“This is hell. Act accordingly.”
Preacher, based on the DC/Vertigo comics of the same name, is a wild ride of a show. How else do you describe a show that’s a preacher with a magical power, his criminal girlfriend and a vampire going on a road trip to find God? And honestly, that description makes it sound more normal than it is. A kid goes to hell and befriends Hitler, God might have a kinky hobby, an angel gets a Vegas show and an entire town gets blown up.
Let’s try and catch up on all this madness.
See also: A who’s who of Preacher
The first season of the show opens with what looks like a comet, plummeting to Earth. It kills a preacher in Nairobi, a magister in Russia, and several other religious leaders – including Scientology’s main man, Tom Cruise. Two mysterious men are tracking the comet’s path.
In Annville, Texas, small-town preacher Jesse Custer is dealing with a bored congregation and a messed-up town. A young boy wants Jesse to intervene and save his mother from being abused by her husband, but when Jesse does he finds out it’s consensual – they’re just into some really kinky stuff. And are scarring their son for life, evidently.
Also headed to Anville are an Irish vampire named Cassidy, who crash lands after killing a team of assassins on a jet plane, and Jesse’s criminal ex-girlfriend, Tulip O’Hare, who wants him to help kill their former partner who once betrayed them.
The “comet” hits Annville, but doesn’t kill Jesse. He isn’t quite sure what it did to him, but we quickly find out – while counselling a member of his congregation about a family issue, Jesse says “show your mother your heart.” The man goes to his mother’s home, cuts his chest open and removes his heart.
The “comet,” we learn, isn’t a comet – it’s Genesis, an angel-demon affair baby that gives the beholder the ability to make people do basically anything, sometimes knows as The Word of God. The two mysterious men tracking it are DeBlanc and Fiore, a pair of angels who are trying to bring Genesis back to heaven.
The two angels try to perform a ritual to remove Genesis from Jesse (who still has no idea what’s going on), and when that fails, they get a chainsaw. Cassidy interrupts and kills them before they can kill Jesse, in a bloody, slapstick scene worthy of Sam Raimi. The chainsaw in the church bit is one of my favourite moments of possibly the whole show.
Fiore and DeBlanc re-appear, despite Cassidy having killed them and getting rid of the bodies. They tell him they are angels, and they need Genesis back from Jesse. Meanwhile, Jesse realises he has this power and starts to test it out on the town, mostly to disastrous results.
At about the halfway point of the first season, once we’ve established our characters and the power, we begin to understand the first main antagonist: Odin Quincannon. Quincannon runs Quincannon Meat and Power, a family business that is the biggest company in Annville. He and the mayor take a meeting with investors, and Quincannon shoots them all and stakes it to look like they died in a car crash before he ever met them.
Quincannon is also a staunch atheist; his entire family was killed when Jesse was a boy and his dad was the town preacher, and he denounced God that day. Jesse decides to use Quincannon and his power to drum up business for the church. He makes a bet with Quincannon: if he doesn’t leave Jesse’s service a Christian, Jesse will sign over the land to him. Jesse uses Genesis to command Quincannon to serve God, and he agrees. Everyone is shocked, and the church’s business starts booming.
Unfortunately, Quincannon is not okay with this plan and starts an attack on Jesse’s church.
Lots of other stuff is happening – Tulip and Cassidy hookup before realising they both know Jesse; Jesse sends a kid named Eugene to Hell; there are flashbacks to the 1880s where a cowboy’s family dies and he kills a village in retaliation; everyone finally learns Cassidy is a vampire; DeBlanc and Fiore take a trip to Hell.
Jesse has a plan to keep the church from going to Quincannon: he says he’ll bring God to Annville, and everyone can hear what God actually has to say for himself.
At church, Jesse calls God on a ‘Heaven phone’ DeBlanc and Fiore had left behind. God appears and he’s everything Western media depicts him as: a white guy with a beard and flowing robe. (A great earlier exchange with Tulip has her saying God better be a white man, because otherwise she’s got some explaining to do.)
God saying all the right things, telling Quincannon his family is in heaven and assuring congregants that everything in heaven is great. Jesse senses something is wrong and finally gets the man to fess up: he’s just pretending to be God, because God is missing. Everyone in Annville freaks out, and Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy all bail.
The three of them decide to go on a roadtrip to find God, and they picked the right time: a freak accident at Quidnannon Meat & Power causes a methane explosion that obliterates the whole town.
Not that they’re safe, though: DeBlanc and Fiore’s trip to Hell was to find the murderous cowboy, and promise him a ticket to heaven if he kills Jesse.
AMC will have you believe the show starts dramatically: “Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy race down a Texas highway in search of God.” Actually, it starts with the three of them singing Come on Eileen while driving down a Texas highway, but let’s not argue semantics.
Cops pull them over for speeding and that seems like their biggest problem until the Saint of Killers, that murderous cowboy from season one, shows up and opens fire. The cops are all killed, but our trio escapes.
They pay a visit to one of Jesse’s friends, another preacher named Mike who keeps a girl in a cage as punishment and also knowns God visits a local strip club. That whole sentence is wild but this is Preacher, so it’s par for the course.
At the strip club, the trio learn God’s a big fan of jazz. Next stop: New Orleans!
The Saint of Killers tracks them again, so they decide to seek help from the angel Fiore. The Saint of Killers already took out DeBlanc. Fiore, solo for the first time in his life, has channeled his depression into a Vegas-style stageshow as a magician where he kills himself, then magically reappears. Angel magic! Cassidy convinces Fiore to call off the Saint of Killers in a way only Cassidy can: a drug-fueled bender. The trio leave, certain the problem is solved, by Fiore changes his mind and sends The Saint to follow Jesse in New Orleans.
Last season was all set in Annville, but season two is split between New Orleans and Hell. Yes, actual Hell. Eugune is in Hell where he’s sentenced to an eternity of watching his worst memory on a loop: for him, it’s the day when he high-school crush rejected him and killed herself, then he attempted to kill himself as well and scarred his face.
Hell is more like a prison, a series of cells with a no-nonsense warden and prisoners all watching their worst moments. Eugene’s cell block mates are killers, rapists, and Hitler. Yes, actual Hitler. Projectors in their cells fail, and Eugene is forced to socialise with his fellow inmates. Hitler, now a soft-spoken intellectual type, takes a shine to Eugene.
Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy hit New Orleans to search every jazz club for God. They don’t find him, but do find a man in a dog costume ready for some weird kinky sex.
Subplots for this season include Cassidy’s adult son Denis who is dying and wants Cassidy to turn him into a vampire and Tulip being tracked down by a man who turns out to be her ex-husband.
Jesse meets a lounge singer and tells her both about his power, and that he’s looking for God. They’re attacked by a group of men in all-white suits, and the singer, Lara, is secretly a part of their group. They’re called the Grail, led by a completely insane man named Herr Starr, and they were after Jesse in the first place. They knew about Genesis and God’s disappearance and are tracking them both.
The Saint catches up to everyone again, and Jesse convinces him he can get the Saint into heaven, so not to kill them all please?
Jesse’s big plan is to find a soul to give to the Saint, so that he can enter heaven. Apparently collecting souls is a service provided in the world of Preacher, and Jesse heads over to the ‘Soul Happy Go Go’ company. The only soul that’s a match for the Saint is Jesse’s own, so he takes 1% of his soul to give to him. Now that the Saint has a soul, he’s not immune to Genesis and Jesse traps him in an armoured vehicle and drops it in a swamp, but tells Tulip and Cassidy he’s dead.
Back in Hell, the prison guard has learned there is an imposter and wants to find out who it is. Hitler convinces Eugene he has to escape before he’s found out as the imposter: he wouldn’t get to leave Hell over the mix-up, instead, his torture would become worse and his worst memory would be twisted into darker and darker versions.
Eugene and Hitler managed to escape Hell and sail down the River Styx. Once they return to the living world, Hitler escapes and Eugen realizes he’s probably made a really big mistake.
Herr Starr approaches Jesse and lets him in on a big secret: The Grail has been covering up God’s disappearance and protecting the Messiah. At the end of the world, Jesus’s 25th great-grandson will reveal himself as the Messiah and save humanity. Or at least, that was the plan; the great-grandson is Humperdoo, an inbred idiot who draws pictures of dogs all day.
The dog drawings trigger a memory in Jesse of the kinky dog guy at the jazz bar when he first got to New Orleans. Yep, that was God! Like, the real God. He’s into some freaky stuff.
Jesse is ready to step up and become the next Messiah, but has to rush to save Tulip, who’s been shot by the Grail and is dying.
Well, Tulip’s obviously not dead, for one. We know season three is taking us to L’Angelville to meet Jesse’s voodoo-practicing family. Tulip will be resurrected, but will she be the same?
While season two opened up the world a lot more, there were parts that felt stagnant or like filler, so hopefully L’Angelville isn’t more of the same.
As for everything else – God, Herr Starr, Hitler – we’ll just have to watch and find out.