It was the time of the Preacher…
God, are you listening? It’s me, Jesse Custer. After a season of doubt and false starts, TV’s Preacher finally gets down to his preaching, calling the Lord to task for his shoddy parenting of late. With the help of a telephone line to Heaven, the severed hand of an angel and Donnie Schenck - of all people – and with a full house in audience, Jesse makes the most important call of his life.
No opening credits sequence this week, Call and Response (a) having far too much to cram in for that, and (b) being packed to the hilt with great tunes anyway. But the one song that comes to mind which doesn’t get so much as a look-in, is The Crash Test Dummies’ And God Shuffled His Feet, which could almost have been this episode’s anthem. In the run-up to Preacher’s TV adaptation – and in the preceding nine weeks to this episode, even – we’d expressed doubt as to how far Sam Catlin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg would be brave enough (or allowed) to go with the whole chasing God thing. Heaven, Hell, angels and the Lord God? Audiences and telly executives won’t go for that, surely? And certainly not given Garth Ennis’s depiction in the books; not with a ten foot barge pole.
How wrong we (alright, me) were. We’ve had angels (and bloody fantastic they are too), Genesis and even a visit to Hell itself, last week. And now Preacher gets down to business. God is missing. Not even the Heavenly Host know where. In a thoroughly arresting and singularly powerful sequence that’s like The Wizard of Oz meets Dogma meets Monty Python, we witness the people of Annville’s Q&A with ‘God’ – and Jesse’s realisation that the crinkly old white dude before them all is an imposter. And then it gets downright apocalyptic.
Even before the town is turned into a smoking crater, there’s the sense of salting the Earth to Call and Response – a goodbye to Annville and its grubby, miserable and evil people. The town mascots hang themselves, an indifferent Emily tells her children that they didn’t need God anyway, looting and rioting is rife… and Quincannon cradles a beef imitation of his own dead daughter (more affecting and making more sense than the meat molester of Salvation). So destroyed is Annville by the revelation at the episode’s heart, that the show almost didn’t need to blow the place up. Honestly, I might have even half-preferred it if they hadn’t.
As it began, so Preacher ends – so very different to the beloved comic books, and yet, the same in spirit. It opens funny and stays that way, perhaps the funniest episode yet. Instead of the action we might have all expected, it stays slow and relatively quiet, wrapping up character arcs and stories neatly and well. Whether it’s the surprise turn of Donnie from enemy to ally (a character who has grown on me immensely in the past few weeks!) or Hugo Root’s interrogation of Cassidy (barely the same character as comic book Root, and much better for it) every character gets their moment, for better and for worse. Not least Quincannon, emerging as not the season’s Big Bad, but rather another casualty of an absent God, as hopeful as the rest for salvation (albeit not his own, but his daughter’s) when the time comes to it.
Unfortunately, to get there, we do have to suffer through the Jesse, Tulip and Carlos crap. At last The Bad Thing is revealed, being that Carlos double-crossed the love birds during a bank robbery, inadvertently (?) causing the loss of the couple’s unborn child. No part of this Ancient History is worth the time spent on it, whether it’s Jesse’s stupid mullet or the dull, uninteresting Carlos. Worse, it continues last week’s streak of un-Jesse like behaviour as he shoots an entirely innocent man in the head. The bank robbery is no stretch, but his murdering innocents I do have trouble with. At least it’s not Jesse the hitman, though. We can see why the Carlos subplot is there – his jealousy over Jesse and Tulip’s love transparently being a precursor to a Cassidy betrayal further down the line (hinted at during the vampire’s scenes with Root) and bad blood between the two, but that makes it no less dull. Worst of all, with the episode being so jaw-droppingly excellent the rest of the time, it actively sabotages what could have been one of the best TV season finales of all time. Dammit Carlos.
Who am I kidding; Call and Response is still one of the best TV season finales in years. It’s the most bizarre, hilarious and clever hour of television you’ll see this year (okay, 40 minutes, without the Carlos crap), taking in BDSM, sex toys, The Big Lebowski, Jackie Earle Haley being excellent, the bus stop from Breaking Bad, God, not-God, an enormous bodycount and a girl in a ballgag for some reason (unrelated to the first two things). Not to mention Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga finally showing a bit of chemistry together. All that and Johnny Cash on the soundtrack too.
With Annville gone and our three amigos on the road, we see Preacher manoeuvre itself into position. Less adaptation, more liberty-taking prequel, this first season leaves us aching for more, a big fat Preacher shaped hole in all of our hearts. A second season, thankfully, has been confirmed.
It was the time of the Preacher…