July 31, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Preacher”


After an entire season, it’s still not clear just what AMC’s PREACHER intends to be, but it’s been a dazzling ride all the same, sort of a Quentin Tarantino version of a Coen Brothers version of a Luis Bunuel version of the apocalypse.  Every episode has had at least one remarkable set-piece sequence, and given that the show has sometimes seemed more like a collection of such sequences than a coherent story, perhaps it was fitting that in tonight’s season finale, writer/director/showrunner (and co-creator, with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) Sam Catlin literally blew it all up.  The episode removed Annville, Texas and most of Preacher‘s characters from the table in one blast of cow-dung-driven methane, and sent the survivors, Genesis super-power bearing Reverend Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), his sometimes murderous sometime love Tulip (Ruth Negga), and their easygoing vampire buddy Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) on the road to literally find God, who’s vacated heaven, in Season 2.

That meant that all the other characters and plotlines in which the series had seemed more or less invested went poof, everyone from meat and electricity baron Odin Quinncannon (Jackie Earle Haley), to Emily Woodrow (Lucy Griffiths), who’d appeared to be the town’s most straight-arrow inhabitant as waitress, single mom, and trusted assistant to Jesse, until she fed her on-and-off boyfriend to Cassidy in last week’s episode.  Preacher embraces a cheerful nihilism, and the abrupt end of Annville pushed that to some kind of limit.  It also means that Season 2 will be sharply different from the initial run of episodes.  (Apparently in the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon comic books that serve as source material, the trio’s time in Annville is barely depicted, and the action begins with them already on the road.)

The result hasn’t been “satisfying,” in the way that we’ve traditionally wanted our TV shows to be, but it’s often been wildly entertaining, and very much unlike anything else around in its mix of spectacle, ultra-violence and sardonic humor.  Preacher, along with Mr. Robot and several of the Netflix series, is one of the shows testing our assumptions about TV storytelling by being aggressively “novelistic,” with an insistence on being viewed in the context of a larger whole, rather than necessarily delivering a series of well-formed episodes, and on taking their time about reaching their stride.

Tonight’s finale, in a very Tarantino-esque way, took a side trip for almost half its 80 minutes, delaying Jesse’s promised public presentation of God to give us the backstory about Tulip’s grudge against former partner Carlos (Desmin Borges, from You’re The Worst), whose mid-robbery betrayal had led to her miscarriage, and her request that Jesse prove his love by killing Carlos.  Only when that was resolved–Carlos was left beaten up but alive, unless he was still in town when the methane blew–did we turn to the church.  That’s where things turned Bunuelian, as it developed that the white-bearded, thunderous “God” presented to the crowd via the phone Jesse had stolen from angels Fiore (Tom Brooke) and DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef), was actually some form of heavenly stand-in.

Catlin was a senior writer/producer of Breaking Bad, and like that series, Preacher takes its visuals very seriously.  The finale was strewn with remarkable touches, like Quincannon cradling a puppet made of raw meat in the shape of his dead daughter, and the mutual suicide of Annville’s team mascots once it was revealed that at least temporarily, there indeed is no God.  It’s Preacher‘s refusal to put much stock into character or emotion that made such moments, like its spectacular fight sequences (the one where angels and demons constantly killed each other and regenerated, mostly seen through a hole in the room of the hotel room next door, was more imaginative than anything in a feature film this year), more admirable than meaningful.

With Annville and its characters gone, perhaps Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy will prove to have more than flash–certainly the actors that play them can provide more.  (One other character, Ian Colletti as the aptly-named Arse-Face, dwells in hell due to Jesse’s mistake, but since Jesse has vowed to retrieve him, he may also show up at some point.)  The series has demonstrated that it can do very well with minimal depth and a non-stop display of visual and conceptual fireworks, and perhaps with a more focused group of core characters, it can make its way to another level as well.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."