I’m happy to say that Preacher season two is an improvement over the first. The great stuff carries over, the dead weight is mostly gone, the pacing is less languorous, & there’s plenty of added intrigue. AMC even adapted a few of the more outrageous scenes by Ennis & Dillon. If you’d like to remain unspoiled, skip to the end where I bid adieu to one of my favorite YouTube channels.
I’ve read the first Preacher trade since my season one review, & I kind of like the TV show more? This may be a combination of having been immersed in the TV show first & not having gotten to the highlights yet. Comics fans thought season one was too slow, whereas I felt the comic was too fast at the expense of its characters. I actually preferred getting to know Annville before it was wiped off the map. (Genesis bonding with Jesse Custer is responsible for his congregation’s vaporization within the comics’ first few pages.) Its destruction gives the main trio shared experience of near death escape PTSD that subconsciously influences their successive bad decision making. Thanks to The Word, there’s no real threats for Jesse in volume one. The revelation that God has gone missing from Heaven is even more off-handed & less scrutinized in the comics. (It’s unclear how the public will react to the Pope’s declaration.) TV Jesse seems to have more nuanced smoldering anger than the perpetually testy original. His fury makes sense given his childhood, but he’s less obnoxious when his first instinct is altruism.
The literal search for God is nearly as insurmountable as you’d expect. (Unless you believe God is part of everything, in which case it’s literally impossible to stop finding God.) Unlike the comics, Jesse doesn’t automatically hold God responsible for making the world rotten & abandoning it. He wants to find the missing God to help him, which is presumptuous in a more charitable direction. This is going to set up a much sharper arc when the two finally meet.
We finally get to see The Saint of Killers cut a bloody swath of destruction after Jesse. Although I still don’t know why he has magic Angel-slaying guns, there is an explanation as to why he’s initially immune to The Word. “Sokosha” may be the best episode of the season. The research session featured art from the Vertigo comics, & its American Psychopaths audiobook series joke was savage. Not only was the fractional soul-selling subplot intriguing, the tension was spectacular. Jesse has to sacrifices part of his soul (which is probably why The Word becomes erratic afterwards) to save his compatriots but further sabotages himself by betraying The Saint without the gumption to banishing him to Hell.
In contrast to The Hand or The Court of Owls, The Grail is a secret cabal that’s competent. Of course it’s not so secret that it doesn’t label all its holdings in plain sight where Jesse is too preoccupied to notice. They’ve even got contacts with Heaven & Hell. After its armed commandos are massacred, it upgrades to a drone strike which would’ve worked had Herr Star not had an epiphany about Custer’s value. It’s able to split up the trio without resorting to brainwashing. Agent Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery, formerly of the KettleTeam) is a chameleonic zealot. It took me too long to notice endearingly bumbling Agent Hoover & Better Off Ted’s Dr. Lem are both Malcolm Barrett.
Herr Starr is the most fascinating character of the season because he’s a hedonist afflicted with anhedonia. He barely even has a reaction to “getting his parking validated.” (It’s a rare rape joke that works by both advancing the plot & turning the tables on someone we’ve seen poison an entire village.) Pip Torrens brings him to life so well. He does a subtle German accent that thankfully doesn’t sound like the stereotypical “Nazi accent.” His disguise voice is more of a mechanical monotone. He’s so cunning he lets Jesse think he needed The Word to see The Grail’s captive descendant of Jesus Christ. (How did anyone offended by Humperdoo manage to make it that far into the series? Also the showrunners must be huge fans of The All-American Rejects.) He also gets the best dialogue.
TV Jesse doesn’t seem to dress like a preacher as an ironic costume, so Herr Starr’s offer to make him the new messiah is tantalizing. Deciding to become the new messiah is insane, but so is giving Humperdoo the role just because of his lineage. Of course the late lamented floating pig could’ve been the superior option. Jesse falling prey to hubris while trying to be as virtuous as possible is a great character flaw.
Tulip is stuck with the least interesting arcs this season, so it’s a good thing Ruth Negga still brings her A-game. She’s most engaging during high stakes action, but they can’t emphasize that without undermining her non-paranormal status. I was hoping they’d work around that by making her the new wielder of The Saint of Killers’ arsenal. (If he killed Viktor before he submitted the divorce papers, does that make Tulip a wealthy widow?) The first trade doesn’t treat Tulip well either. I’d be madder at her fridging if it wasn’t obviously temporary.
Cassidy’s disrespectful dying Francophone son starts off quirky & fizzles out. He becomes a murderer once he guilt trips his dad into vampirizing him, but it’s comparatively too understated. So Cassidy kills him for being a bad influence, but it’s probably too late given his kerfuffle with Jesse.
We learn that Eugene didn’t shoot Tracy, which is important for the audience to not want him to remain in Hell. (Notice that Jesse didn’t bother to ask the Hell warden about freeing him despite his promise.) While the pace has picked up, this subplot feels most tenuous. Seeing him be tortured in The Hole for acting nice was the best use of him.
Also with him in budget prison Hell is Adolf Hitler, played by Noah Taylor for the second time since Max. It’s not so much a sympathetic portrayal as revealing how pathetic he is without his power base. Even his worst memory is of bunting on a “Hero of the Beach” opportunity. The series still explicitly holds him accountable for WWII & the Holocaust. It even says “Don’t trust Hitler,” which is something that shouldn’t need to be said in 2017. Of course Arseface is so naïve that he let Hitler out of Hell for the American remake of Look Who’s Back.
This season has scenes that rival last year’s church chainsaw & Sundowner Motel fights. A tussle seen on a background CCTV carries over to a woman shot through the wall during an interrogation. The Saint of Killers brings spectacular ultraviolence. The drug montage with Fiore the Angel was on the more upbeat spectrum.
The weird stuff in Preacher actually pays off. I don’t necessarily mind things being weird for the sake of being weird, but this is even better. The impostor God from last season turns out to be real life actor Mark Harelik, who as killed by The Grail to cover up God’s absence. (Apparently there were no suitable actors for the part in Heaven, but the subplot also includes a random Frankie Muniz cameo.) Jesse sees Humperdoo’s dog drawings & realizes the Man-Dog of New Orleans actually was God.
Unlike last year, this season doesn’t end with a big bang. Jesse opts to bring Tulip to his Grandma to be resurrected (because giving her supernatural powers makes her a more formidable abuser in her dotage). Our plucky trio doesn’t even manage to thwart The Grail. This can be seen as anticlimactic, but it fits thematically with the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. Jesse starts off on quest to rescue God but gets seduced into becoming a competing messiah by a sociopath. Absentee dad Cassidy ends up murdering the son whose life he saved along with the last of his conscience. Tulip gets killed for trying to support someone pretending to be in need. The world is fortunate Arseface didn’t forgive any other sadsack genocidal dictators in Hell. All their virtuous aspirations were wrapped up with bows of failure! So the character dynamics are going to be plenty screwed up come season three. In the meantime, I should probably read the rest of the source material.
∼A bittersweet time was had at the Idea Channel Farewell Office Hours. Mike Rugnetta treated everyone there in Meat-Space to an exclusive final episode on Twin Peaks‘ Laura Palmer. I also met BrainCraft’s Vanessa Hill, who gave me research advice for my current novel! I was not inebriated enough to dare ask to steal her soul with a magic box, but be advised that she owns spiffy cat pants. These two are even more affable in person than they appear on YouTube. I wasn’t fortunate to win any of the raffles for the dearly departed show’s set dressing, but I did get free cider & a PBS Digital Studios shirt. So long & thanks for all the thinks, Idea Channel!