‘Preacher’ season 2 promises more bizarre and violent hilarity and maybe a cameo from God.
The second season of Preacher is almost here. Based on the series of comics of the same name by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, the show is a very liberal adaptation that embraces the main characters and the main plot but makes the rest of the story its own.
In a very good way.
I’ve read all the comics, and I have to admit that I prefer the show. While the comics don’t always take themselves seriously, the show does so far less—its strangeness is very much rooted in the comic absurd, while the comics only dabble in it. This live action adaptation is, if anything, more cartoonish. But while the show feels lighter, funnier, the characters who populate it feel a little more real, a little more grounded in the world. There’s more backstory here, more reasoning behind the madness, and more often than not people have an explanation for their behavior.
The difference comes from the treatment of the story’s setting. The comics continually offer short glimpses into their world—characters appear with extreme and bizarre lifestyles and outlooks, and then they disappear. It’s world building based on flashes and images, and it’s something that I really praised the first John Wick film for.
But the world of the show is a little bit tighter, a little more interconnected. And I think it works better here. There are still just as many bizarre, unbelievable things to be seen, but now they tend not to exist for the sake of the image alone. The images are built upon, and the world is fleshed out. Odin Quincannon is still a man who loves meat a tad more than is healthy, but now he has a past and a look into the basis of his insanity.
He is, despite his heightened cartoonishness, more of a person.Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga)
Maybe the show is a product of its medium. Or of its time. (The comics spanned the second half of the 90’s). Maybe, God forbid, it’s more mainstream. Whatever the cause, AMC’s Preacher feels like a different animal, a cousin of the source material rather than a child. Because of this, I’ll likely mention the comics in passing but will mostly treat the show as its own entity.
Except for right now.
Because it’s worth acknowledging that this new season is more in keeping with the comics than the first was. While some characters were borrowed and reworked, the action of the entire first season was mostly fabricated. The heart and soul of the comics take place on the road—the town of Annville is a blip. The conversation in the diner at the end of season one, in which Cassidy, Tulip, and Jesse nudged the fourth wall and laid out the action for the coming seasons, was also an acknowledgment of the change of tone, a nod to the fact that season two would be more like the comics. Or, as Cassidy put it, “a road trip with buckets of guns, sex, drugs, and shady characters dressed in bikinis.”
In a way, season one was a prequel to season two’s truer adaptation.
And season two is different in other ways. Annville is gone, of course, but the dynamics have taken just as much a hit as the setting. Now, finally, all the cards are on the table. (Not all the cards, of course—for every question that’s answered, a new one pops up). But more cards than before.
If I have one main complaint about the first season, it’s that it was sometimes unclear how well everyone knew each other. Levels of familiarity felt unbalanced and sometimes more guided by the needs of the plot than by logic. Some characters felt closer to each other than they should have, and some more distant. But now our three protagonists know where they stand. They know who they are, and they know what their goal is. They’re a team. This makes for easier storytelling and cleaner interactions.Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga)
It also makes for a different kind of audience understanding. Part of what made the first season so much fun was the outrageousness of trying to figure things out as they went along. Now that fun comes from knowing what’s going on and seeing the interplay of those known elements in a situation that continues to be absurd.
Perhaps the best scene in the first season was the fight with the seraph in Fiore and DeBlanc’s motel room. We knew only vaguely that dead angels re-spawned and left their old bodies where they fell. Seeing those bodies piling up ad absurdum was the wonderful realization of the implications of the rules of the universe. The show took something we thought we were beginning to understand, and it ran with it. We were (or at least I was) surprised and delighted.
Now the surprise is gone, but in its place is a new kind of interplay with knowledge. We know that angels re-spawn and Cassidy burns in the sun. We know that Jesse can order anyone to do anything. The show can take that base knowledge for granted, can treat it with a certain spareness. And it can use that spareness to serious comic effect.
Because that’s another change—Season two is funny. Season one was funny too, of course, but the humor here is easier, more forward. The entertainment comes from our familiarity with the absurd, rather than our unfamiliarity with it. Both can be great sources of comedy, but this one feels cleaner, more pulled together.
That’s not to say that everything is explained—new characters are cropping up, along with new secret organizations and new antagonists. The world is getting bigger. We just have a few touchstones from the first season to give us context and make us laugh.Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun)
The second season of Preacher starts out strong with tighter, funnier storytelling in a world that remains outrageous, violent, and delightfully bizarre. It’s bloodier than the already-bloody first season, and a little more stylized. It sometimes verges on camp, but it’s the kind of camp that’s a little nauseating and very satisfying.
It’s camp’s grittier cousin. And if the first three episodes are anything to go on, it should be a fun ride.
Preacher premieres with “On the Road” on AMC this Sunday, June 25th, at 10/9 central. Episode 2, “Mumbai Sky Tower” will air the following night in the show’s new time slot, Mondays at 9/8 central.