There was no doubt that the majority of the events that took place in the more than-cult comic book series Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon would not translate to the small screen, or any screen for that matter, but Preacher from AMC is the ultimate "based upon" series. That isn't to say that it's not a good first episode of what could end up being a ground breaking television series. It just, at least superficially, deviates more from the comic book series as a TV show than even AMC's The Walking Dead does. This makes for mixed emotions on my behalf as concerns the first episode of Preacher. While I'm overjoyed that the series finally has gotten it's live action debut, it's not quite close enough to the source material to really endear itself to me. At least, it's not yet.
The Saint of Killers, an inbred descendant of Jesus of Nazareth, multiple commands by a power similar to the Voice of God to "fuck yourself" and "shit yourself" and mountains upon mountains of bad language and dark humor were the hallmarks of the original comic book series. Hallmarks that are going to be incredibly hard to portray on a regular cable series. The scathing sarcasm, highly socially conscious themes and narrative structure built around the ultimate quest for the ultimate answer to the ultimate question-"Where is God?"-all of which formed the themes of the comic book series can be portrayed though. It's pretty accurate to say that the majority of the above themes are established here in the first episode (with one major exception which I'll address below). Their portrayal in this debut episode pretty accurately reflects that of the comic book series, but the buildup and establishment of them is highly different from what lovers of the original comic book series might expect. Most importantly though, Jesse Custer's ultimate mission: to find an absent God, is not even alluded to here. Whether it will or will not be established in the future remains to be seen, but fundamentally, at least as far as this first episode is concerned, Jesse Custer is solely focused on being a "good preacher" instead of "finding God" and righting some wrongs along the way. Perhaps Ennis' original metaphorically charged theme/plot in Preacher was just a little too much for TV. Is this a sign of things to come as far as Preacher the TV series is concerned? Does this confirm the original series' lovers' fears that the comic book will not translate justly to live action? Again, only time will tell.
Jesse Custer, Tulip, and Cassidy's characters are established pretty solidly, but, especially in the case of Jesse, there are some striking differences from the comic book. Jesse starts out as the very definition of the original bad ass. He destroys a group of Confederate reenactors in a bar fight, and his as yet to be revealed para-military past is heavily alluded to. Cassidy is pretty much spot on as far as his look and Irish rogue characterization is concerned, with one major difference in comparison to the comic book series. He is established as his own version of a sort of super hyper ass kicking vampire rather than a bit of a loser like he is in the comic book series. Part of his journey toward becoming a man, in the most honorable sense of the word, is a major part of the story in the Preacher comicbook. Hopefully, it will be incorporated into the TV series. Tulip is slightly, but understandably, portrayed as an over the top ultimate bad ass feminist warrior. While all the characters make for interesting viewing, they aren't nearly as engaging as one might have expected. (Notice I didn't even get into the whole supernatural characters yet...we'll save that for another review.)
Expectations are part of the problem here though. The viewer who's never read the original source material will probably find plenty more to admire in this first episode. Fans of the original comic book series, who truly loved, and honestly admired what Garth Ennis was getting at with the original series are going to be a little let down by this first episode. Overall, this first episode is well acted, well directed, well filmed, and well written (minus the ill advised and dubiously loaded African church scene during the opening). It's just not the Preacher that we long term fans remembered and grew to love, especially over the course of multiple re-readings. It has all the necessary parts in place to do the original source material justice...we will just have to wait and see if Seth Rogan and company pull it off.