For years, it seemed like Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's epic comic series Preacher would never reach the screen. Many had tried, with everyone from Kevin Smith to HBO having taken a stab at bringing the blasphemous tale from page to screen. Nobody could have ever guessed that the folks who would finally succeed would be the dudes behind The Pineapple Express and Superbad.
Nevertheless, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg teamed with Breaking Bad veteran Sam Catlin to adapt Preacher into a TV series for AMC... and, amazingly, it worked. While the show takes many liberties with the source material, the spirit of the comic is definitely intact. Also intact are the hyper-violence, the pitch-black humor, the undercurrent of humanity, and all of that sweet, sweet blasphemy. With season 1 wrapped and season 2 still a year away, Screen Rant looks back at the best moments Preacher's freshman year had to offer.
16 That Bonkers Opening Sequence
Given that the book features an "arsefaced" boy, the ghost of John Wayne, and a mentally deficient descendant of Christ, Preacher fans were understandably worried the show might water down the weirdness that made Ennis and Dillon’s comic so much fun. That’s why the first few minutes of episode one were such a relief. Opening in outer freaking space, the scene follows something racing through the void toward Earth, moving like a bat out of hell.
We then cut to an African preacher, spreading the word in a ramshackle church until he’s struck by this mysterious force. He soon discovers he can command amazing power with his voice... but before he can enjoy it, he explodes in a fountain of gore. It’s over-the-top, violent, and hilarious -- all hallmarks of the comic series. It also gives the first hints about what the Genesis force is seeking, and sets up one of the show’s best punchlines (at the expense of Tom Cruise).
15 The Airplane Fight
When you’ve got a hard-drinking Irish vampire in your cast of characters, you owe him a memorable introduction. We meet Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) serving drinks and telling Tijuana donkey show stories to a private jet filled with drunken blokes who seem to be having a grand old time. When he excuses himself to the loo, however, things take a turn. After discovering a creepy Bible that would be right at home in John Doe’s apartment from Se7en, Cass realizes his drinking buddies aren’t what they seem. Sure enough, they’re soon trying their best to remove his head.
The airplane fight proved that Preacher’s action scenes definitely wouldn’t disappoint. It’s funny, fast-paced, and creatively choreographed. Cass takes down a planeload of wannabe vampire slayers all by himself, drains one dude’s blood into a to-go bottle, and leaps from the crashing plane with nothing but an umbrella to keep him company on the way down. That’s one hell an entrance and one hell of an exit.
14 Tulip O’Hare: Badass
Within the first few minutes of meeting Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga), we’ve seen her fight off a carload of baddies while said car is careening through a cornfield, unleash a brutal finishing move with an ear of corn, and take down a helicopter with a homemade bazooka. She even takes the time to impart some important survival tips to a pair of kids who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time: stay in the cellar till the noise stops, just like during a tornado.
If this show didn't get Jesse, Cassidy, and Tulip right, it would have been dead at the starting gate. Thankfully, Ruth Negga knocks it out of the park in her first scenes, establishing Tulip as capable, clever, funny, whip-smart, and charming. It’s not hard at all to understand why Jesse would declare his love for her “until the end of the world.”
13 "Open Your Heart"
Much of the arc of the first season involves Jesse (Dominic Cooper) living out the old adage that “power corrupts.” As the first episode ends, we get to see just how much damage Jesse’s powers can cause without him even realizing he’s doing it. After being hounded all episode by an annoying congregant with mommy issues, Jesse finally doles out what would, in other circumstances, be good advice: “Be brave, tell her the truth, open your heart.”
Genesis, however, ensures that the poor bastard takes this direction all too literally. We follow the unfortunate fellow as he buys a plane ticket, travels to his mother’s nursing home, and tells her that he loves her, but that she’s smothering him. It’s a defining moment for a son in need of cutting the apron strings, but then we get to that aforementioned “literal” part. He pulls out a butcher knife and “opens” his heart, ripping it out of his chest and living just long enough to look horrified at his own actions, but not long enough to hear his mother’s screams.
12 The Chainsaw Church Fight
There are two undeniable truths about Preacher: Cassidy gets all the best lines, and he gets the best fight scenes. In this corner, a pair of hard-luck angels determined to recover the Genesis force from inside an unconscious Jesse -- via chainsaw, if necessary. In the other corner, a confused Irish vampire who thinks they’re actually there hunting him. Before it’s over, Cass has beaten one guy to death with a hymnal and chainsawed an arm off the other, only to have to scramble after the sputtering saw -- still dragging the severed limb -- before it carves Jesse in half.
It’s carnage worthy of the Evil Dead franchise, and all the funnier because Jesse misses the whole thing and assumes Cass is full of it when he’s trying to tell him about it later. It also sets up a great punchline, as Cassidy cleans up the church and opens the doors to dispose of the bodies -- only to be greeted by the rising sun and a gorgeous visual nod to John Ford’s The Searchers.
11 "You're a Jedi."
What would you do if you discovered you had developed the irresistible ability to make anyone do whatever you told them to? Well, aside from maybe calling the Fox switchboard and getting a new season of Firefly green-lit, one of the first things on most people’s to-do list would be confiding in someone. Thankfully, Jesse Custer has a perfect audience in Cassidy, who is thrilled by Jesse’s sudden ability to channel Charles Xavier.
In addition to showcasing the growing bromance between Jess and Cass, the scene also serves up some great physical comedy (“Fly!”) and reveals Cassidy’s secret love for Justin Bieber -- which is still more easily forgivable than his hatred of The Big Lebowski. Cass is, of course, eager to speculate about the source of Jesse’s new mind mojo, floating possibilities such as alien interference, government experiments, or his favorite scenario: that Jesse is a Jedi. Well, Jesse does have the Jedi mind trick down pat, but I don’t think old Ben Kenobi ever made somebody rip their own heart out of their chest. (Unless that’s in one of the special editions and I’m forgetting.)
10 “This world…”
In the comics, Sheriff Hugo Root is a horrible, abusive racist fueled by paranoid fantasies about Martians. The show’s version of Root has very little in common with his print inspiration, but that’s an easy pill to swallow thanks to W. Earl Brown’s weary portrayal of a cynical lawman who has seen too many horrors. That more complex portrayal of Root is on full display during one of Root’s best scenes, a brief monologue that unapologetically tips its hat to Tommy Lee Jones and the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men.
Root tells the story of a child going missing at an amusement park, and how his parents’ relief at finding him again is crushed as they’re sideswiped by an act of inexplicable cruelty and violence toward their other two kids. It’s a perfect snapshot of the unpredictability and capriciousness of evil in Preacher’s world -- and in ours. At the heart of Preacher is a rage against God as an absent father, and Root’s bleak story perfectly summarizes why “the Man Upstairs” owes his creations some goddamn explanation.
9 "Pull back the hammer."
Donnie (Derek Wilson) may be a dick, but it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for the guy. Sure, he deserved the whuppin’ Jesse gave him in the pilot, but his obsession with rebuilding his wounded masculinity proves to be so self-destructive that it’s hard to take any joy in it. It’s like watching a puffed-up drunken frat boy try to pick a fight with Batman. It very nearly gets him killed after he ambushes Jesse in a roadside gas station bathroom, brandishing a pistol and determined to take the preacher down a peg.
Unfortunately, poor Donnie brought a gun to a “power of God” fight, so before he even knows what’s happening, he’s staring down the business end of his firearm... and it’s his own finger on the trigger. Both Cooper and Wilson deliver with their performances. Donnie looks utterly terrified as his body betrays him in the most fundamental way possible, all while Jesse is drunk with power and hovering on the edge of an abyss from which there’s no return. This is Preacher at its darkest.
8 The Hotel Room Fight
Some of Preacher’s fight sequences shine because of the clever staging, or memorable violence, or simply because they’re funny. The hotel room fight, however, excels because it mixes all of these together with a slapstick conceit that’s like something straight out of Looney Tunes. Namely: angels can be killed, but they then re-materialize intact. That concept is milked for high comedy when Jesse and the angels Fiore and DeBlanc find themselves facing off against another agent of Heaven in a squalid room inside the Sundowner Hotel.
Knowing they can’t actually kill their assailant (because she’ll just keep coming back), Jesse and the two angels have to wound her enough that they can disarm her -- and disleg her, leaving her limbless and shoved into the adjoining bathroom. Good in theory, tough in practice. Like Tulip’s helicopter takedown, the hotel room fight is actually funnier for what we don’t see, with the camera soon retreating through a hole in the wall, allowing the audience only glimpses of the chaotic, Wile E. Coyote tornado of violence unfolding in the next room.
7 Odin Quincannon’s Family
Even before he’s shooting down a room full of competitors, it’s apparent that there’s something very wrong with Odin Quincannon. The head of Quincannon Meat & Power is one of the wealthiest and most respected men in Annville, but he spends his down time sitting alone in his office, listening to audio recordings of cattle being butchered. Jesse is determined to bring him “into the light” one way or another, but even Jesse’s powers don’t seem to do the job. Just what happened to Odin Quincannon that messed him up this badly?
During a flashback sequence, we get our answers. Odin’s entire family is enjoying a scenic ski trip, right up until the moment the cable on their sky tram snaps, sending them all plummeting to their deaths. Quincannon doesn’t even get bodies back to bury -- he just gets boxes of mangled meat. He can’t even tell the difference between what’s left of his daughter and the contents of his slaughterhouse. It’s the sort of thing that would understandably leave some mental scars, and in Quincannon’s case that means denouncing God in favor of “the god of meat” while draped in his child’s intestines.
6 Jesse Sends Eugene to Hell
We’d seen from the very first episode just how dangerous Genesis had made Jesse, whether from a willful desire to make people do terrible things or a simple slip of the tongue. But it’s worse than that, because Jesse’s unchecked powers are combining with his conflicted faith in unhealthy ways, leading him to the conclusion that the best way to save his sinful town is to literally force everyone to serve and love God. Eugene (Ian Colletti), a sweet, simple kid who once did a terrible thing himself, tries to do the right thing now, telling Jesse that it’s wrong and lecturing the wayward preacher about the importance of free will. Jesse loses his temper and tells Eugene to go to Hell.
It’s the most shocking demonstration yet of just what Jesse’s words can do, and a careless act that destroys the closest thing Preacher has to an innocent. Eugene’s banishment haunts Jesse and helps shape his decision to instead call God down to Texas so he can face his creations. It’s also set up to be an ongoing plotline in future seasons, because you know Jesse isn’t gonna leave Eugene in Hell for the rest of eternity.
5 Emily Feeds Cass
After Cass proves his true nature to Jesse by stepping into the sunlight -- and bursting into flames -- the show leaves us wondering for a while if Jesse really let his best friend burn to death. Thankfully, we soon learn that Cass is indeed alive, but in bad shape, locked in a dark room and slowly recovering thanks to a steady diet of small animals provided by Tulip. But when she has pressing business elsewhere, she enlists Emily (Lucy Griffiths) to babysit the ailing vampire.
When Emily’s sorta-boyfriend Mayor Miles (Ricky Mabe) calls in the midst of this and acts like even more of a possessive dick than normal, Emily says she needs his help and lures him over. Then she escorts him into Cassidy’s darkened room, locks the door behind him, and listens to Cassidy tear into Miles like a starving animal. It’s a shocking moment that reminds us that in the world of Preacher, even the nicest-seeming people have dark sides. Miles was kind of a prick, but did he really deserve to get eaten?
4 The Saint of Killers
If the show’s opening moments of outer space mysteries and exploding holy men confused the casual viewer, the seemingly inexplicable Deadwood-style flashbacks probably left some wondering if they’d accidentally switched channels. In a series of flashbacks, Preacher tells the tale of a nameless cowboy who leaves his home to retrieve medicine for his ailing daughter. He travels to the town of Ratwater, a wretched burgh that more than lives up to its name. On his way home with the medicine in hand, The Cowboy makes a choice to return to Ratwater to save what he thinks is an innocent and unsuspecting family. The truth is much bleaker, and that well-intentioned decision costs The Cowboy everything. He marches home without a horse, arriving too late and finding both his wife and daughter dead, their bodies being picked at by crows.
So The Cowboy returns to Ratwater, where he murders every living soul within its borders. That act damns his soul to Hell, where he lives out those final days on an endless loop... until a pair of angels show up and recruit him to come back to Earth and kill a man named Jesse Custer. Season 2 should be very interesting indeed.
3 God Comes to Texas
Fans of the comic know that Jesse was always fated to be on a collision course with The Big Man himself, but when he acquires an angel phone and decides he’s going to call God down to his church on Sunday, it's unclear where the show is headed. But sure enough, God Himself is soon floating above the pulpit, looking like every Sunday school cliche rolled into one. Jesse’s congregation throws questions at their Maker (including “What did you do to the dinosaurs?” and “Can I get my d--- back on?”), but it soon becomes clear that this particular higher being ain’t exactly on the up-and-up.
The whole first season has led up to this moment, and it doesn’t disappoint. Tulip gets to yell in God’s face and chastise him for scaring a baby. Cassidy admits that this is trippier than the time he took a bunch of Red Bull and angel dust before a Bieber concert. And Jesse’s crumbling faith takes another hit as he realizes this “God” is an impostor, just another schmuck from Heaven trying to cover the fact that God is AWOL. The throne of Heaven sits empty, the world is a mess... and it falls to Jesse Custer to do something about that.
2 The End of Annville
Like REM once taught us, losing your religion can be difficult. It certainly is for the residents of Annville. Having faced undeniable proof that God isn’t watching over them, the people of Annville face a serious crisis of faith. Some embrace denial. Others chose to still be good people, even if it isn’t to please an invisible God. Still others take it poorly, to say the least. The dueling mascots we’ve seen off-and-on throughout the show choose to end it all, left hanging side-by-side from the iconic tree outside of the town. The pedophilic bus driver gets a full dose of karma at the hands of several vengeful kids no longer encumbered by God’s laws.
And one elderly reactor worker decides to get a little bit kinky, which unfortunately distracts him from the building pressure in the methane reactor that lies beneath the town. After he goes out with a smile on his face, the town reaches its own climax in the form of an enormous methane explosion that peels Annville clean off the map. It’s a very different fate for the town than what we saw in the comics, but one that feels fitting and strangely inevitable. It's the culmination of a set up building from the very first episode.
1 The Ending
It was a ballsy and unexpected decision for show runners Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, and Sam Catlin to spend the first season essentially doing a prequel to the comics, but it worked surprisingly well. As season 1 wraps up, however, Jesse and company are ready to embark on the road trip that formed the spine of the comic series, crisscrossing the country in search of God. Having come through a crisis of faith and realized just how much of a mess Heaven is, Jesse is also closer to the character we know from the comics: bitter, pissed off, and eager to kick the Almighty’s ass if He doesn’t have answers that Jesse finds satisfying.
The final moments of the season are a huge tease for season 2, with Jesse, Tulip, and Cass hitting the open road even as The Saint of Killers walks out of the smoking remains of Annville and sets out on their trail. Season 2 can’t get here soon enough.