Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Preacher is not for everyone. If the cheesily perfect outer space-faring opening minutes of the show’s premiere season weren’t warning enough, the next ten hours eventually amassed an impressive assortment of spontaneous combustion, an Irish vampire with a machine gun for a mouth, mind-control super powers, immortal angels, a supernatural telephone, a guy appropriately named Arseface, and – eventually, confoundingly – the quest for God.
It was – is – a lot to take in. Preacher season 2 has no room for your confusion; the opening two hours of the new season are manic and exhausting in the absolute best sense, because they feel like they have a focused, meaningful purpose. It’s like the show is just getting started, with a road trip plotline that has the figurehead of all existence in its sights, and a pure evil cowboy from hell in its rear-view mirror. The stories crackle as much as the characters, and their deliciously endearing interactions provide enough spark to start a hellfire of their own.
Not much time is wasted between last season’s explosive cliffhanger – which saw the small town of Annville explode with riotous outbursts after it was discovered that God is missing, and then actually explode due to a methane leak – and the opening of season 2. Jesse (Dominic Cooper), Tulip (Ruth Negga), and Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) have left Annville in the dust and decided, with Jesse’s obsessive drive, that it’s up to them to find God and hold him accountable for, well, everything that’s gone wrong so far in the show.
Like with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s own This is the End, and I’d even throw in Edgar Wright’s body of work, Preacher excels at contrasting one mundane drama (this year: a buddy road trip) with that of a zanier genre and all the tropes that come with it (a gumbo of religiously tinged supernatural rules whose venn diagram of influences dips into superhero and sci-fi more than a few times). The show, in essence, has a sharply sardonic wit that’s insanely fresh and inventive, with writer Sam Catlin managing to keep The Search for God on a ferociously entertaining fever dream of a trip, where every pit stop and sideshow attraction draws comedic – and literal – blood.
Directed by Rogen and Goldberg, the first two episodes also show off a willingness for inventive visuals, with a road chase turning into a self-aware homage to grimy action flicks of the late 70’s and early 80’s, complete with quick zooms, crappy film stock and a banging rendition of Come On Eileen. When the blood and gore flies, and boy does it, the action is kept tense and focused even amid the carnage, with the humor of Catlin’s script playing off like gangbusters alongside the visual cues shot by Rogen and Goldberg.
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That’s not to say that Preacher can’t be subtle. The world of the show might be heightened beyond good reasoning at times, but it’s one that always feel real enough to itself. When that scary demonic cowboy (Graham McTavish) lurks down a dark road with the assured pace of Michael Myers in Halloween, lit periodically by roadside lamps that quickly decrease in number as he gets closer to Jesse, it’s chilling. Not to mention the fact that the writers blew up most of the cast in a bloody punchline gag last year, yet still find ways to make understated, hilarious set pieces built around Cassidy’s fear of the sun. It’s a delicate balance that’s been pulled off here, a show that toes the line between mean-spiritedness and satirical farce; really, it repeatedly feels like the creators are having their silly supernatural swamp cake and eating it too.
The show also manages to continue expanding the world of Preacher in fascinating new ways, as Jesse and the gang uncover clues as to God’s existence and why exactly Genesis chose him in the first place. It’s not one to waste time with big exposition dumbs, thankfully, and manages to dole out backstory with engaging visuals and Catlin’s sharp dialogue. This idea is perfectly realized during the group’s major pit stop in episode two, which is stocked with enough character, drama and out-of-nowhere-poignancy that it could fill a show of its own. In season 2, Preacher essentially makes far more of a convincing argument for any ongoing stories set in its world than the comparably cramped setting of season 1.
Stocked by these actors, it also approaches infallibility. Cooper is a steadfast lead with just enough of a dad-sized chip on his shoulder to pull off Jesse’s sexy swagger, and paired with Negga the two are downright volatile. Negga’s Tulip – who had what is arguably the coolest character introduction in a TV show ever during the pilot – remains the most layered and captivating of the trio, and her dextrously plotted backstory begins bubbling to the surface as more and more of the ghosts of her past show up on the road to God. Negga infuses Tulip with a badass, anti-damsel edge that never feels like a counterfeit, and her manner of speech – she calls Jesse’s power a “smokey brain hand” – only cements her uniqueness.
Third wheel Cassidy is anything but, and the motor-mouthed Gilgun is a comedic well of audience stand-in befuddlement and pot head bon mots that the guys from Pineapple Express and Knocked Up would undoubtedly love, including a season-running gag that questions the government’s true intent with male foreskin. Understandably, not much of season 1’s cast returns in season 2, but there’s a welcome new glimpse at angel Fiore (Tom Brooke) and his lackadaisical life on Earth following his partner DeBlanc’s (Anatol Yusef) demise last season in their search to regain and re-trap Genesis.
Brooke is great, and his mini-arc early in the season is even greater, and it goes a long way to proving the potential of Preacher‘s future without Annville. Nothing is as satisfying as a show in the confidence of its prime, and that’s where season 2 finds Preacher: laser-focused on the characters that we care about and teasing a ridiculously tantalizing treat on the road ahead. The show kicked the cinderblocks out from under itself last season, a middle-finger salute that reverberated with its manic, punkish heart, but worry not – its course remains steadfast and winningly, deviously coarse as season 2 revs up.
With a sharp sense of dark humor and a hefty dose of the old ultraviolence, Preacher returns with a hilarious road trip from hell that provides enough world building groundwork for years to come.