(Warning: Spoilers from Preacher‘s fourth season premiere will be found below.)
Being a vampire capable of regenerating quickly after an injury isn’t all its cracked up to be, as we find out early in the fourth season of Preacher when Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) is being held hostage by Herr Starr in the headquarters for the Grail, Masada. There, we meet Frankie Toscani (Lachy Hulme), a former member of the mafia turned Professor of Advanced Torture for the Grail. As part of his “curriculum,” he finds a particularly painful and unpleasant way to torture Cassidy: Circumcision. He slices off Cassidy’s foreskin, and when it regenerates, he slices it off again, and again, and again, until he amasses literal bags full of bloody foreskins.
Without a doubt, Preacher is back, and along with it, some of the most creatively and hilariously violent sequences on television, and and we haven’t even talked about what the Grail does with those foreskins.
The fourth season of AMC’s Preacher picks up right where the third left off, with Jesse (Dominic Cooper) and Tulip (Ruth Negga) trying to retrieve Cassidy from the Grail’s almost impenetrable fortress, Masada. The final season also begins with a flash forward, which sees Jesse falling from an airplane and plummeting to his apparent death, while elsewhere, a now-blond Cassidy and Tulip are unsuccessfully fighting the urge to make out. For those familiar with the source material, it’s apparent in the first two episodes that the series will be borrowing from a number of storylines this season as it barrels towards its conclusion, although — as in past seasons — those storylines serve more as an inspiration than a guide. Showrunners Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin have adapted the characters for the television series, but fans of the series that have stuck around have long since given up on a faithful adaptation of the comics themselves.
That’s okay, because once viewers give up on seeing their favorite storylines faithfully recreated, AMC’s Preacher is a ton of fun in its own right, at least when it’s working, and it has never worked as well as it did in its third and most successful season. Early in its fourth season, it continues to get a lot right — the twisted, dark black humor; the nods to the comics; the brilliant performances from its leads; the bloody and spectacular fight sequences, and the perfection that is Herr Starr (Pip Torrens) — but it also does a minor disservice to the characters by keeping them apart for far too long. Cassidy is trapped in Masada dealing with Frankie Toscani; Tulip is outside trying to figure out how to retrieve him while battling the wickedly delightful Lara Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery), and Jesse is on his own again, out searching for God, which will take him to a phallic rock-like structure Australia (God, however, is working at the moment with Starr and The Grail to inflict as much suffering on Jesse as possible).
Keeping the leads separated in their own storylines allows each of the three to shine on their own, but they’re never better than when they are all working together, though the flash-forward suggests we may not see that again until much later in the season. In the meantime, the bumbling Herr Starr — who is like an X-rated Despicable Me super-villain with a vagina etched into the top of his head — is left to carry much of the weight, a task for which he is very capable. It does take at least half an episode, however, for viewers — who haven’t seen a new episode of Preacher in nearly a year — to reorient themselves to what’s going on, but it doesn’t take much longer thereafter to get a sense of where this season is headed. One doesn’t need to be familiar with the comics to understand that Cassidy, Jesse, and Tulip will eventually reunite to confront the series’ biggest threats: Herr Starr, the Saint of Killers, and God himself, who we learn is a big fan of Dr. Pepper, ironically the drink of choice for agnostics, although given the status of God on Preacher, maybe that’s not so ironic after all. (In another particularly unpleasant scene, we also learn that God wiped out the dinosaurs because he was grossed out by a dinosaur eating its own poop.)
The final season is also on a mission: It has ten episodes to wrap up the series, and it’s not wasting any time with additional side excursions. By the season’s second episode, the narrative takes shape as it begins its thrust toward the finish line. Seth Rogen — in shaming the showrunners of Game of Thrones for failing to show up at Comic-Con last month — is clearly confident in the conclusion he and his team have come up with for Preacher, though I suppose the real test will be whether he shows up to defend it at next year’s Comic-Con.