Martin Carr reviews the ninth episode of Preacher…
Preacher will become a landmark series. People will look back at this ‘R’ rated piece of ephemera in years to come and remember what was done here. As an example of everything being done right there are few comparisons which readily spring to mind. Only Breaking Bad from a tonal perspective comes close, while others may say Arrow, Grimm and Supernatural. But this programme is not so easily categorised and all the better for it.
A perfect example are those old Western flashbacks featuring a grizzled cowboy, Indian tree decoration and female violation with a side order of child spectator. These are part homage with a red rating, verging on the caricature in content, but carried off with style due to Graham McTavish and that characterisation. Lack of context to a present day has made it more and more incongruous and therefore inherently intriguing. When juxtaposed with the tonal shifts of cartoon violence, moments of pathos and solid acting on display we find ourselves in rarefied company.
Between the Abbott and Costello elements of DeBlanc and Fiore and genuine poignancy displayed by Jesse, Cassidy and Tulip. Preacher skates a fine line each week between the abhorrent and touching with barely a misstep. That Emily has come out of the closet and shown herself to be as diabolical and single minded as everyone else, only adds fuel to that fire. Meanwhile the increasing mania of Sheriff Root over the disappearance of Eugene is pushing him closer to a breakdown, as Annville begins to resemble damnation personified.
Where that Psycho clip comes into play is another matter altogether. With its allusion to people playing out different roles, being stuck in a circumstance by birth rather than design speaks to me of the role destiny plays for us all. These may sound like deep issues to be bringing up in relation to a graphic novel adaptation, but trust me they are there. Free will, religious influence and belief in a higher power remain central to the ideas being explored through Preacher and remains essential to why it works. How programme makers Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and Sam Catlin have converted all these frankly disturbing elements into mainstream entertainment is a bigger mystery.
Every one of these people has reprehensible written all over them. They are all out for themselves but the blue touch paper beneath it all is Jesse Custer. If you go deeper the implication is that Heaven made a mistake, God is not omnipotent and their big plan has gone off the rails somewhat. But as a pop at the hypocrisy of organised religion you could put Preacher alongside Dogma and understand why Rogen is involved instantly. This is Kevin Smith territory without an ending which blows its load in the first half. Preacher is entertainment for those who still revel in independent thought, believe in the individual and consider programmes to useful for more than placating the docile masses.