The first season of AMC's Preacher took a decidedly different turn from the comics it was based on. It was essential a prequel, leading up to the events of the first issue, setting the tone and introducing the characters in a uniquely manic and violent world. It was a big risk. Now season two has premiered on Stan, and people behind the show are hoping the risk will pay off.
Joe Gilgun, Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper are back for Preacher season 2. All Images: AMC
"I feel good about [season one]," showrunner Sam Catlin told us. "And I feel even better about it now that we've done season two. I felt like we sort of had to set the groundwork for who this guy, Jesse, was, what he used to do, what God meant to him and sort of create the rules for the show. I'm glad we had the patience."
That patience allowed for Preacher to set up what's to come — namely, the titular preacher named Jesse (Dominic Cooper), who has been possessed by a superhuman power that makes people follow his commands, travelling across America with his badarse girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) and vampire pal Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) to find God... but not in a spiritual sense. They're literally going to hunt for God, who is missing from Heaven but is currently on Earth.
Catlin thought all of this would have been a lot for the audience to buy right off the bat without being eased in just a little. "Season one is sort of like nitrous or pot," Catlin suggested. Starting where season two starts "would be almost like if you were to start with heroin."
Despite the drug analogy, it was still a measured approach to adapting the beloved comic series, and it certainly drew some critics. The show's pacing and focus on non-main characters was regularly questioned. Plus, the show didn't get the kind of buzz or ratings of AMC's comparable genre shows like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, making a mystery of whether the show would even get a second season.
"It's not like those shows, you know?" Catlin said. "And I feel like it's just super fucking weird. It's super weird. And I think we're all confident it will grow on people."
Negga and Cooper in the season two premiere.
To that end, season two is a complete departure from the first season, especially since the rural setting of the first season was literally blown away in the season one finale. The show will now more closely follow the comics as the main characters go on the road. The villains will be Herr Starr and the Saint of Killers, just as in the comics, and yet, "It's still fantastically different from the comic," said producer Evan Goldberg.
"In terms of the story, you can't tell that story, apples to apples. You just can't," Catlin said. "Anyone would have to innovate and create and embellish and compress and do all those different things. But for us, what we've always said is, 'We want it to feel, even if it doesn't match up beat for beat, like [comic creator] Garth [Ennis]'s comic.'"
Goldberg and his producing/director partner Seth Rogen feel the same way. The executive producers once again direct the first two episodes of this season and will continue to lend their Preacher expertise throughout. They have no regrets with the choices they made for season one, and look forward to seeing what's still to come.
"One of the fun things about a TV show is that it goes on for more than one year," Rogen said. "So you can evolve it and you can look at the first season and think 'Now that we did that, what else can we maybe add to this?' So that was a conversation that we had. The show evolves. It's a show that progresses, so it was a very organic conversation, it wasn't some state of the union."
Catlin agrees. "I really like that we started the show in a contained way, in a small town way, and introduced our main characters in a more familiar way," Catlin said. "Typical, small town archetypes, and stuff like that."
This didn't only help establish the show and its characters — it helped Catlin, too. Although he'd been a writer/producer on Breaking Bad, he'd never done anything remotely as weird as Preacher before. Out of everyone, he learned the most while working on season one.
The vampire Cassidy is the conduit for much of Preacher's madness.
"I wasn't aware of how much absurdity the show could sustain, [but] still be a drama, and still have stakes and characters that were real that people would identify with," he said. "Preacher has different appetites and rules and I feel like what I learned was that you can sort of take the kid gloves off a little bit, going into this season."
Mere minutes into the second season, audiences will see that's the case. The premiere begins with one of the biggest, grossest, craziest action scenes we've ever seen on TV, and it feels like the show is going to stay that crazy throughout the season. Now the question is, since that Preacher has started to line up more with the comic fans know and love, will a larger audience tune in?
"We're not trying to make everyone love the show," said Catlin. "That was the the death of network television. [We're] just trying to do Preacher as much as it lives in our heads and in Garth's comic and then hopefully people are passionate about it and come to it and enjoy it."
"The spring felt like it was being coiled the first season," Rogen said. "And it's very much getting let loose this season."
Preacher season two began yesterday, June 26, with a two-night premiere; the second episode will be released today, June 27, on Stan in Australia.