Through three episodes of AMC’s Preacher, many people who have read the Garth Ennis source material and many who have not are expressing similar confused sentiments. Viewers have no idea what’s going on.
Viewers who have not read the comics may have no idea who the man watching the snuff film was this week, or who the cowboy from 1881 was in last week’s episode, while people who have read the comics may not understand what’s going on with Jesse Custer because practically none of what’s in the series happened in the comics.
The reason the series is so dissimilar from the comics is that the comics would have been impossible to adapt effectively to television. A literal adaptation would have been frantic, overwhelming, and too expensive. In the comics, readers never really get to see Jesse Custer as a preacher: He’s immediately hurled into a road-trip story with Tulip and Cassidy, going up against assassins, angels, and God Himself. Comics readers should think of the television series this way: Where the source material begins is approximately where the first season of Preacher will end. As showrunner Sam Catlin has explained:
“We really like the idea of seeing [Jesse Custer] as a preacher initially, and introducing this crazy, crazy world into a very small world of a very typical small West Texas town. I think it’s actually helped us, because it’s grounded it in the familiar — the mayor and the sheriff and the preacher whose heart’s not really in it and all that stuff — so all the crazy stuff about heaven and angels and vampires and violence hopefully doesn’t overwhelm, because it keeps giving the viewer a sort of grounded place to return to. It’s almost like a deep-sea diving. If we were to just jump right into the Preacher world, you’d probably get the bends as a viewer, but we’re sort of calibrating the show.”
Meanwhile, viewers who haven’t read the comics may find some of Preacher fairly straightforward, but may be completely confused by some of the flashbacks and asides. Here’s what viewers need to understand so far:
Jesse Custer comes from a difficult background. We don’t know much about his family life yet, but we do know that he witnessed the execution of his own father when he was a small boy. We do not yet understand who shot Jesse’s father or why. However, it was Jesse’s father who inspired him to “do good” in the world, and after a living a life of crime with Tulip for several years, something happened involving a man named Carlos that prompted Jesse to go back home to Annville, Texas, and become a preacher. Unfortunately, Jesse wasn’t very good at being preacher until he was possessed by an spiritual entity called Genesis.
Genesis gave Jesse the power to command others to do as he says. However, there are limitations to that power: A person can only do what he or she is actually capable of. Jesse can ask Cassidy to fly, for instance, and Cassidy can try to fly, but Jesse can’t give him the power to fly or the ability to recall the name of the governor of Texas. He could also give Tracy — the teenager in the coma — the power to open her eyes, but apparently not the ability to awake from her coma.
We don’t know exactly where Jesse is heading in the series, but we do know that he’s confused about his powers, their source, and why he has been chosen to possess them. He’s also determined to use those powers to serve the word of God. What Jesse doesn’t realize, however, is that God Himself has given up.
We don’t know much yet about Tulip O’Hare’s back story. At one point, she and Jesse were madly in love and engaged in the criminal life. However, they got involved with a man named Carlos, who abandoned Jesse and Tulip during a bank robbery. During that robbery, Jesse killed a security guard. Carlos took all the money and left Tulip and Jesse behind, which eventually led to their breakup. Tulip has been obsessed for a number of years with getting the love of her life back and exacting revenge upon Carlos. Her mission has gotten Tulip in bed with a woman named Danni and a man named Herr Starr, who works for Grail Industries. She now knows where to find Carlos. However, she hasn’t been able to convince Jesse to join her in killing him.
Cassidy is a 119-year-old vampire from Dublin. He has a taste for drugs and alcohol and he’s being chased by vampire vigilantes. Someone from the outside — we don’t know who yet — knows where Cassidy is. He’s laying low in Annville and “working” for Jesse. He’s not like a typical vampire: He doesn’t need to feed constantly on humans, but we do know that blood heals his wounds. Garlic and crucifixes do not work on him, but he does have to avoid direct sunlight. He seems to be working with Fiore and DeBlanc now to help them retrieve Genesis from Jesse.
Fiore and DeBlanc
Fiore and DeBlanc are angels from Heaven posing as government agents in Annville. They have been sent to retrieve Genesis, the spiritual entity that has possessed Jesse. They cannot be killed. However, they are afraid of Jesse and his power. They are now working with Cassidy in an attempt to pull Genesis out of Jesse.
Sheriff Root and Eugene
Sheriff Root knows about Jesse’s past, and he is suspicious of him. Some of the townspeople also seem to believe that Root is a murderer. At one point, Eugene tried — and failed — to kill himself with a shotgun, leaving him with a face that looks like an ass. Eugene believes that God has abandoned him. He also appears to have developed an affection for Tracy Loach, the teenager in a coma. Something happened in Eugene and the sheriff’s past that led to Root’s wife becoming some sort of invalid.
Odin owns a meat-packing company that another organization is attempting to take over, but Odin is not concerned about that other company. Odin employs much of the town, including Donnie, the temperamental man who beats his wife because she likes it. Odin is clearly not a good person. He’s up to something that’s no good, and he seems to have a fondness for the sounds of cows being slaughtered. Odin’s storyline will come more into focus in next week’s episode.
The Saint of Killers and Herr Starr
Viewers are not really supposed to know much about the Saint of Killers (the cowboy from 1881) or Herr Starr (the man watching the snuff film) yet. It’s enough to understand that these two men are the villainous forces that drive much of the story in Preacher.
That’s about where Preacher is. We’re only three episodes in, and it may still take a few more episodes for many of these storylines to snap into focus. In the near future, however, viewers can expect to learn more about Odin Quincannon, Jesse’s relationship with Odin, and how Tulip and Cassidy become acquainted.