‘Preacher’ Premiere Raises Holy Hell
This recap contains spoilers for the “Preacher” series premiere, Season 1, Episode 1.
“Something is coming – war,” shouts an African preacher as an unidentified force from “Outer Space,” as the initial title card suggests, hurtles towards Earth. Midway through his sermon his triumphant speech gets interrupted as he’s shell-shocked by that unidentified force, which knocks him to the ground.
While his flock deems this a “miracle,” it’s quite the opposite – as he stands up and starts claiming he’s “the chosen one,” he explodes. Just. Like. That. That gut-filled, gory explosion, the frightened, blood-soaked flock and a creaky upside down cross outside the church pretty much set the tone for the first season of “Preacher.”
Meet Preacher, or Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper). The small town of Annville, Texas generally chooses the former. He’s a drinker, a smoker and his past haunts him just a bit. He skipped town for several years but is back in Annville and has taken up his late father’s congregation. But don’t let his western boots and silver tipped wing collar fool you – he’s still a man of God. Kind of. When young Chris Schenck (who you may recognize from the annoying Peter Pan Geico commercials) approaches Custer after a sermon and enlists him to hurt his dad because he’s been abusing his mother, this preacher entertains the idea but ultimately takes the lawful option, calling on the town’s Sheriff to take care of the domestic situation at the Schenck home — to no avail, of course. “Pray for me, Preacher,” says little Schenck. “If anyone were listening, I would,” mutters Custer as the kid walks away.
Meanwhile on a private flight, an Irish barman entertains a boozing group of yuppies. But on a quick trip to the bathroom, this Irishman sees a bible and realizes he’s been ambushed by these same yuppies. Why? Because he’s not exactly like them.
Meet Cassidy (Joe Gilgun), a sadistically cheerful Irish vampire who lives on the run. He singlehandedly kills everyone aboard the private flight in spectacularly unhinged fashion. They try to eliminate Cassidy by pouring Holy Water on him but, clearly, that would have been too easy. The killer moment (pun intended), however, is Cassidy annihilating the pilot with a broken champagne bottle and then using said bottle to siphon out a few pints of blood so that, hopefully, after the inevitable crash of the now unmanned plane and Cassidy’s subsequent skydiving escape, he can regenerate himself. Unfortunately, he’s completely disfigured upon “landing” and his elixir is bust, but a passing cow provides enough nourishment to get Cassidy back on his feet. “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes, why don’t you come down here and given good ol’ Cassidy a kiss?” he says before he devours her. So far, so gory.
Back in Texas, Custer goes to visit Walter, an older member of his congregation who apparently isn’t doing so well. But when he arrives at Walter’s home, Custer runs into his past – one he clearly isn’t ready to handle, so he ducks out.
Meet Tulip, or should we say Priscilla Jean Henrietta O’Hare (Ruth Negga), who is, quite simply, a badass and also Custer’s ex-girlfriend. We get the first glimpses of said badassery in Kansas, as she tries to eliminate two thugs in a moving car. She pulls a Mike Tyson and bites one of their ears off (later telling Custer it’s simply a leftover piece of shwarma). “Awesome! So awesome!” yells a little kid who, with his sister, sees Tulip’s murderous rampage. “He was a really bad man,” clarifies Tulip. In addition to kicking ass and shaping the minds of young children, Tulip is a mastermind; she builds a bazooka out of alcohol, used cans, duct tape and tin toy soldiers. But no matter how tough she is, Custer clearly left a dent in her heart the day he left Annville. But back to the bazooka – with it, she takes out a helicopter, more thugs and finishes what we later learn was a “job.”
Tulip tries to convince Custer to take on one of those “jobs.” But it looks like he’s sticking to being a preacher, although she’s heard that “he pretty much sucks at it.” We get little tidbits of their previous relationship, but we’re barely scratching the surface.
Meanwhile, in Russia, there’s been an incident similar to the one in Africa. Enter DeBlanc and Fiore – more on them later – we saw them briefly in Africa after the incident with that exploding preacher, so it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing them again.
Back in Texas, Preacher goes to visit the Sheriff’s son, Eugene, who is also known as Arseface. His face is permanently disfigured into, well…you know, because he tried to kill himself. He’s pretty chipper considering the fact he attempted suicide. His castrating Sheriff of a father doesn’t think Eugene should be going to church because he might be distracting to other churchgoers. Wow, way to be harsh, pop. But what’s even harsher is that Eugene’s prayers and conversations with God have all of a sudden become very quiet.
“Do you think that there are some things so bad that even God won’t forgive?” Eugene asks Custer. Custer reassures him that God doesn’t hold grudges. His suggestions to Eugene, to really listen to God and get down on his knees, are almost self-reflective. But Custer can’t even look at Eugene as he talks about God – a clear sign that Custer is having his own doubts about what he preaches. Eugene’s overwhelming happiness at the fact that God is willing to forgive further oust Custer as a particularly troubled man of the cloth. Custer doesn’t feel that same happiness. Eugene thanks Custer with a hug and a final slurp – because, you know, his mouth doesn’t close all that well – and Custer heads out.
Word has gotten out to Betsy Schenck’s husband, Donnie, that Custer tried to check up on her about what appeared to be domestic violence – turns out Betsy likes it. Either way, Donnie isn’t too happy about the preacher’s meddling and meets up with Custer at a bar to lay hands on him in a not particularly healing way. But Custer has the final laugh when Donnie gets too cocky. Custer piques Donnie’s interest promising that Donnie’s going to be hearing a “bunny in a beartrap” noise coming from his own mouth. Custer proceeds to beat him and his cronies up, locking Donnie’s arm into an unholy position that, in fact, ends up eliciting that high-pitched bunny squeal from Donnie.
Custer so far has had a jam-packed schedule. After quite an eventful few days back in Annville, he is thinking of quitting the church. But in one last attempt to regain his faith, Custer heads over to his church and, just like he had told Eugene to do, gets on his knees and prays – but instead demands an answer from God.
“God, please forgive me,” he says. Yet, still no answer. But when the doors to the church open Custer feels a sliver of hope. But his hope may be misplaced as an invisible force enters, just like with the preachers in Russia and Africa, knocking pews aside as it approaches Custer until it finally enters him and knocks him out. To be fair, he fared better than the other two holy men.
Custer wakes up after three days to find Emily, his church assistant who has major hots for him, and Cassidy, his new vampire friend, at home with him. Preacher is up just in time for the Sunday sermon where he’s planning to tell his flock he’s peacing out.
On his way to church, however, he’s intercepted by one of his pesky congregants, who has been whining about his mother to Custer since he arrived back in Annville. When Custer tells him for the umpteenth time to be honest and open his heart to her he takes it all too literally and flies to Florida to see his aging mother and tell her the truth. But, to match the gory precedent, he also cuts out his heart with a butcher knife and hands it to his mother.
Back in Texas, Custer looks upon his congregation and Eugene and realizes he can’t leave them. He’s going to “avenge the innocent and cool the wrathful and welcome those who are lost and speak the word of God … This is why I’ve come home, to save you.”
Just then, it looks like the mysterious DeBlanc and Fiore, who may or may not have a penchant for eating teabags, have arrived in Texas on the trail of the mystery force, ominously stating, “It’s here.” Dun-dun-dun.
It looks like our Preacher has a newfound power, although he’s at the moment unaware of it. People do what he tells them to do, so what is the extent of his power? When will he find out he has it? And perhaps most importantly, why Jesse Custer? The show is taking a break and repeating its first episode next Sunday for Memorial Day, so we’ll have to wait until June 5 to find out.
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