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“What about you, Sheriff? Last I checked, this kind of questioning was illegal.”
“Not in Texas.”
Sheriff Root isn’t the only one disposing of the rules. AMC‘s Preacher is unlike anything on television, now or probably ever. It’s as comic book as it gets without putting on the tights, one of those “world of badass” narratives you read about on TV Tropes. Its characters, though, are deeply troubled and convincingly human, including the hit woman, the vampire, and the cowboy from hell. And especially the preacher.
“Call And Response,” the inaugural season’s final episode, is an epic send-off for the characters we’ve grown to love this summer. Like May’s pilot, the season finale is a bit longer than the episodes sandwiched between, but it earns every minute, tying up loose ends and hinting at a very different season two.
In the tradition of High Noon (a go-to for comics writers looking to build tension), an on-screen countdown clock promises that a certain deity is about to visit the residents of Annville, Texas. Reverend Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is still on the run. His girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) has returned from Albuquerque with a special surprise in the trunk of her car. Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is undead, well, and in a cell. Sheriff Root (W. Earl Brown), desperate to find his son, has learned of Cassidy’s vampirism, and tortures him accordingly. We finally learn what happened with Jesse, Tulip, and their old partner Carlos (Desmin Borges), in a nod to Dog Day Afternoon and Killing Zoe. As we’ve seen with many of this show’s characters, Tulip’s personal hell, an unforgivable loss, drives her motivation for revenge. Old enemies become unlikely allies, and old grudges lead to come-to-Jesus moments. The finale is a curtain call for a great cast, all of whom we want to see again, many of whom we won’t.
The cast is brilliant as always, with Ruth Negga the prime standout. She’s especially convincing if you understand what Tulip has been through. In a cast of gems, she’s the crown jewel. When this series ends, she’ll be a star, and deservedly so. We’d have French fries with her any day.
The finale’s soundtrack selections must have been expensive, but they were worth every ASCAP/BMI cent. Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Linda Rondstadt, The Rolling Stones, and more are featured. In keeping with the rest of the season, the music never intrudes, but narrates and underscores in the tradition of American Graffiti and Reservoir Dogs. It’s a rather nineties choice, making us hope that the soundtrack album contains dialogue snippets. (If they don’t release one, internet, please mixtape this bad boy.)
The show has broken the rules from the beginning, playing out like a funhouse mirror image of the DC/Vertigo comic. Things we expected to happen quickly are handled with agonizing suspense. If you’ve read the comic, this feels like the Elseworlds version, but it’s done with the same lunatic spirit of the original.
While previous episodes touched on questions of faith, “Call And Response” ends with a terrifying answer. Religion’s greatest contribution to society lay in its structure, a set of rules to keep humans from devolving into beasts. We like to separate ourselves from our heathen ancestors, but the finale’s curtain call tests that belief. In the end, there really are too many bad guys.
In a time long enough ago to feel like a parallel world, AMC once stood for “American Movie Classics.” They showed old flicks, commercial-free and finely curated. Then they changed their format, and started showing tripe like Halloween 5. They eventually got their act together and gave us classics of their own like Breaking Bad. Preacher‘s journey to television has been long, but it stands tall among the best AMC offerings. This weird little show has made believers of us, and to that we can only say hallelujah.
If you still haven’t seen seen it, AMC is offering the entire season of Preacher here. Get it before it gets you.
Photo Credit: ACM/Sony Pictures Television