‘Preacher’ is a very weird show, and the first season ended with a very weird finale. It’s also a very uneven show that was never quite as clever or as satisfying as I may have wanted. I’ll give it one thing, though. It was never uninteresting.
I gave up recapping the series early in the season because, frankly, the plot is confusing as hell and I had a hard time following what was going on. Over time, pieces of the puzzle fell into place and the story started to make a little more sense. I’m not going to try to explain everything here, but a few key things to understand are:
- The invisible supernatural force that lodged inside Jesse is a half angel/half demon bastard called Genesis that escaped from Heaven. It gives Jesse the power to control others using a special voice. Why it likes Jesse is unknown.
- In a moment of anger, Jesse used the Genesis voice to tell Eugene (the arsefaced boy) to go to Hell, upon which Eugene simply vanished. Although Jesse later believed that Eugene had escaped from Hell, it turned out to be a delusion in his head. He still occasionally hallucinates Eugene talking to him.
- The mysterious strangers named DeBlanc and Fiore are angels who tried to recapture Genesis and bring it back to Heaven before anyone noticed it was missing. They failed at this. Even when Jesse agreed to give up Genesis, it refused to leave him. The angels take human form on Earth and can be killed, however they immediately regenerate new bodies nearby. In the season’s best episode, a violent fight between DeBlanc, Fiore and a bounty hunter angel sent after them resulted in a huge pile of corpses overflowing their tiny motel room.
- The unnamed Cowboy whose flashbacks were interspersed throughout the season was revealed to be trapped in Hell, doomed to repeat the same events over and over again. In the last episode, DeBlanc and Fiore went to Hell to recruit him to kill Jesse. The Cowboy shot DeBlanc, whose body did not regenerate – at least not there.
- Lunatic local industrialist Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earl Haley) is determined to prove that religion is a scam and there is no God, aside from his own wacky belief system about a so-called “God of Meat.” He tried to annex and demolish Jesse’s church, which led to an armed standoff. Although Jesse was arrested at the end of it, he escaped Sheriff Root’s custody and swore that he would bring God himself to Annville during the following Sunday’s church service to answer all the townspeople’s questions. He plans to do this using a special portable telephone with a direct line to Heaven that he stole from DeBlanc and Fiore.
The finale episode is framed as a countdown to God. Jesse spends most of the hour in hiding, plotting to get back to the church and figure out how to get God to come. Meanwhile, Cassidy sits in jail, where’s he’s tortured by Sheriff Root, who figured out that he’s a vampire and demands to know where his son Eugene is. Tulip kidnaps Carlos, the former partner-in-crime who betrayed her and Jesse. She wants Jesse to kill him, hoping that act will snap him out of his current religious funk and bring back the Jesse she used to know, but they vacillate and ultimately decide to let him go with just a good beating.
On Sunday, Jesse sneaks back into the church to deliver his big sermon. Practically the entire town comes to either meet God or watch the preacher humiliate himself. Whichever happens will be spectacle enough worth watching. The sheriff, as curious as anyone else, lets Jesse take the altar.
After a couple minutes of fumbling, the angel phone beeps and buzzes and clicks, but nothing seems to happen. Quincannon interrupts, declaring the preacher a fraud and demanding that the sheriff arrest him. Suddenly, a darkness falls over the church, followed by a blinding ball of light and the miraculous revelation of God the Almighty!
Yes, the one and only Creator of Heaven and Earth has come to Annville – white robe and beard, sitting on a throne, the whole deal. The townspeople are in awe. At first seemingly an angry god who doesn’t like to be questioned, the Heavenly Father eventually settles down and agrees to do a little Q&A. The answers he provides are what you’d want to hear. Bad things happen to good people because He wants mankind to understand both joy and pain, dead relatives are all in Heaven, and He has a plan for everyone. Most importantly and most comfortingly, everybody in town is officially saved – the pious and the sinners alike. You’re saved, and you’re saved, and even you over there… Everybody is Saved!
The crowd cheers. God seems to be having a good time. He lets out a big laugh when the guy whose dick was shot off asks if He can put it back on.
Something doesn’t sit right with Jesse, though. God pretty clearly fumbles a question about Genesis, as if He didn’t know it was inside Jesse… or even know what it was. Jesse calls his bluff. This isn’t God. He’s an imposter. The alleged deity hems and haws, and insists that, no no, he really is God. Jesse uses the voice. “WHERE IS GOD?” he demands.
The ruse falls apart. The imposter admits that the real God is missing. Nobody knows where He is. They think maybe He’s on Earth somewhere. Before the transmission ends, the fake god gets hauled away off camera by a pair of handlers. The blinding light goes out and the regular sunlight comes in through the windows again.
The crowd is devastated. God is missing? Possibly dead, possibly doesn’t exist at all? Jesse rounds up Tulip and Cassidy and walks out of the church as Quincannon screams that he needs to live up to his end of their deal and denounce God in front of everyone.
The town quickly falls apart after the revelation that there’s no God in charge of anything. Riots break out. Little kids commit murder. The crazy guy in the Indian costume and his nemesis, the other crazy guy in the animal mascot costume, commit suicide together. The mother of the comatose girl smothers her daughter to death. Quincannon cradles an effigy of his dead daughter that he made out of ground meat.
Not caring about anything, the man in charge of the town’s power plant pulls a Homer Simpson and neglects his duties, failing to properly vent a dangerous buildup of methane. When the pressure exceeds safety limits and causes a meltdown, the gas is released all through the town, from one end to the other. A stray spark from a cigarette ignites it into a gigantic fireball that instantly eradicates the entire town of Annville. Jesse’s church is obliterated in the shockwave.
Fortunately, Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy weren’t in Annville at the time. They’re off in a diner somewhere else and don’t seem overly bothered by a TV news report that their town was wiped off the map with no survivors. Quite possibly, everybody they know was killed in the blast. Quincannon and Sheriff Root, Donnie the reformed abuser and his wife, all the parishioners, even Jesse’s adorable assistant Emily and her kids… very likely all dead now.
Jesse makes a plan. The three of them are going on a road trip to find God. When they locate Him, if He wants their help, they’ll help Him. If He doesn’t, they’ll kick his ass.
Tulip is in. Cassidy too. Tulip asks Jesse what exactly Genesis is. He demonstrates by compelling her to kiss him. She does, and when they’re done, she punches him in the face.
Back in the burned rubble of Annville, the bounty hunter angel stumbles through the debris. She must have regenerated after dying in the explosion. A shotgun blast tears through her abdomen, killing this copy too. Behind her stands the Cowboy. He’s out of Hell and on the hunt for the preacher.
From the beginning, ‘Preacher’ promised to be a completely gonzo, balls-out insane TV show unlike anything else on television. I don’t think it really delivered on that. Mostly, it was just confusing and juvenile and felt kind-of forced. It had its moments, though, and the introduction of the fake God in the finale is certainly one of them. That scene is weird and hilarious and a lot of fun.
Despite is issues, I like the convoluted mythology of this story, which I assume all (or mostly) comes from the comics. I also like the idea of reconfiguring the show’s second season into a road trip with our main trio hunting for God while the Cowboy hunts for them. I’m not sure how I feel about everybody else in Annville getting killed off so abruptly, however. It’s funny, sure, but it also does a disservice to characters like Emily or even Quincannon. Assuming they’re dead (which I suppose they may not be), they deserved more closure than they got.
‘Preacher’ isn’t quite one of my favorite TV shows, but I’m interested enough to watch another season.