‘Preacher’ returns high on insanity but low on energy.
I have a long, storied history with Preacher. A year ago, I wrote FSR’s weekly reviews of Season 2. I’ve read all the graphic novels. I’ve seen every episode multiple times. I’m a little bit of an expert. And my relationship with the show is a bit strange.
This is because I love some parts of it. Last summer it was my comfort viewing. I’d put on an episode, especially from Season 1, and all my cares would melt away. I wheedled and nagged my friends and family, trying to convince anyone to watch it.
But this wheedling came with a caveat: the pacing is a little odd.
And that’s something I’ve had a hard time getting past, even with this show that I love. The characters have a tendency to get bogged down, not seeming to know where to go. Despite being based on a series of books that are largely road trip based, the action tends to take place in a fixed location: in Season 1, Annville, in Season 2, a crappy apartment in New Orleans. The dragging, sometimes aimless movement has always been the show’s weakest link.
And I’m sorry to say, not a whole lot has changed with Season 3.
There are so many things to like about Preacher. The show has a weird, semi-magical lore, and it’s always fun to see just how much is accepted as true. Vampires exist, but they’re rare. Angels are rarer, and while Heaven and Hell are probably real, organized religion gets a lot of the same skepticism it does in our universe. Souls and voodoo are very real, as we’ve seen in the second season, and we will see much more this time around.
It’s an exciting world to visit, where the bounds of reality stretch and reshape to contain each new weirdness, and none of the characters bat an eye. And it’s very willing to get weird. Some main characters include Jesus’ inbred descendant, God in a latex dog suit, and Adolf Hitler himself, and I know that a few more horrific additions are on the way. The show is fully embracing its depravity, even launching a promotional campaign imploring viewers not to watch if they’re easily offended, confused, disturbed, etc.
And that’s all well and good. I love to be offended and confused and disturbed. There’s only one problem with the new season: it’s a little bit boring. Or at least the first three episodes that have been released to critics are.
That perennial difficulty with moving the action forward has come back, and it’s all the more heartbreaking because last year’s finale seemed to be moving away from it.
I loved the Season 2 finale, in no small part because so many things finally happened. Cassidy finally killed Denis. Tulip finally confronted Featherstone. Jesse and Cassidy finally fought. Tulip died, for crying out loud. And the gang finally got out of that New Orleans apartment. Walls were broken down, and lines were crossed. We got punched in the gut, and we were finally on the move again. It felt good.
But this new season is just staying put in a different place. We’ve left New Orleans for Angelville, the menacing old estate where Jesse grew up. And there are new characters to meet, and new curiosities to see. The pervading mood is dark and sinister and undeniably cool. But the action seems to have no direction. It ambles. People step into the spotlight, and they step out. Threats are made to leave, threats are made to stay. But no one important ever goes anywhere.
And that’s what I miss about the first season. Because no one ever went anywhere then either, but no one was supposed to. There was a fixed cast of characters in a small town, and they were trying to go about their lives there. That was the setting, and it was a fine one. It may not really have existed in the source material, but it made sense for the direction the show was going. Then in the second season, the action seemed to start, and our heroes started to move…. Until they got stuck in New Orleans. Now the same thing is happening all over again, about 50 miles down the road.
There’s nothing wrong with staying in the same spot. But if the characters are constantly itching to leave, frequently straight up saying that they want to leave, as these characters are, problems arise. The action becomes frustrated, and so does the audience.
Is this a detractor? Yes. Is it insurmountable? No, I don’t think it is. I’m certainly having fun watching Preacher. Some aspects of it I really like. Joe Gilgun’s Cassidy, in particular, is wonderfully compelling. I’ll watch him do anything.
But I wish it could get a handle on its pacing. Preacher has so much potential and so many good qualities. If it could stick to a consistent and enjoyable plot progression, it’d be unstoppable.
“Angelville,” the first episode of Season 3, airs Sunday, June 24th at 10/9c on AMC.