Various elements of the episode will be discussed in this review, so beware spoilers. And watch the episode before you read on, lest you face the wrath of the almighty. Or Cassidy...
For anyone disappointed by Preacher's first season, where creative trio Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin decided to deviate wildly from the comic and launch the whole story via a sort of prologue in the town of Annville (admittedly, a setting straight out of the comics), Season 2 should feel more satisfying right out of the gate. Because, for all the fun that was had in the town, there were plenty of moments that dragged and characters that seemed utterly superfluous to the wider story, especially when they were blown up in the finale. So as Season 2 opens, we're focused firmly on the core trio of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), the Preacher who has become merged with divine error Genesis – product of a union between a demon and an angel – and blessed with the power of commanding speech, Tulip (Ruth Negga), his on-again, off-again kick ass assassin girlfriend and Cassidy (Joe Gilgun), a wayward, hard-partying vampire with an unexpectedly sweet side. On a road trip to find God, who has apparently abandoned humanity to its own devices, they're now firmly on their mission.
As the show returns with Catlin writing and Rogen and Goldberg directing, the intent seems clear, with this launch episode stating firmly that the wacky, hyper-violent and ever-so-slightly detached from reality side of the series is in full effect. Witness the audacious car chase (set to Dexy's Midnight Runners' Come On Eileen, which Cassidy, in another of his controversial opinions, claims not to like) and then the even more insane gun fight between some unlucky cops and the Saint Of Killers (Graham McTavish).
Oh yes, did you forget about the killer cowboy dragged from the depths of Hell to hunt down Jesse and co. so he can destroy Genesis? He's back here, and while we spent some of Season 1 learning his tragic backstory, here he's more of a supernatural hunter, tracking our heroes. If there's an issue to be found with the absolutely crazed level of violence on display here (blood, guts, head shots), it's that the directors and their collaborator seem a little too obsessed with what they can get away with, to the expense of the story moving along. Sure, it's a celebration of the artistry of CG folk and practical effects teams, but it likes the narrative drive of, say the fights between Jesse/Cassidy and the angels from last year.
And while we're poking little logic holes, what's up with the Saint's powers? One minute he can find the main trio with little trouble, the next he's seemingly so far behind that they have time to stop and pick up supplies at a local gas station.
Yet though the show still needs to occasionally cool it with the sheer levels of insanity (even if that feels fitting given the source material), there's something to be said for the fact that this initial episode really moves. And the stylistic tricks add a lovely touch (such as the car chase shot to look like it's a movie from the 1970s). The series may have cut down on the guest star kooks, but we still get to enjoy veteran That Guy Glenn Morshower as Mike, a priest and Biblical scholar of Jesse's acquaintance who they think can help them with the Saint and the search for God. He nudges them on their way to a strip club, but can't survive an encounter with the cowboy, even if he goes out on his terms.
This is still a show that can usually balance the madness with solid character work and finds joy in little details – such as Cassidy's encounter with security in the strip club, which plays out almost entirely on CCTV – and while it does sometimes dabble in style over substance, it's good to have Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy back.
Highlight: Cassidy and the cops argue about his sunlight concerns.
Lowlight: Intestine syphon? Really?
Kill of the week: The cops who try (foolishly) to stop the Saint.
MVP: Mike is a definite highlight. Even if his priestly ways do involve keeping people in cages to help with their addictions.
Random thought: Given how much trouble they're causing, you'd think there would be a lot more cops on Jesse's trail...
Airing on AMC Sunday nights in the US, Preacher is available weekly on Amazon Prime Mondays in the UK.