In the cold open of the second episode of AMC’s Preacher, writer Sam Catlin takes us back to 1881 with a brief introduction to a mysterious cowboy, a grizzled man of few words. Confronted with an ill daughter, the cowboy’s wife asks him to travel by horse to a town two-to-three days away to retrieve medicine to save his daughter’s life. The man, played by Outlander’s Graham McTavish, agrees.
Along the way, he meets a caravan of Christians and eats a meal with them. He tells the leader of the Christian men that, no, he does not believe he is in paradise. The next morning, the cowboy rides into a town called Ratwater, Texas. Outside that town, several Native Americans have been hanged in a tree.
The episode doesn’t return to Ratwater, Texas or 1881 again, which may have left some viewers confused. What Catlin and directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are doing here is very briefly introducing a character by the name of The Saint of Killers who will likely recur throughout the entire series.
For those who have not read the Garth Ennis’ comics, The Saint of Killers is the series-long villain — a man poised to become the Angel of Death. In his life before becoming the Angel of Death, he was a greatly feared solider during the Civil War. However, after raid on a group of Apaches, he freed a young woman who the Apaches had held captive. This woman saw the good in the cowboy. The cowboy lived with the woman for a decade out in the wilderness, where he conceived a daughter with the woman. When his daughter was struck with illness, the cowboy rode his horse into a town to retrieve medication. Unfortunately, he was delayed by a group of outlaws in the town of Ratwater. Ultimately, the cowboy didn’t make it back in time to save either his daughter or his wife, both of whom succumbed to fever.
Grief stricken, the cowboy returned to Ratwater to seek his revenge upon the gang of outlaws. He managed to kill all but their leader, a man named Gumbo McCready. McCready killed the cowboy, who went to Hell.
However, the cowboy was so possessed by hatred that Hell could not contain it. The cowboy’s heart was so cold that it literally caused Hell to freeze over. Ultimately, The Saint of Killers ended up taking the place of the Angel of Death, gunning down the Devil himself, and returned to Earth to kill Gumbo McCready (and everyone else in the town of Ratwater).
Afterwards, God put him into a deep slumber, saving The Saint of Killers until he needed him. That time arrived when Genesis — the comet-like energy — possessed Jesse Custer. God sent an angel to wake The Saint of Killers and tasked him with killing Jesse.
The Saint of Killers may only show up periodically on AMC’s Preacher, but he will remain a constant threat to Jesse.