Papa, Don’t Preach

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Preacher Season 1, Episode 0

“Pilot”

SUMMARY: Jesse Custer gets superpowers and meets a vampire.


Syd: We’ll return to Young Justice next week. After the trauma of what happened to Kaldur, Margaret needs a week off. In the meantime, Foley and I will check out my dad’s favorite DC Comics adaptation, Preacher. I hear that the first season takes place before the comic series starts, so I guess it’s about a reverend with no superpowers who has never met a vampire. I imagine it’s going to be like 7th Heaven.

Foley: But hopefully with less pedophilia than Stephen Collins is famous for

Syd: No, how Garth Ennis rolls is to have the pedophilia in the first half of the story, then have someone beat the shit out of / shoot the pedophile. It’s called a dramatic arc.

Foley: I think it’s called “Righteous Fury”, the go-to for every Rage-a-holic looking for an outlet to allow their hormonal imbalance to be allowed in Society… Supposedly concocting and following through with rage fantasies is a lot easier than “Working on your mental issues”.

Syd: But if he didn’t have his issues, then The Boys would have ended after the second issue, which actually would have been a lot better now that I think of it.

Foley: I’ll be honest, I actually re-read Preacher a year or two ago in prep for this show coming out.

Syd: I read it over ten years ago, so I remember just about nothing. So I guess you’ll be the Syd and I’ll be the Margaret for this one.

Foley: I would say I would recommend reading it when you are 15, and never again after that… However the fact of the matter is, that since I’ve now read it as an adult, I can’t in good conscience tell ANYONE to read it. Like Fight Club or Boondock Saints, it’s something we think is cool and edgy when we’re younger, but is actually just toxic and kind of cringey. That said, this show was made by the team that gave us a giant devil’s dong in This Is The End… So I’m sure they’ll be able to navigate the tricky source material.

Syd: That is exactly the kind of style that a Preacher adaptation deserves. So, just like the last pilot we watched, we start in outer space.

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Foley: With, weirdly one of the fakest looking satellites I’ve ever seen… Like seriously, this made Star Trek ToS’ special effects look good… What was up with that?

Syd: The telecom companies always skimp on the CGI.

Foley: Also, like many pilots you have watched: The show opens with a comet-like object, the sound of a baby crying, and that comet crashing to Earth. Specifically… A weird green church in Africa.

Syd: The preacher in the church is talking about the Word of God when the object hits him and I guess that’s foreshadowing? But not really? Like, it’s supposed to be clever.

Foley: Can we take a second to ask why the church seemed to have its own dog? And not a street dog, but like a purebred German Shepherd.

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Syd: Do dogs not also need Jesus? Especially if they’re going to all go to Heaven.

Foley: Even unbaptised sinner dogs like Charlie go to heaven, sometimes even more than once… but that’s a story for another time. Because it’s been 5 minutes without any gore… So the African preacher explodes like a giant pustule.

Syd: First he tells the congregation to be quiet. And they put the Word of God reverb in his voice, but it’s weird to me that they’re quiet, but just like stunned silence, not unnatural or anything.

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Foley: I will say, I actually liked this. For people that haven’t read the comics, this shows what the power of Genesis does. Show is always better than tell.

Syd: That’s my point – it doesn’t really show. He says be quiet, and people look like they’re shocked by his voice’s reverb effect, not like anything supernatural just happened.

Foley: I’ll take it over a narrator saying “Now the Word of God is a funny thing, because when people hear it… They do what it says, no matter what it is the speaker told them to do.”

Syd: That’s close to a Chris Claremont line. “As a thief on the streets of Cairo, I heard the Word of God and now I must struggle to contain the beast within my soul. And do what the Word of God says, as all who hear the voice of God are compelled to do. Bub.”

Foley: As the police come to deal with the exploded preacher, the cross on the weird green church half falls down, making an inverted cross. It’s Symbology, don’t ya know?

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Syd: Then we cut to a dream sequence. Jesse Custer as a little kid watches his father get shot and promises to be good.

Foley: Truly, comedic gold.

Syd: He gets up and goes to church, where a vandal has rearranged the letters on the sign outside to a buttsex joke. That’s pretty much the level of this show.

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Foley: In an actually kind of fun departure from the source material, we actually get to see Jesse Custer as a preacher. It turns out he’s actually quite shit at it, even before he burned his entire flock to death with the Word of God.

Syd: When I read the comic, I wasn’t aware that giving a character the initials JC was meant to equate him to Jesus Christ. I just wanted to point that out, because I now judge every series that does this, because it’s tacky as hell. As much as I love John Constantine, that’s a dumb trope.

Foley: That just sounds like sour grapes… of wrath…

Syd: Of wrath of God?

Foley: God help us. Anyway, after the sermon there’s a gunshot and some loud asshole yelling about having “Abe Lincoln’d” the hell out of a squirrel. This not so subtly lets us know he’s a bad guy.

Syd: The squirrel was a Northern interventionist! He deserved what he got! Sic semper tyrannis! Of course, the guy’s son takes the fucking squirrel’s side and asks Jesse to beat his dad up for hurting his mom. Jesse refuses, knowing that violence will only beget further violence, which is wise, but as the writers of this show know, violence is also pretty rad, so there will be a lot of that begetting more violence as we go on.

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Foley: Cut to a very topical Red Skins reference. It would appear that Annville TX has gotten rid of their insulting mascot, and replaced it with a prairie dog. The townspeople have reacted to this change by… Dressing up in red-face and beating the shit out of the poor person in the mascot costume. Custer looks on while drinking Ratwater™ Whiskey in his car.

Syd: This is a thankfully brief bit of business that is interrupted when Jesse asks the sheriff to intervene on behalf of the battered mother. The Sheriff is a complete dick, as you would expect in this kind of story, and refuses to do anything.

Foley: If I have a major complaint about this show thus far, it’s that it’s set in a fictional version of Texas that only exists for people that have never traveled south of Connecticut. I’m not saying that the South does not have more than its fair share of issues, but this black and white “Everyone but the main characters are 2D dumb fucking hicks straight out of Dukes of Hazzard” thing kind of catches in my craw.

Syd: Well, the series has always been a bitter, cynical Irishman’s complaints about America. I really think if the setting had more nuance, the story would fall apart.

Foley: Fair, I can’t even get mad. It’s just being true to the source material.

Syd: Speaking of the Irish, we cut to a plane where Cassidy is entertaining some businessmen. He goes to the bathroom and notices that they have a Bible that is heavily annotated, tipping him off that they are religious nuts and mean him harm.

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Foley: The actor they got to play Cas is AMAZING. I could watch him give commentary on paint drying and call it a successful pilot. I loved him in Misfits, and I love him even more now.

Syd: But instead we get the show’s first big fight scene and it is blood-drenched and vicious and very well made. He drinks one guy’s blood, then stabs another with a bottle, then grabs an umbrella and Mary Poppins out of the plane.

Foley: Important detail, the Van Helsing he stabbed with the bottle: Cas uses the bottle sticking out of his heart to fill his flask of blood. He tapped him like a keg. It was honestly a perfect blend of awesome and hilarious.

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Syd: That’s why we like Preacher.

Foley: Thusfar, despite my complaints, the show has been a very good (and much necessarily updated) adaptation. However, now we’re gonna travel into the most treacherous of territories… If you’re Garth Ennis: Female Protagonists (or really, female characters in general). We are introduced to Tulip as she is driving a car, being garroted, and holding a gun. What follows is a SLOBBERKNOCKER of a fight scene while the car careens out of control at high speeds into a corn field. Tulip and this middle aged man fight over a map-guffin with guns, knives, garrotes, and weird cat-claw karate. Finally Tulip manages to subdue the nameless guy, just as the car clears the cornfield and lands in front of a farm house.

Syd: They apparently have the kind of car that keeps going forward at full speed with nobody at the wheel.

Foley: In fairness to them, they made a point of showing Tulip’s partner, who had been killed before this scene started, falling onto the gas pedal. However, this car apparently also is one of those gasohol models that runs on corn, because that corn field does NOT stop it. Like, at all.

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Syd: Tulip meets two kids whose parents are away for the whole day. Together, they make a homemade bazooka out of soup cans that, using the kids’ toy army men as ammunition, she uses to shoot a helicopter out of the sky. She also gives them solid life advice about hunting down ex-lovers.

Foley: I have a couple of weird issues with this establishing scene. Tulip is shown as not much more than a bunch of contrasting concepts. She bites the one guy’s ear clean off, and switches to honey-toned school marm in front of the kids. She has a ton of trouble killing one rando in the opening fight, but off-screen takes down an entire commando team (and a helicopter) armed with nothing but tin-cans and white lightning. This, in feel at least, is also not completely off from the source material… but is something I wish they had done better with in this show (I’d also like a female character that is NOT centered around maternity in some weird way). As a side-complaint: Tulip is also constantly SAYING instead of showing. A thing that persists throughout the whole episode.

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Syd: Next we see Cassidy having landed in a crater with his intestines strewn about. Fortunately, he is able to repair himself with the help of a cow that is just loaded with blood. It’s a good thing the fall left his head completely intact.

Foley: Luck of the Irish and all that.

Syd: I thought it was Luck of the Vampires. Potayto, potahto, I guess.

Foley: Up next, we get the battered housewife from earlier. She admits, fairly openly, to the Preacher that her husband beats her, and even scalds her with boiling water… but then in a creepy but somehow suddenly obvious turn-around: Explains that she likes it. Which is… well, perhaps a little too complicated for the writing team behind Sausage Party. Even if consensual, this is DEFINITELY not safe S&M, and is causing issues (see the son from earlier)… I honestly don’t understand the point of this.

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Syd: The point is that this show is edgy and mature, like a 90s comic book. They talk about adult things like sadomasochism without applying critical thought. This isn’t your daddy’s superhero show. I mean, it’s my daddy’s, but I don’t think it’s yours.

Foley: My daddy’s superhero would have been like John Galt I think? …Honestly in the same vein as most of Garth’s stuff. Checking back in with the Genesis world tour, our comet has now also exploded a Russian Orthodox preacher, leaving behind an inverted pentagram for.. Reasons (Other than stylistically matching the upside down cross from the African church).

Syd: Meanwhile, Tulip is trying to talk Jesse into a job – possibly the biggest one of their career. Jesse refuses, offering only exposition about their previous relationship.

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Foley: At this point, Tulip may as well be the narrator of a noir film. She’s literally stating both her own and even Jesse’s inner monologues… I did not like this scene.

Syd: Actually, I was fine with it, but I’m used to shows with much sloppier exposition.

Foley: They can’t all be Supergirls. At least that’s what I tell myself in order to actually keep watching new shows.

Syd: From there Jesse goes to Arseface’s house. His dad is making a smoothie for him. I started cracking up when they played this dramatic, ominous music before revealing his face. Come on, you have to get used to it if you’re going to stick with this series – which, by the way Jesse has, so it isn’t ominous for him at all.

Foley: Because… Jesse and Arseface are now friends?

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Syd: Well, he’s part of the party. They wanted all of the main characters to get together as quickly as possible.

Foley: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I HATE prequels. So far this has been the least horrible prequel I’ve sat through, but it still annoys me, like all prequels do. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the practical effects on the arseface makeup are honestly amazing. Well done to the makeup and prosthetics department (and to the poor actor for having to wear it all day during shoots).

Syd: Arseface is concerned that God is angry at him – probably over his attempted suicide – because he no longer hears God when he prays. Jesse reassures him that God doesn’t hold grudges.

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Foley: Weirdly, they do not give us any explanation for Arseface in the show. I assume they’ll go into it in a later episode, but it’s hard to say what I’d make of this character at this point if I didn’t already know his backstory.

Syd: Then Tom Cruise explodes.

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Foley: We’ve seen Genesis take out a catholic preacher, a byzantine preacher, and now he’s apparently tried to find purchase in a Xenu preacher? It’s just a news report on the background TV, blink and you’ll miss it, but it might honestly be my favorite Funny Background Event

Syd: Donnie – the abusive husband – shows up in full Confederate garb, thus justifying his “Abe Lincoln” squirrel remark by showing that he is in fact a Civil War enthusiast. He starts a fight with Jesse over talking with his wife, and my least favorite fight scene of the episode breaks out, with each of Donnie’s friends politely waiting their turn to attack one at a time.

Foley: I think it’s important to point out that at first Jesse refuses to fight back against Donnie punching him, until Donnie lets him know that he’s going to also go home and beat the shit out of his own child… As we know, beating children is the universal Berserker Button for all Anti-Heroes, so finally Jesse starts fighting back. I will also compliment the director, not for the fight choreography, but for the fact that this is the first time we see Jesse smiling and/or enjoying himself. Showing the thing that Tulip was saying earlier.

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Syd: Jesse fractures Donnie’s arm in a move that I’m sure I was supposed to read as badass, which gets him and Cassidy – who also happened to be in the bar – arrested.

Foley: Cas, was as always a joy to watch, so I won’t complain. What follows is a scene where Jesse tells his organist/accountant/love-interest(?) that he’s quitting the preacher life. There’s not much to say about it, I watched the scene less than half an hour ago, I’ve already forgotten most of it and wish I could forget the rest.

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Syd: Well, she takes the news dispassionately, then smashes her children’s iPad after Jesse leaves, showing that she cares about him, but doesn’t want him to know.

Foley: “Why won’t Sen-Preacher Notice me???”

Syd: Jesse goes to the church to pray for forgiveness and gets no response, except for a ghost-angel entering his body and knocking him unconscious for three days. Is that a sign?

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Foley: In that time, Cas has apparently moved into the church’s attic and also fixed the AC? Can I just say, I would love to just watch a show with Jesse and Cas as odd-couple room mates. No need for the plot to move forward for me.

Syd: So as he was in a coma until Sunday, he now has to lead services right as he wakes up. There is a young woman with an electric guitar doing a rock and roll version of “Amazing Grace.” From people’s reactions, I know it was supposed to be terrible, but, honestly, I’d listen to her demo.

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Foley: That part rang WAY too true to my childhood memories of church. The writers have obviously never been to Texas, but they HAVE been to a mass that was trying to be “hip”.

Syd: Jesse is confronted by a sad-sack character actor who is complaining about his mother. Jesse tells him to talk to her and open his heart, but they added the reverb to his voice, which we now know is bad news.

Foley: Like a reverse genie, Leon from Veep gets on a plane, orders a rent-a-car, visits his mother, talks to her, and then with a random machete, rips his heart out and manages to hand it to her before dying.

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Syd: What bothers me is that this is meant to be a literalization of Jesse’s Word, but actually, he doesn’t open his heart. He removes his heart. The heart itself is shown to be completely intact. Get your shit together, gory gross-out gag.

Foley: Very fair point, Leon was honestly pretty surgical with that machete. You’d think, even by accident, it’d be all ripped open.

Syd: Oblivious to what his parishioner had done, Jesse gives his sermon and just when he plans to announce his retirement, he loses his nerve and rededicates himself to the church. Yay?

Foley: Those of us who have read the comic know that this does not end well for them… OR really for anyone. Garth enjoys himself a crap-sack world.

GRADING THE EPISODE

Syd: A. This was easily the best pilot I have seen for this blog. Even shows I ultimately liked generally didn’t come together so quickly. I actually could return to this, unlike Krypton, which I’ll probably never see the second episode of.

Foley: A. This was honestly one of the best pilots I’ve seen in a long time. There were issues, as I stated, but this was also the pilot episode. I have full faith that the team can get their legs under them in an episode or two. All the pieces are on the board, and even having read the comics: I find myself wanting to know what happens next.

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