the latter. This isn’t to say I want Tulip to be manipulated into loving Cassidy, but this would hew closer to the source material. (Not that I loved this particular storyline in the comic, but I’m curious to see how it might play out in Sam Catlin’s capable hands.)
Overall, Preacher is off to a very strong start. And I think trimming season three down from 13 episodes to 10 is the right move. Last season felt a little long, which meant characters sometimes languished for lack of forward momentum. “Angelville,” though, gets so much right that I can’t wait to see what the next nine episodes bring.
Some closing thoughts
Colin Cunningham as T.C. and Liz McGeever as Jesse’s mother round out this season’s new characters. Like Gran’ma and Jody, they play pivotal roles in Jesse’s life—which suggests we’ll see even more of the comic onscreen.
Jesse’s phone call to purgatory is a nifty callback to the answering machine message in season one that ultimately drew Tulip back to Jesse.
I still don’t understand how Jesse can hold his own against Cassidy in a fight. With Tulip dead, Cassidy had no reason to hold anything back.
It turns out Young Tulip is a reenactor, and not just a fragment of Tulip’s subconscious mind. She’s played by none other than Hell’s superintendent herself, Amy Hill. It’s another brilliant callback, this time to Preacher’s creative reimagining of the underworld.
Magnesium, Zinc, Mercury and a Magic Bullet make for one hell of a weird infomercial.