The Problem with Preacher


Jim’s Thoughts

It’s Wednesday now, and some of you may be wondering why I haven’t reviewed episode 3 of Preacher yet. I watched it on Sunday, and for a brevity’s sake I’ll say I felt pretty much the same about it as the first two episodes. It wasn’t exactly bad, but I’m losing interest in the show. With that said, I thought I’d poke a stick at some of the things that have put me off from the series in the early going.

To reiterate, I have read the comics, and yes, the show is quite different from them. That’s not a problem in and of itself, however. I’m all for saying this is a different medium, so it should tell at least a slightly different story. So long as the characters are there, I can not only forgive, but applaud it. I’ll also double-down on what I said last week. Preacher does offer recognizable versions of the characters we know from the comics. So, what’s the problem? It’s that the story AMC is trying to tell with this series is shapeless.

Kyle and I were talking about this just a couple days ago. He was surprised to hear I’m not particularly enjoying Preacher, and he asked why. I told him the show is sort of “wallowing in itself,” and that may be the best way I can describe it. Things have happened so far. Jesse has received his mysterious gift of persuasion, and some shadowy figures have come knocking in search of it, but is there really any urgency to the story right now? I don’t feel it. Every week we see Jesse mope, wrestle with his faith, revisit one of the town’s lost causes, or meet a new one, but he’s still there. He doesn’t know anyone is looking for him yet, and it’s not entirely clear what threat those figures pose. Tulip comes by at least twice an episode to try talking him back into his old life. It’s wash, rinse, repeat.

Those who’ve studied creative writing will know about “The Hero’s Journey.” For those who haven’t and don’t, it’s a sort of formula on which most western narratives are built. Part of that formula deals with the refusal of the call to action. Essentially, our hero is too afraid/filled with doubt/ambivalent to take up the cause. You see it in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker says he can’t go with Obi Wan, then changes his mind when his aunt and uncle die. It’s extremely common in western storytelling, and maybe that’s what Preacher is going for in Jesse’s refusal to join up with Tulip, but we’re three episodes in now. Not only has he rebuffed her several times, but it’s almost as though they’ve had the exact same conversation each time. At this point, it doesn’t matter whether Jesse leaves with Tulip or not. I, as a member of the audience, can’t help but stare at the screen and yell, “Just do something!” It’s as though Jesse is fighting against the start of the story, and that’s simply dull.

Maybe AMC wants to tell the story of the town. That could be fine, but what’s happening there? We’ve met some characters. Jesse’s had run-ins with one, roughed a couple of them up a bit, but to what end? What purpose has Eugene served but to show up on screen, make the most of their SFX makeup department, and generate some pathos? He can still be a solid character. He’s there, but he’s not doing anything. That’s the big issue with the show. It’s a bit like watching someone set up a chess board only to stare at it. We think we know who the bad guys are, and what they want, but it’s been ambiguous to the point of being coy. I may stick around for the next episode, but I’m not looking forward to it, and for a show this highly anticipated to have me at apathy three episodes into its first season is a poor omen.

Kyle’s Disclaimer

As of this write-up I haven’t seen Preacher. I had asked Jim a couple of days ago if I should invest my time in the series and his answer was a resounding no. I wouldn’t say that I was particularly “shocked” when Jim told me that he didn’t enjoy the show either. From the sound of it I won’t be sinking any hours, minutes, or seconds into the Preacher.

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