[Warning: contains possible SPOILERS for season 2 of Preacher.]
For the wacky, ultraviolent world of Preacher, producer-writer combo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have a wealth of quirky characters to work with. Creators Garth Ennis and the late Steve Dillon built a vibrant world around Southern charmer Reverend Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), his rambunctious partner in love and crime Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga), and vampiric frenemy Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun). The first season, while a touch on the slow side, also established a host of wacky townsfolk, at least before subsequently wiping them out in a massive methane explosion.
In addition to the cast of anti-heroes, Ennis and Dillon also put together a rogues’ gallery of scuzzy, sometimes outlandish, and even offensive adversaries, including the merciless Saint of Killers, Odin Quincannon, and the forces of the Grail, led by the grotesque and maniacal Allfather D'Aronique. First introduced to the show as Grail Industries, the secret society can call upon nearly boundless resources and overstep most jurisdictions. It's also fronted by the ruthless megalomaniac known as Herr Starr.
Producer Sam Catlin recently hinted that Herr Starr would play a sizable role in the second season. As one of the driving forces behind the religious sect, Starr's introduction is a significant development in the push-and-pull of the Preacher world. So who is this new foe, and how will the Grail enforcer impact the lives of Jesse and his comrades?
A Disturbing Introduction
So far, AMC’s Preacher has revealed little of The Grail or its true purpose. In fact, the show has only made reference to the mysterious Grail Industries on a handful of occasions. In the first episode, Tulip acquired a map that the curious corporation felt belonged to them. She later traded it to her cohort Dany, in exchange for info on the whereabouts of Carlos. Dany's interaction with a mysterious man in a white suit gave fans their first glimpse of Starr, as he took in a snuff film.
Initially played by Morse Bicknell, the producers brought in Pip Torrens (The Crown) to portray the mysterious spiffy-dresser for the second season. Thus far, the writers have kept quiet about the character’s official title, his general affiliation with the Grail, and the group's overall motivations. If Rogen, Goldberg, and Catlin remain relatively consistent with the source material, as they have thus far, Herr Starr should play a significant role in the ongoing story.
In the comics, the Grail consider themselves the keepers of the “true bloodline” of Jesus Christ. Revealed as an ancient secret organization, they intend to raise the Christian church above all others, creating a theocratic world government founded in their belief structure. The Grail is brutally efficient, and demands loyalty from leaders and foot soldiers alike. But where exactly does Starr fall into the group’s power structure?
Enter the Sacred Executioner
Ennis and Dillon relate little of Herr Starr's backstory in the comics. However, what fans do learn is fairly ugly. As a child, he was attacked by a group of local boys, who blinded him in one eye, giving him his distinctive, star-like facial scar. Each of his tormentors later died in a series of gruesome "accidents." As an adult, he joined the West German secret police, where he was further scarred by the violence of his profession. These events, though, honed his savage streak into a savage economy, something the Grail sought to cultivate when the group recruited him.
The first true test of his mettle, before officially joining the covert group, was eliminating an AWOL former agent. Fearing the rogue staffer would reveal too many Grail secrets, Starr was charged with quietly silencing him. Instead, he blew up the mental asylum where the rogue staffer was housed. Although the mass-murder was serious overkill, it pleased his recruiter, who brought him into the fold.
Once inside, Herr Starr’s brutal tactics and devotion endeared him to his superiors, and he quickly climbed the ranks. His tactics also earned him the favor, as well as suspicion, of Grail head honcho, Allfather D’Aronique. Once made Sacred Executioner, Starr also discovered The Grail’s true mission (possible SPOILERS ahead): bringing about the Armageddon in order to rebuild the world in its image.
In the comics, Starr played an integral role in the organization but also had machinations of his own. He was charged with eliminating enemies of the group, something he took great pleasure in. He was also willing to go to great lengths to extract information from his foes — something Rogen and company will probably play for extremes, similar to the show's other, cartoonish violence.
Before season 2, showrunner Catlin admitted that Starr and Custer’s lives are heavily entwined. The true depth of their relationship is best left unexplored for now, to avoid major spoilers. Suffice to say, Herr Starr is far more than a thorn in Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy's sides, and his plans for the group, in particular, Reverend Custer, evolve drastically throughout the saga. For the AMC adaptation, Rogen, Goldberg, and Catlin may change his overall role, but his place on the show ought to remain consistent.
At this point, the series' creatives have adhered to the source material where it matters most. As a result, Starr will likely remain one of, if not the primary antagonist in the show, as in the comics. Even The Grail’s majordomo, Allfather D'Aronique, doesn’t play as integral a part in the antagonism of Custer as his right-hand man (although D'Aronique has an interesting relationship with Jesse as well). Either way, he and Starr will make Custer's life and his plan, to literally find God, infinitely more frustrating and complex. Throughout Preacher’s second season and into the future, their relationship should prove illuminating and provide some horrific, as well as sublimely amusing, moments.
The next episode of Preacher, 'Viktor', airs on July 10, 2017.