As a newcomer to the Preacher universe, I very much want to like this series. I like much of the acting, I like the behind-the-scenes talent, I like the visuals and the humor, and the world that it seems to be building seems like it has the potential for great things. Which is why it remains so terribly frustrating how scattershot and unfocused the series is thus far. Three episodes in, I don’t precisely know what to make of Preacher. I’m not even sure I could tell you with any real certainty what it’s about. It feels more and more like a series made by and for existing Preacher fans, with little patience for those of us on the outside who don’t already speak the language. The series keeps offering fragments that feel less like a slow build and more like teases for things with which we are already expected to be intimately familiar.
For instance, we get a peek this week of the criminal past once shared by Jesse and Tulip, as flashbacks reveal how they were once left holding the bag after a job by their treacherous former partner, Carlos. We are told that Carlos’ betrayal had devastating consequences for both Jesse and Tulip, such to the point that Tulip is absolutely driven by vengeance and Jesse even temporarily entertains putting his struggle for redemption on hold to find Carlos. But none of this really connects because we don’t even really yet have a sense of who these characters are in the present to be concerned with additional vague allusions to their past.
And Cassidy, whose humor is the only truly consistent pleasure of Preacher thus far, has little to do this week beyond odd jobs around the church. However, he does encounter, and re-murder, the two mysterious agents he bloodily murdered last week, whom we find out are heavenly enforcers dispatched to reclaim the entity residing within Jesse. The duo manage to form something of an alliance with Cassidy in their quest, but we don’t know what that entails just yet. We don’t know who these two really are just yet. Hell, we don’t even know what the force is yet. Preacher is displaying an aggravating tendency to avoid pinning down a single thing for us with which to anchor ourselves.
Its universe keeps sprawling as well. How does Sheriff Root and his son “Arseface” fit into the bigger picture? The abusive husband who Jesse assaulted awhile back still has it out for the preacher, but his greater significance is uncertain, save for tempting Jesse with committing retaliatory murder. Annville Mr. Big Quincannon is still flitting around the margins of the series, but who knows why? Even Lucy Griffiths’ Emily, the fourth lead on the show, is a complete nonentity thus far. I can understand why the two immortal enforcers remain murky at the moment, but shouldn’t some of these other people be snapping into focus now? Even Jesse himself is an enigma. His powers of vocal persuasion are fun (his use of them to make Cassidy his dancing monkey is a hoot, though Jesse getting the vampire to admit to being a Belieber coupled with last week’s admission that he’s not a Lebowski fan doesn’t speak well of Cassidy’s taste in pop culture), but nothing about his character seems to be taking root.
I don’t know, maybe it’s premature to hold this lack of momentum and cohesion against Preacher at such an early date. If it had been released as one big bulk-drop on Netflix, the stinginess of explanation and momentum would probably be more forgivable in a binge session as opposed to week-to-week. But watching the show feels like being at a party where you don’t know anyone and no one is introducing you to people. I would very much like to count myself among Preacher’s fans, but it’s starting to feel like they aren’t accepting latecomers.
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