Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Grievance of the Clergy

You may recall me saying a few weeks ago that I'm giving AMC's Preacher another shot. I'm current with the series now, and I have been re-reading the comic series over the last few weeks, and I've come to a couple of conclusions and what I certainly hope isn't a breaking point in the series.

As of this past episode, one glaring thing has become startlingly clear as of this last episode, a thing which explains why I dislike Cassidy's character in the television adaptation. Spoilers commence now, so if you're going to catch up on the show, bow out if you mind that sort of thing.

In the comics, Tulip is a good person marred by tragedy. Her mother died in childbirth, and her father died 13 years later in an embarrassing hunting accident (another hunter shot him while he was taking a dump in the woods). When she met Jesse, she was good at shooting and took naturally to the criminal lifestyle, but she was still essentially a good person, and when Jesse was kidnapped by the L'Angelles and taken back to Angelville, she was crushed. She turned to drinking and eventually worked as a gun for hire, but only out of lacking other choices.

In the show, Tulip is not a good person, and is a hair (an O'Hare?) short of being Mallory from Natural Born Killers. She was a troublesome child, as seen in the flashbacks of her being in school with Jesse, neither of her parents were around, and we have yet to see Jesse being taken by the L'Angelles despite him namedropping them last week. The split, instead, seems to have come after Jesse loses motivation to be a criminal after Tulip's miscarriage when they're betrayed by Carlos during a heist gone wrong. She carries on some pretense of wanting to have another child until Jesse finds out she's still been doing mercenary work on the side and taking birth control, at which point he decides to go back to his father's church and become a preacher of his own accord. They seem to split mutually, and she marries a mobster in New Orleans. 

Television Cassidy, on the other hand, seems completely bereft of the scumbag traits that are slowly revealed in the comics (it would appear the writing team has given all those to Tulip instead) where he is a complete monster beneath his charming roguish veneer. Take the story of Sally, which Jesse hears from a homeless woman after reuniting with Tulip (who had just spent six months in a haze of tranquilizers and vodka thinking Jesse was dead while Cassidy essentially raped her). Decades before the comic takes place, Heroin hit the streets of New York and Cassidy was right there with it along with a trio of girls whom he bled dry financially, abused, and fed from.

In the show, Tulip is the one to initiate sex with Cassidy before Cassidy even knows of the relationship between Tulip and Jesse. Tulip steals drugs from a pharmacy for Cassidy. Tulip swears him to secrecy about their tryst and about Viktor, her mobster husband. Cassidy has an elderly son in New Orleans that he cares deeply for, in his own bumbling and inept way, and brings him peanut butter M&Ms and tries to help tie his shoes during a coughing fit, and regrets never learning French so he can converse with him. He's deeply conflicted about keeping secrets from Jesse. He's not a monster, he's a well-intentioned screw-up.

These two changes are fundamental enough to bother me, but in the last episode (Sokosha), an event happens that has shaken me as a fan of the comics. Jesse Custer is, in the words of his father, a good man because there's way too many of the bad. AMC's Jesse Custer is not that man. In the comics, there comes a confrontation between Jesse and the Saint of Killers, and in that confrontation the dynamic is totally different due to Jesse's Word working on him. He forces the Saint to holster his weapon and bargains with him, in the end revealing that God put the snowstorm in the path of MacCready that caused him to cross paths with the Saint and delayed the Saint in returning to his wife and child with the medicine they needed. Jesse keeps his bargain after accessing the memories in the Genesis entity and tells the Saint the truth, which results in the finale of the series with the Saint shooting God in the head and sitting on His throne.

A. Man. Of. His. Word.
On the show, this plays out vastly differently. The Word doesn't work on the Saint, so the first meeting never happens. When they realize the Saint is in New Orleans with them, they hit up the library and we get an expository scene which reveals that when the Saint found his wife and child dead of fever, his 'soul scattered to the winds' resulting in the massacre of Ratwater.

Jesse manages to talk him down in their first face to face meeting this episode, showing him the tape of God's decoy actor, and explaining that his deal with Fiore is invalid and he won't go to Heaven to be with his children. Jesse's deal here is that he'll retrieve the Saint's soul so he can command him to go to Heaven. The Saint, an immortal cowboy with all the time in the world, gives him one hour to do so. Jesse tries several sources, but eventually ends up sacrificing a tiny part of his own soul. This gives him command over the Saint, at which point he disregards the deal and forces the Saint into an armoured car and drives it into a swamp. He only stopped short of telling the Saint to return to hell because the Saint reminded him that he's got a part of Jesse's soul now, and that would damn Jesse as well. This is so totally, radically out of character for Jesse Custer that I'm really not sure I can stay invested in the show, which is disappointing given how much better it's gotten since the second season began.

I just have this feeling that Seth Rogan is blasted out of his mind, and ticking off places and people from the comic and throwing all of the context behind them out the window. This adaptation is disregarding more lore than Michael Bay's Transformers film, and I'm having trouble hanging on at this point.

Maybe I'm crazy and I'm seeing all the wrong things. I know the people in Reddit's Preacher subreddit can't seem to stop raving about how right they've gotten things, and I just don't see a thing of it. I feel bad for the cast, because they're acting their hearts out (especially Dominic Cooper as Jesse, he's simply amazing), but this is rapidly turning into (if it didn't start out as) Preacher in name only.

Erin adds: I'm enjoying the show, but that's probably because I only ever read the first story arc of the comics and then scattered issues. Since I don't know what the show is messing up, I can enjoy it at face value.

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