Warning: the following contains spoilers for the Preacher comic series.
After two years on air, Preacher has proved itself the not-so-little comic book adaptation that could. People said it couldn’t be televised, yet here we are: celebrating news that the show is coming back for a third season at AMC in 2018.For other TV shows, this would be the time to really start kicking things into high gear. But how does a show that blew up most of its cast in season one and squeezed God into a BDSM-esque dog costume in season two pull that off?
It’s simpler than you might think. Come closer and I’ll tell you. Ready? All showrunners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg need to do is…
…FOLLOW THE COMIC.
As much as I hate to be the sort of nerd purist who protests that what’s on the screen Wasn’t in the Books, many of the changes made to Preacher for TV are pretty baffling. If you’re going to adapt your favorite comic, why change basically everything about it except the main characters’ names and accents?
I do understand some of the fudging. For instance, omitting D’Aronique, Herr Starr’s predecessor in the comic, from the show allows the much more interesting Starr to shine from the start. It also does away with the unfortunate sizeist overtones of the character; D’Aronique’s whole deal was that he was morbidly obese with disordered eating, which I guess was supposed to underscore how terrible he was? Not exactly the message you want to be sending in a network TV drama.
Would D’Aronique do this? He would not. That’s why Starr is better.
Other changes, however, do not work. Why make Featherstone the one to kill Tulip? In the comic, Tulip is shot in the head by Jody, the right-hand man of Jesse’s grandmother Marie L’Angelle. (Don’t worry, she gets better. God brings her back to life. It’s cool.) That moment where the perpetrators of Jesse’s abusive past threaten to annihilate his future is hugely significant. Many people with deep trauma in their lives know what it’s like to worry about their past demons engulfing their future chances at happiness; author Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon distilled that into a single page that made readers’ jaws drop around the world. Sure, it was shocking, but more than that, it was a resonant, insightful glimpse into the painful side of the human condition.
Speaking of Jesse and Tulip—oh, Lord, the rant I could write about those two. I’ve always loved Jesse and Tulip, both as individual characters and as a couple. Jesse’s struggle between giving into his toxic-masculinity-influenced perception of how he should treat his girlfriend versus recognizing her as a capable, intelligent woman with her own agency, and how it ties into his childhood trauma, is fascinating. Meanwhile, Tulip is sharp, warm, fiercely protective, and possessed of an inner strength I admired from day one. When she saves Jesse with her mad firearms skills (she’s a better shot than he is) in his final battle with the Grail, it feels like the whole series has built up to her, not Jesse, playing the hero who cleans up the town.
Together, they were unstoppable. They came back from the dead to be together; each of them would have torched the entire world in an instant if it meant saving the other. When they promised their love would last “until the end of the world,” you could be damn sure they meant it.
In contrast, TV Tulip and Jesse barely seem to like each other, let alone be ready to kill and die for each other. Their “until the end of the world”s sound hollow. They spend so much time shouting that it’s hard to detect any traces of love. One wonders if this could have been at least partially avoided if they’d stuck to the source material, which arms the pair with lots of excellent dialogue and rich storylines.
And then we have the Genesis problem. If Jesse doesn’t stop using Genesis on Tulip, I might have to turn my back on the show for good. Early in the comic, there’s a moment where Jesse informs Cassidy that using Genesis to get Tulip to do anything she wouldn’t otherwise do would be a one-way ticket to eternal damnation.
“Orderin’ Tulip to commit a carnal act against her will would be an unforgivable sin for which I would rightly burn forever in the fires of hell.” He’s talking about sex here, but the emphasis on consent applies to his actions toward Tulip in general.
Throughout the comic, Jesse uses Genesis on a variety of people, and even uses it twice on Cassidy. The one person exempt from the Power of the Word is Tulip, because he refuses to force her to engage in a physical act without consent—whether that’s sex, shooting bad guys, or anything else. TV Jesse has no such reservations. Using Genesis to force the woman he loves to kiss him, as in the season one finale, is apparently A-OK. Gross, Reverend.
As Preacher heads into season three, it needs to figure out whether it wants to be an adaptation of the comic it claims to draw from, or whether it wants to be something entirely different. Either one could work, but the weird middle ground the show currently occupies isn’t doing it any favors.
What do you want to see in Preacher season three? Tell us below!
Images: AMC, DC Comics/Vertigo
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