A lot of people are talking about the Preacher series on AMC, which aired its pilot episode last Sunday, May 22nd. The show is made to be deliberately controversial as its graphic novel source material, but the issue is that the pilot episode is straying from its hit comic book series, a lot. However, it is possible that the first episode lays a groundwork for what could be a series that is very accurate to the source material, and perhaps Episode 2 will get it back on track.
Quick Episode 1 Recap and Contrast with the Source Material
The pilot episode of Preacher is very departed from the source material right from the opening . It begins in "outer space", in a deliberately fake showing of a comet speeding by the planets. This comet lands somewhere in Africa ,where this spirit possesses an African preacher talking about the book of Revelation. The preacher is able to silence the crowd by uttering "Be Quiet", and then he explodes into blood.
Contrast that with the beginning of Preacher the graphic novel, which focuses on three main characters (Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy) eating at a dinner. Clearly, director Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wanted a more explosive beginning, but this really works against the tone of the comic.
The show then cuts to the Preacher, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) waking up in a Texas town known as Annville that looks like it hasn't aged at all in the last thirty years. Both the comic and the show have a very stereotypical view of Texas that seems self-aware. Jesse then preaches to a congregation that does not appear interested in the least of anything he has to say.
Jesse then listens to a boy's problems about his abusive dad, Donnie. This boy wants Jesse to hurt the dad, because the Preacher used to...do things. As someone who has read the first collection of comics, the Preacher's possible past as some kind of "muscle" isn't talked about, but it is a huge plot-point on this first episode. It does bring a lot of depth earlier to the story of Preacher than the graphic novel source material.
The scene shifts to an private airplane full of drunken businessmen 30,000 feet up, where we are introduced to Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), who is serving as a bartender. After finding a bible in a bathroom marked up like graffiti, he smiles and leaves, getting nervous that he is headed to the sun. Cassidy then goes on a killing spree, and the businessmen in the room attack him with all manner of weaponry like crossbows and spears. Cassidy then attacks one at the neck, and we learn very early that he is a vampire. Not only does he drink blood, but he is immune to death as he jumps out of a plane with nothing but an umbrella.
Tulip (Ruth Negga) is given a more detailed introduction into her nature as an assassin on the show. The audience is introduced to her in Kansas, via flashback, with an unusual fight scene in a car in cornfield. Tulip's character is far more flamboyant than she is in the book, and she even makes a bazooka out of coffee cans to take down a helicopter. I'm not certain how well that fits into the style of Preacher, and what is even more unusual is the scene where she takes down the helicopter isn't even shown, like they didn't have the budget for it.
Meanwhile, the Preacher is upset that he cannot help out the case of the abusive father. He tries to visit the wife of Donnie, but she claims that she likes the whole beating in some rough-love way. Jesse then meets Donnie in a bar, and Donnie hits Custer for talking to his wife. The Preacher then beats up Donnie and others in the bar. The fight is pretty one-sided as Jesse is the victor, showing that Jesse has clearly done this before.
Once Jesse is released from his cell after meeting Cassidy, the Preacher decides to quit. When he stops by his church, he discovers that lights are flickering and strange things are afoot. Jesse gets on his knees and prays, and begs forgiveness presumably for the things of his past. After hearing nothing, the doors of his church open and something...invisible gets him. It cuts with him at the pulpit, suddenly changing his mind, wanting to be a better preacher, with both Cassidy, Tulip, and all other minor characters in the pews.
After Jesse's sermon, one of his followers gets "inspired" to visit his mother, and literally show her his heart, because this is what Jesse advised him to do. This scene is just grisly and is darkly humorous, and it is difficult to believe that they ended the first episode on it. Apparently, this is the start of the series.
What is Ahead for This Season and Explanations for Episode 1
Like The Walking Dead, you can learn what is going to happen on Preacher by just reading the graphic novels that inspired the show. Unlike The Walking Dead, the Preacher series is over and done with, and as I said before, reading the first few issues was nothing like the series.
There are some similarities. For example, both have a character named Sheriff Root, who is a real racist jerk in the book but not as developed as yet on the show. Root has a son named Eugene but is known on imdb and Preacher fans as "Arseface", a name given unintentionally by Cassidy. Eugene is a young man who tried to shoot himself in the face, but surgeries saved his life. His face looks like...yeah, I'm not going there.
In the book, Eugene meets up with Jesse and they don't know each other like they do on the show. After Sherriff Root dies, Eugene swears revenge against Jesse, even calling himself Arseface like some bad comic-book villain. This character is clearly set up to be on the show to be an antagonist.
Also, that explosion at the church at the beginning? There is a similar event at the beginning of the Preacher comic, but Jesse is preaching and he lives while the rest of his congregation dies. The show is really mixing this up, as the first episode shows a church in Russia where another minister has exploded, this one being the head of a satanic church. Then, later on, there is a newscast revealed that Tom Cruise exploded at the Church of Scientology.
So, yes, this strange force is visiting other religions and destroying the main speaker for...reasons. In the book, it is explained that this force is Genesis, a hybrid of a demon and an angel who have formed a being with the tail of a comet and the head of a baby. There was a comet seen in this opening of Preacher, and when Jesse is attacked by the invisible force, it is possible to hear what sounds like baby crying. Is this Genesis, or is the TV show going in a different direction?
In the book, Jesse learns later that Genesis is the cause of God going missing. The book shows a lot of shots of heaven where angels are wondering where God has gone, and the entire book is about Jesse and his friends searching the world for God. It looks like this is where the series is headed as well, assuming the show can leave the Texas town of Annville.
The pilot series introduces us to two men who come on the scene whenever there is a case of "preacher spontaneous combustion". How they figure into the plot could be related to something that was discussed in the comic book about an organization related to the family line of Jesus. On the show, they seem to believe that Jesse's church "is the place", so who knows what their agenda is?
If I had to guess where the next few episodes are going, I would say that eventually Jesse will blow up his church. Then he, Tulip, and Cassidy will be on the run from Sheriff Root. In the book, there is a character known as the Saint of Killers who is tracking down Custer, and perhaps he should show up later. Eventually, the plotline of God being missing from heaven is going to come up, but this is assuming that the show follows this storyline. This will be only the beginning of many seasons of adventures, assuming that the show is popular enough to have more of them.
Something that the TV story seems to be following is how Custer has the "voice of God" which is able to override people's free will. This explains the guy at the end who cuts his heart out, as he was just heeding what the Preacher said.
What Should Christians Think of Preacher
Very rarely do I talk about how shows do not follow a biblical point of view, because most shows on network television simply do not. Entertainment Weekly once said that the comic book source material "features more blood and blasphemy than any mainstream comic in memory", and this could apply to the first episode.
The fact is, I have watched and enjoyed a lot of films such as Constantine and What Dreams May Come that deal with the concepts of heaven and hell, but don't follow them exactly how the bible says. Even so, shows like this have some takeaway thematic value, and I admire that they are willing to acknowledge that these things really exist.
Yes, Preacher takes these concepts to a level that Christians would not. It is apparent that God is not going to be leaving heaven anytime soon over the union of an angel and a demon, or any other reason. God allowed this comic to be published and this series to be made, so Christians who watch it should take its message with whatever grain of salt they use when watching any other secular TV show.
I would highly recommend not protesting this show, as it will just bring a spotlight to it. The same thing happened to Kevin Smith's Dogma, The Da Vinci Code and the Harry Potter series, and those just grew in popularity as a result. Even if Preacher grows in a lot of popularity, its audience knows that it is just a story, just like any other one.