“We almost end where the comic starts,” Dominic Cooper, who plays Jesse Custer in Preacher, told Comicbook.com back in May. In this week’s season finale of the AMC series, “Call and Response,” Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy have finally arrived at the beginning point of the story laid out for them by Garth Ennis’ source material: The road trip across the planet to find God, ask him to explain himself, and hold him accountable.
The question some — especially comics readers — may be asking, however, is whether the first season was even necessary? After all, it ends where the first pages of the comics begin, and after 10 episodes, much of the work that has been put into the characters in Annville is all for naught because they are all dead (as far as we know). A methane explosion took out the city (as we predicted a few weeks ago), presumably killing Emily, Root, Donnie, and Odin Quincannon, and everyone else. Why bother with the first 10 episodes, then, if the series is not going to take any of these characters forward?
“It’s so necessary because you need to get to know characters,” Cooper stated in May, explaining why Sam Catlin, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg decided to present the first season of Preacher as a prequel to the source material. While the comics do offer backstories on Jesse and Tulip, we never get to know Jesse as an actual preacher, and in a series that asks us to identify with him as a man of God, the first season has been crucial from a character development standpoint.
Indeed, going ahead we now understand what kind of man Jessie will be on this upcoming road trip. His father — a preacher himself — insisted Jesse do good in the world. He has faith in God, but he’s not without his doubts. He’s conflicted. He believes in God — and the first season has given him every reason to do so — but he doesn’t necessarily believe in his motives or in his goodness. He also believes in the importance of free will — in letting others make their own decisions — and that’s important going ahead because Custer rarely relies upon his powers, except when he’s given no other choice. An oft-repeated complaint this season, in fact, has been, “Why doesn’t Jesse just command them?” Why? Because of what happened to Eugene, and Ted Ryerson, and Tracy Loach, that’s why. Jesse understands the power he possesses, but he also better understands the consequences of using it.
Viewers also better understand Tulip and why she’s so in love with Jesse (in spite of his many failings). The fact that she briefly carried Jesse’s child also brings those two closer together, while the trials and tribulations Jesse and Tulip have experienced with Cassidy this season makes him a more natural traveling mate, rather than some guy Tulip happens to pick up outside of Annville, as in the comics.
We also get to know Arseface and Sheriff Root as people, instead of as a punchline and a two-dimensional redneck villain. That’s going to be particularly important, because not only may Eugene act as Jesse’s spiritual guide throughout the rest of the series (as hinted in the final moments of this episode), but Jesse has one more reason to seek out God: To save Eugene from Hell.
Fiore and Deblanc, very minor characters who provided exposition in the comics, have also become fan favorites, and their literal journey to hell to retrieve the Saint of Killers also demonstrates how hesitant they were to bring a force like that into the Earthly world. In the Cowboy’s backstory, we also better understand his motivations, as well as the hatred he holds for humanity. That will be important in demonstrating his perseverance and tenacity in going after Jesse over the course of the series.
Garth Ennis’ comics entail a wild, bloody, deranged series of adventures, but comics are a completely different beast than television. A television show needs develop these characters as sympathetic people, something the first season has done brilliantly.
So, was the first season necessary? Absolutely, because while may have been uneven and confusing in the middle episodes, the pilot was wildly entertaining, and there have been inspired moments throughout (we’ll always have Meat Baby). The season finale was also phenomenal television that managed to tie up the outstanding loose ends while leaving plenty of room to move for the three main characters.