The Last Sermon of AMC’s Preacher

The Preacher comics had a finite run, & the TV series wisely follows suit. (Why doesn’t it have a Vertigo or DC Comics logo in the end credits?) It probably didn’t have the ratings to justify running as long as Smallville regardless. I’m just happy AMC let it finish its story rather than prematurely cancelling it.

I still haven’t finished the Preacher comic books. I read the first trade after watching season one & shockingly didn’t like it as much. I decided to wait until after the TV show wraps so it won’t spoil my enjoyment. That way you’ll receive a rare review with a minimum of me complaining about changes from the source material. Being on the other side of this fun house mirror is surreal!

Preacher’s swansong seems like the end of the non-CW comic book show boom era. The endings of The Gifted, Gotham, Jessica Jones, & Legion all disappointed me to varying degrees, unlike Happy! (Krypton was also cancelled like the problematic planet.) Let’s see how this measures up to my unrealistic great expectations. If you’re not prepared for SPOILERS, take a gander at some eclectic movie recommendations in the prior blog.

Tulip_Featherstone

Ruth Negga would be a better Bane than Jeep Swenson, Tom Hardy, or Shane West! I will also accept Julie Ann Emery as a Batperson. While I’m at it, Joe Gilgun resembles the Joker.

This show has got some wonderful production values for something whose tone feels defiantly anti-prestige. The costumery is great! I’m so happy they found a way to work in a Claymation dinosaur! Also check out its supplemental parody ads.

If someone had to make a live action Betty Boop, Ruth Negga should be top pick. NECA still hasn’t made a Tulip O’Hare action figure to go with her paramours. I guess now they never will. Quentin Turnbull would be a good base for a Saint of Killers though. Maybe one of the Fortnite Wid Cards would work for Starr? NO! I have too many Gotham customs to do without being sidetracked!

This season was filmed in Australia, presumably because they offered an incentive. Rather than have it stand in for other locales entirely, half the series is set there. Since Ennis wrote the comic as an American odyssey, spending nearly a quarter abroad feels odd. The big difference is that whereas Texas had a Flavor Station, Australia has a Flavour Station! This series continues the trend of Steves being lousy at landing planes. The Saint of Killers travels to Australia by shooting straight through Earth’s core! (Is Australia really the antipodes of  The Gulf of Mexico?) The Grail incites a nuclear war between Australia & New Zealand as a preamble to Armageddon. Farscape’s Lani Tupu plays the deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand!

Aside from a flashforward, this season picks up pretty quickly from last season’s cliffhanger to the protagonists confronting Starr at The Grail’s Masada stronghold. (Fundamentalist Christians disrespecting a sacred Jewsish site is probably intentional.) Jesse pre-programmed The Grail’s agents to obey Tulip in a clever workaround to Allfather Starr’s precautions. I loved Tammy stuck in the door. Neither Jesse nor Tulip brought anything to protect Cassidy from the sun during their rescue attempts? Herr Starr getting a replacement ear made of vampire foreskins was hilarious, but why didn’t he just graft on one of Cassidy’s ears?

Frankie Toscani was not David Dastmalchian as I’d suggested. (Dastmalchian was busy writing Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter for Dark Horse. He was promoting it in a cape at SDCC, but it was a colossal failure of reporting that I was unaware of this title until long after the convention.) Cassidy letting himself be tortured by him to spite Jesse & because of survivor’s guilt goes on for a few episodes too many. (Cassidy was jumped by a swamp vampire like Meg Mucklebones in an unnecessary flasbak.) Fortunately Cass does honor his gruesome vow to kill Frankie with his own rifle.

Making Featherstone her archnemesis was a wise move to make Tulip feel entwined in the plot beyond being the love interest. They’d be pals if the weren’t on opposite ends of the order & freedom spectrum. Tulip vs. Featherstone in her squirrel suit was a fun fight for the premiere. Their bullets cancel out. Featherstone, the most zealous of The Grail, ironically says no to Jesus whilst feuding with Tulip.

The hallway fight at Jesus DeSade’s place changes the aspect ratio so the action is harder to see. Apparently all shows must now have a hallway fight. Just ask Riverdale.

The Saint of Killers had been disconnected from the main narrative for so long I forgot why he was still hunting Jesse. He’s still sore because Jesse tricked him instead of sending him to Heaven with his family. He’d also like Jesse’s aid in killing God. There’s an explanation to why his weapons can kill divine beings in the comics, but it’s not revealed on this show. Since they play such a pivotal role in the climax, it’d be useful to understand them.

Jesse finally apologizes to Eugene for sending him to & not rescuing him from Hell. Eugene thought that was all he wanted, but it turned insufficient. So he shoots Jesse in the back! Arseface finally became relevant! Then he immediately returned to superfluity! Even prison chaplain mocks Eugene to his face. Arseface dreams of becoming a rock star by playing a cover of “Closing Time” because they couldn’t get the rights to a Nirvana song. Getting instantly struck by a random car & Aussie plastic surgeons being unable to repair his face are more cosmic indignities.

The angel & demon are the parents of Genesis. After reunion fornication, they’ve been murdering each other constantly for three months. This running gag is subtly kept to sound effects at The Holy Bar & Grail Motel in later episodes until we finally see its poor proprietor, Kamal the most hospitable Muslim mechanic, having to burn a pile of their respawned corpses.

The end of “Lost Prophet” felt like it could’ve been a season finale cliffhanger. So it’s possible they smushed what would’ve been two distinct seasons together since they knew a fifth wasn’t in the cards. (Or they had enough respect for their audience that it wouldn’t take the premature demise of its titular player seriously.) That would explain how events were rushed yet muddled. It may be for the best, however, as four episodes of Cassidy almost escaping was already stretching it.

Ever since Jesse released all the clones , The Grail has been searching for the real Humperdoo. The test to separate the genuine article from his copies is to see if he can tap dance. Jesse apparently told Annie (from season one) to hide Humperdoo between seasons. Did Jesse even know her?

Rather than a clone, the dearly departed Hoover is replaced by Hoover-2, a smug brown-noser of low melanin & negative charm. Huzzah to Featherstone capping that duplicitous Hoover-2! (Giving her a rival besides Tulips fleshed her out.) This undercover cop is technically a good guy, so it’s a testament to Featherstone & original Hoover’s memory that I cheered at this. #NotMyHoover

Season two’s Biblical flashback revealed Jesus Christ had an affair with a married woman. This season transforms that hypocrisy into a humanizing character flaw. Aware of his failing & without any of the divine powers attributed to him, Jesus is wracked by imposter syndrome when tasked to represent Heaven. Once Humperdoo is reclaimed by The Grail, Jesus feels inadequate when all the admiration is transferred to his descendant. His resentful father rubs it in worst of all no matter how hard he tries to please Him. God doesn’t even care Jesus breakdances to Run-DMC well.

The Grail serves as neutral ground for Heaven & Hell to work out who’ll get which souls after Armageddon. Shouldn’t they have worked this out way in advance? The lone highlight is Hitler pettily denying death bed atoners should get into Heaven. This dead-end subplot could’ve used more satire on faith vs. deeds.

Humperdoo was introduced to mock those who believe lineage is everything (i.e. monarchists), especially the Sang Real. Not every member of an illustrious family is predisposed to greatness. The final season undermines this by using him as more than just a gag. Due to his childlike mind, Humperdoo is incapable of sinning like his more renowned ancestor. This makes him God’s chosen & beloved messiah. (This is sort of what Midsommar was getting at with its oracle, except Humperdoo is integral to the story.) Humperdoo’s demeanor puts a wide swath of people at ease, including Hasidim that don’t believe in Christ’s divinity. Tulip & Cassidy intend to kill him to get revenge on God, but soon come to enjoy acting as his adoptive parents. I did not expect Preacher be the show where cynical characters grow to appreciate a mentally handicapped man for his own merits. (Humperdoo still participates in gross-out gags because this is Preacher after all.)

After dying from falling out of a moving plane, Jesse is offered God’s throne by Fiore in a Hell hologram. (Fiore was killed by The Saint of Killers, so he shouldn’t exist at all. Otherwise shooting Satan in Hell wouldn’t have made a difference. So I’ll circumvent this continuity error by simply presuming it’s a holographic impostor rather than the genuine article.) While he might’ve been persuaded in earlier seasons, Jesse steadfastly refuses to sit on the throne. Realizing that torturing him is less fun than Cassidy, the hologram forces him onto it in the next episode to end the simulation & resurrect him. Jesse still failed to pass the test that would’ve halted humanity’s extinction, however, because he was tempted.

Despite becoming the most powerful man in the world, the new Allfather is beset with gruesome humiliations. Maybe the dingo ate Starr’s dingus? (By “maybe,” I mean “definitely.”) Spigot-dick is my new favorite sight gag. Starr’s encounter with the cannibals is expanded in the comics, so the truncation is a bone of contention. After Featherstone literally carries him to safety cause she’s strong as Hell (I may have to revise that Bane comparison), he tries to hang himself with his Dusseldorf pageant sash that he was too old to have won in the first place. He improbably succeeds at only tearing his nipples off when it gets stuck in their chain. I found his gory mutilations to be a most amusing running gag, but your mileage may vary.

As soon as God learned Genesis escaped, He jumped straight through His throne-room’s skylight like a cartoon. This iteration is the Deist model in the most dickish execution. He creates life then exterminates it when it can’t transcend the limitations he imposed. Nothing can ever win his rigged tests. His benign demeanor belies his toxicity. He’s particularly petty to his more devout creations like Custer & Starr. (Dominic Cooper & Pip Torrens have the same birthday.) This egomaniac enjoys watching his Biblical greatest hits on VHS. Goading Tulip with her miscarriage was a highlight of needless cruelty. Kudos to Mark Harelik for imbuing God with enough brittle pathos.

Fans have complained about Jesse Custer being an unlikable protagonist, but he was completely macho & arrogant in the first volume so I thought this was something they adapted well. I maintain that Jesse not immediately seeking revenge on God, unlike the comics, makes more sense for a character arc. I do think he should’ve realized God was a fiend, however, before the tail end of the finale season. It takes him all the way until God bites out his eye in the antepenultimate episode. (Unlike The Walking Dead, it’s not afraid to mutilate its lead.) Jesse Custer isn’t that quick on the uptake.

I’m glad we got to see much of the Apocalypse TV special. It has ethnic music. This is the kind of filler that’s fun. Prettified Starr resembles Jeremy Irons.

The penultimate Preacher has the funniest post coitus scene on TV. Featherstone’s wish is finally granted in the least satisfying way possible, not just because Starr still thinks her name is Flufferman. It takes women being modestly draped after lovemaking on non-premium cable to the extreme. Then Starr realizes his revised Apocalypse plans that saves him while targeting the warlike Danes didn’t get faxed out before Hoover-2 got executed. Chef’s kiss to this entire sequence.

AMC aired the series finale fourteen minutes late on account of Fear The Walking Dead. My electric kettle died the same evening so I’m doubly bereaved. I don’t know if it’s an ending that Garth Ennis & the late Steve Dillon would’ve liked, but I found the episode written & directed by Sam Catlin to be surprisingly satisfying. Based on how scattershot much of the series felt, I wasn’t expecting it to wrap everything up as well as it did in a single installment. It was surprisingly life-affirming.

Despite claiming to have given humans free will, it looks as if all the players are doing exactly what God planned for them. Tulip & Cassidy have a brutal brawl over whether to kill the beloved Humperdoo to save the world. (Polyamory seems like it would’ve been the clear solution to their underlying their love triangle issues.) Tulip shames Cassidy into sacrificing Humperdoo, which they don’t backtrack on. TV Cassidy is definitely more noble than the original iteration.

After Jesse makes him choke himself & Starr beats him up at the squash court, Hitler is finally killed by Jesus. (Now who will run Hell?) God asks Jesus to dance as the last minute replacement messiah, but Jesus rebukes him after discovering self-respect. Jesse commands everyone to turn off their TV so The Grail’s agents would never get the doomsday signal anyway. Then he orders the present Grail to search nonstop until they literally find God for him.

After two years, they finally track God down to the Alamo. This time the needy Deity has the dialogue Jesse wanted all along in an attempt to make Jesse say he loves Him. Jesse refuses, but demonstrates The Word does work on God. (This makes the double dromedary homicide caused by a listener not understanding English even less plausible.) He even sets Genesis free, although the hybrid symbiote was the one who decided to bond with Jesse in the first place. Jesse finally removes his Preacher uniform & enjoys his life with Tulip & their daughter. God dejectedly slays all the adorable monsters He created to love Him unconditionally.

Without relying on The Word, Jesse convinces The Saint of Killers to make a deathbed confession so he can enter Heaven after he’s decapitated. Not only was this clever on Jesse’s part, it retroactively justifies the earlier scene of Hitler & Jesus arguing. When God finally returns to Heaven, The Saint is there to slay him. (I’d been spoiled on that bit of the climax for years.) From a Humanist perspective, this symbolizes how human ingenuity & gumption can banish archaic superstitions holding us back. From a less metaphorical stance, it’s anticlimactic & nihilistic that the universe’s most powerful being can be destroyed by firearms. God’s executioner said he chose hate before sitting on Heaven’s throne, so maybe his victory isn’t one to be celebrating (much like Madam Satan’s in CAOS).

Herr Starr kills the heartbroken Featherstone before she can kill him, ditto the pair of Pensacola police officers. It would’ve been a tidier ending for his haughtiness to be laid low by the local fuzz. He’s the character least deserving of a happy ending, however, so he gets exactly that to demonstrate the universe’s continuing lack of karmic justice.

Rejection is a big theme of the conclusion. It is the undoing of Cassidy (who immolates himself at his erstwhile best friends’ graves), Featherstone, & God. Jesse, Jesus, & Eugene (who achieves his rock star dream) are saved by rejecting negative external forces.

This season was messy, but that’s not uncommon. It’s in a weird liminal position of adapting elements from the comics & inventing new ones. Plenty of fans will be upset by this seeming half-measure. Considering some other recent comic adaptations, they could be thankful it bothers doing it halfway. I don’t intrinsically hate compromise, so I at least found this approach intriguing. It’s definitely not AMC’s best show this season. (I want a Lodge 49 & Preacher crossover. Make it so, AMC!) Thankfully it’s not its worst. (The Terror: Infamy is the poster child for squandering so much potential.) It was imperfect, but it managed the rare feat of ending on a high note. Maybe I’ll like it less when I finish reading its inspiration? I’m just a simple boy who likes zany gore!

~

Next week DC season resumes on The CW! I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll do one gigantic review for all the shows or dice it up.

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