I’ve come to praise Preacher, not to bury it.
However, the series is over. Season 4 was its last and we all knew that going into it. The story was allowed to play out to its unnatural conclusion. The final season seemed consistent with the previous three, for good or ill.
It’s been a while since I read the Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon comic book series that this AMC show was based upon. Full disclosure: I just pulled the final volume to remind myself how the graphic novel ended and to compare it to the television series. It turns out that the ending of the comic book story felt anticlimactic to me. So did the ending to the television series. I could say something profound about the journey being more important than the destination, because each medium offered a lot of fun scenes along the way to its conclusion. But, the feeling I’m left with after finishing this final season is mild disappointment.
That’s it. Mild disappointment. Not anger or overall dissatisfaction. Or the feeling that I wasted hours of precious time watching the series. The things I’ve liked about the series since the beginning were still on display during this frenetic run to the finale. The things I liked about it—-its irreverence, dark humor and gory violence—were part of the reason the series didn’t attract a larger audience. Plus, some people were put off by a story about a preacher whose main goal in life is to find God and kill him.
I’ve mentioned before that I seem to be consuming a lot of religious-themed fantasy lately. Supernatural naturally progressed to angels after focusing on demons for a couple of seasons, and eventually God himself was revealed to be hack writer Chuck Shurley. Lucifer, of course, focused on everyone’s favorite fallen angel. I finally got around to reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Prachett, a rollicking tale about the Apocalypse. The Good Place is largely about a nondenominational Heaven and Hell. I’m sure there are others I’m skipping over here, but then there’s Preacher.
There’s a reason this type of fantasy appeals to a certain segment of the population, of which I guess I am a part. Creating fiction out of mythological figures such as Thor and Odin, or the Greek or Roman pantheons, is somehow more acceptable to mainstream audiences than doing the same with Judeo-Christian beliefs. So, stories that feature God or Jesus as fictional characters, such as this series, are a little like whispering dirty jokes to each other in the church pew. It’s naughty. Maybe taboo in some quarters.
Even some self-professed Christians, such as myself, get a delicious thrill from it. It’s fun. It’s fiction. In a made-up story it’s okay to throw vampires into the mix as well, or have Hitler and Jesus hashing out the details of Armageddon. Why not? I don’t think anyone who’s watched this series will leave it thinking any of it actually happened. In the real world, I mean. Their firmly-held beliefs should not be threatened by this bizarre work of dark fantasy fiction.
This blasphemous tone has been a part of the series since the beginning, and I still believe it was a bold move for Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Caitlin to carry that tone over from the Ennis/Dillon work intact. While I appreciate that this interpretation of the source material allowed those familiar with the story to still be occasionally surprised, it felt like the first three seasons may have been a bit too leisurely. This final season tries to cram a lot more of the comic-book story into the series than can comfortably fit. I realize that they knew the finale was coming and they had to wrap up the myriad story lines in only ten episodes. This doesn’t change my opinion that a more faithful adaptation may have been a better series. In the end.
I stand by my love of the casting choices on this show. Sure, I pictured Jesse Custer as a taller man than Dominic Cooper, but the actor manages to project an aura of violent self-confidence that may have been too difficult for a lesser actor to pull off. Ruth Negga is not the Caucasian blonde that Tulip was in the comic book, but she’s perfect in the role. As is Joseph Gilgun as the vampire Cassidy. These three are the characters we want to spend the most time with. But, a protagonist is only as good as their antagonist, and this series offers plenty, in the form of Herr Starr (Pip Torrens), the Saint of Killers (the ubiquitous Graham McTavish), Hitler (Noah Taylor), and even God Himself (Mark Harelick). Other characters inhabit that in-between realm between the two extremes, such as Jesus (Tyson Ritter) and Eugene “Arseface” Root (Ian Coletti), and even the terrific Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery).
This is a large cast, and all of the actors give excellent performances, as if none of them think the premise and events are absurd or cartoonish. Because of the hurried nature of this final season, the events seem a little less grounded in reality. Which I realize, even as I type this, sounds as absurd as anything that happens on the show itself.
Part of my mild disappointment with this season may be because the series is over, I’ll admit. I thought it was fun, and mostly true to the feeling of the source material even if it took a few liberties. I still recommend Preacher for adults who appreciate darker humor and over-the-top violent action. It’s not for everyone.
Firewater’s It’s-the-End-of-the-World-Again Report Card: B
An anticlimactic conclusion to a refreshingly original television series.