I’m a Yankee and a proud Catholic but I have always been taken with Southern Church culture, particularly the Evangelical and Pentecostal variety. I have no desire to go down their road spiritually but I find the motivations and the cadences of their services to be fascinating. There is something gothic about it. The clapping and the singing, the laying on of the hands and the speaking in tongues – it is primal and edgy. I don’t mock the people who are practicing their faith but given my imagination, I find the whole affair to be tailored made for a good horror story. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. There is an entire genre of southern gothic horror tales with the Church and the Faithful intertwined.
Preacher, a new television show based off a popular graphic novel, captures the gothic spirit perfectly. It is set in a small Texas town and features Jesse Custer, the former bad boy turned town preacher and now very much doubting his faith. Very early in the first episode, he has a supernatural encounter which gives him the power to command people with his voice and this reaffirms his faith – with some pretty unpredictable consequences.
The plot line of the show is good but not amazing. The whole first season serves as an extended preamble to the events in the comic books and having read them, I can’t wait to get on the road with the preacher. But where the TV show succeeds is in the characters they introduced, and here they knock it out of the park to the point I don’t know where to begin. There is a southern spitfire whose opening scene involves her biting off an attacker’s ear and blowing a helicopter out of the sky with an improvised bazooka. There is a drunk Irish Vampire, two Angels on an unsanctioned mission, or maybe I can talk about the ‘butcher of Gettysburg’ – you’ll know him when you meet him.
Then there is the town itself which serves as a character itself. Like all towns in these southern gothic towns, it exists in a heightened reality where everything is just a bit off-kilter and strange – and people seem to be fine with it. It is the sort of place where people go the church and the picnic afterwards, and then go home and break all the rules often in full view of everyone else. Where the town’s leader has some unusual tastes which he likes to indulge and everyone else has a secret. Every frame of the show drips with menace and quirkiness. It is incredibly atmospheric.
In the end, I recommend this show. The story didn’t floor me but every single character did and I want to spend more time with them. Now that they have finished season one and have gotten the preliminaries out of the way, I think this could be AMC’s breakout hit going into season two.