‘Preacher’ Episode 1.10 “Call and Response” (7.5 out of 10) Developed by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg & Sam Catlin; Starring Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun & Ruth Negga; Sundays on AMC.
I have some conflicting feels about the season 1 finale of “Preacher.” Of the entire show thus far, this episode has come closest to capturing the anarchic satire of the comics—it pulled some seriously ballsy moves tonight. I liked tonight’s episode for that, but didn’t like it for the same reasons. I’ll need a bit of group therapy, but maybe we can figure it out together. SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Part Where God Shows Up
Let’s start with the deity in the room. For the past few episodes, Jesse (Dominic Cooper) has been planning on placing a direct call to God using Fiore’s (Tom Brooke) and DeBlanc’s (Anatol Yusef) old-timey cell phone and one of their hands. Not only is he going to get answers for himself, but he’s planning on showing the whole messed up town of Annville that when Jesse Custer says he’s bringing God to a party, then by damn, God’s showing up.
The scene is…weird. Not weird like Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) slicing through two angels with a chainsaw, but weird like watching a bunch of hicks yell at God via Skype. God appears seated at a golden throne, and he’s all beardy and white-robed—he looks like how pretty much everyone would assume that he looks, which I suppose is part of the punch line. See, after Jesse uses Genesis on God, we learn that the people of Annville weren’t really talking with God. Before he’s pulled off screen, the God-impostor reveals that God has left his post and that nobody knows where he is. While this revelation (heh) merely provides Jesse, Tulip (Ruth Negga) and Cassidy with an excuse to skip town and get French fries, it causes the people of Annville to freak out and debauch the hell out of the place. Mascots hang themselves from the trees, Mrs. Loach (Bonita Friedricy) smothers her daughter Tracy (Gianna LePera) while her son takes a selfie, and Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) cradles a meat effigy of his daughter (a bit of a relief considering what the Quincannon of the comics likes to do with meat effigies). It all culminates with the methane plant that provides Annville’s power to explode, leaving all of our supporting characters at the bottom of a cow-shit crater.
So here’s the problem. While I feel like this episode really dug in and gave us a taste of the “Preacher” that Ennis and Dillon created, it kind of made the audience the target of its own joke.
Throughout the TV series, the show has managed to maintain the comics’ critique of organized religion without necessarily taking it as far as the comics did, and I thought that came through again tonight. The idea that angels didn’t want mortals to see that God was AWOL, so they dressed a dude up in a robe and a beard and had him play the role is pretty hilarious. It sums up the lack of respect that the heavenly hosts have for mortals, and it managed to give the main three characters the kick in the ass that they needed to begin their quest to find the real God.
While this scene was truly a memorable piece of television history, including it in an episode that tries to disguise an elephantine McGuffin with what we’re supposed to see as “edgy” storytelling wasn’t the best idea. Just like the heavenly hosts thought that they could hide God’s absence behind an angry wizard, the writers of “Preacher” tried to use a methane explosion to hide the fact that none of season one’s subplots really went anywhere. Case in point—Tulip and Jesse finally had Carlos (Desmin Borges), the author of all their pain, trussed up and ready to accept their sweet vengeance only to have their billionth argument about the morality of the situation and let him go with a sound beating.
As I watched Tulip, Cassidy and Jesse eat French fries and discuss their upcoming road trip to find God, I found myself wondering why this didn’t happen in episode one. We basically spent ten episodes slogging through half-assed subplots, and building relationships with characters like Emily (Lucy Griffiths) and Sheriff Root (W. Earl Brown) only to see it all get blown up? I can’t help but feel like we’ve been swindled in some way. Here’s hoping that season two spends more time on its storytelling—blowing up a town and starting over only works once.