Spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of Preacher forward.
Early season 3 of the AMC series Preacher Tulip (Ruth Negga) has a vision. She is running down the road to the rural town of Angelville when she sees a man in a black and white spotted dog suit. The man-dog is ridiculous, but also disturbing, particularly when he tells Tulip that she has been chosen for a divine purpose. Makes gestures with his legs loose and looks at her with black eyes, bright and empty.
Many television shows and movies use horror tropes as part of an action / comedy mix. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sleepy Hollow and Wynonna Earp spray vampires or demons around their stories. But while all these shows present monsters, they are not working primarily to terrorize or annoy the audience.
Preacher a series of supernatural drama based on the series of comics by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, is a bit different. It does not reuse horror as comedy or drama. Instead, it is full of absurd events and situations that, like that man-dog, are at once fun and terrifying. Especially in the new season, which includes witches and zombies in a familiar southern gothic atmosphere, the show can sometimes be Buffy -esque. But the really special thing about Preacher is that it suggests that horror and comedy are not different elements to combine, but are part of a whole. What makes you laugh is also what torments your dreams.
Like its comic-book inspiration, the television show centers on Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a struggling and morally dubious preacher possessed by an entity called Genesis. Genesis gives Jesse the power to command anyone to do something. In the first two seasons of the series, Jesse uses his power to try to build a small congregation in a rural Texas church, with disastrous results. In the second season, he, Tulip, and an Irish vampire named Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) hit the road to chase after God, who has learned that he has left the sky to listen to jazz in New Orleans. Jesse thinks he can use Genesis to force God to explain why the world is a mess. But tracing the almighty deity is difficult. Instead, Jesse ends up accepting to become a messiah at the behest of an organization called the Grail.
His career as savior of the world is interrupted at the end of Season 2 when the Grail agents kill Tulip. Jesse could normally bring her back to life with Genesis, but her power is mysteriously in the fritz. Season 3, therefore, begins with Jesse and Cassidy taking Tulipán to Jesse's old house in Angelville; her grandmother is a witch, who can resurrect the dead.
That description of the plot does not capture the taste of humor of Preacher . The comic was cynically and deliberately profane, but it was built around an adventure narrative of road travel. Jesse was a more or less conventional hero whose moral sense impelled the action and the narration. In television series, on the other hand, Jesse has less agency. He and the other characters often find themselves as heterosexual men wandering unhappily through a series of evil gags of Monty Python.
The first season, for example, ends with the entire congregation of Jesse, and his whole city, being buried in a literal explosion of pig shit. In the second season, Jesse's friend, Eugene Root (Ian Colletti), who was accidentally sent to Hell, escapes with the help of an apparently repentant Hitler (Noah Taylor), who then betrays Eugene … because he is Hitler . As in Time Bandits where the final gag is that the protagonist's parents die, the line of laughter is sadistic sadness. Of course, Hitler comes out of hell. That is the kind of universe in which we live.
A malevolent universe can be fun. But it is more than that too. When the camera remains in Tulip, dead in the backseat of Jesse's car as they drive to Alphaville, her perfect still face has the excessive clarity of a nightmare. At the end of the second season, the immortal vampire Cassidy has a conversation with his mortal son, Denis (Ronald Guttman). Denis looks like an old man, was on the verge of death before Cassidy bit him and changed him to a vampire. Denis enjoys being a vampire, especially the part where he can feed on unsuspecting beautiful women. Cassidy has long controlled her own thirst for blood, but fears that Denis's example will overwhelm her self-control, and begs her son to be a good boy. Denis has only spoken in French throughout the season, but for the first time he speaks in English. "Can you be a good boy, dad?" He asks, almost licking his lips.
It's a chilling moment worthy of David Lynch, especially because he mocks the idea of rules or laws trying to keep us away from the abyss. Dad tries to put you right, but who does dad, right? "Everything is possible" can mean anarchic fun and good times, but it can also mean that your worst fears can come true. A world without rules is hell, as Denis discovers of Cassidy's response to his behavior.
Cassidy is not the only abusive father in Preacher . Season 3 begins with a flashback to Jesse's grandmother, Marie L & # 39; Angelle (Betty Buckley) cutting off her mother with a knife as punishment for trying to leave. And these bad parents are only smaller versions of the last and divine evil father. God has left the sky, and now he is driving around the earth in a Harley, wearing a dog suit. It is that dog man who appears to Tulip in a vision, and then in the flesh. The man-dog God assures Tulip that he has a plan, but she is skeptical. "You're dicking around," he says with a bit of bitterness, pointing at the biker girl waiting for God to return to his machine. God, on the other hand, seems nervous about being discovered.
A God who is "simply tossing and turning" is a God who is philosophically absurd. The TV version of Preacher is about a world that does not make sense, governed by an arbitrary idiot who, or does not care what happens, can not do anything about it, or actively enjoys watching the people . Preacher is a close relative of Kafka, and it is remarkable that when Kafka's friends heard him read their stories aloud, they reacted with a helpless laugh. Did some guy wake up and realize that it was a mistake? That's even more fun than a whole town drowned in the pork hog.
Jesse, with the power of Genesis, wants to put things in order and order everyone in their proper place. But it's like Wile E. Coyote in a Road Runner cartoon, or the priest in The Exorcist . History is manipulated against him, because history is manipulated against everyone. "I can not help you," Jesse tells one of the sad and soulless zombies of the grandmother when he asks for help. The undead can not be fixed. Even if they come back to life, it's only temporary.
At the beginning of season 3, Jesse does not seem to be closer to finding God, or finding a meaning to use for his power, than what he did at the beginning of the season 1. The cyclical nature and without aim of its search can perhaps be seen as a weakness of serialized television. But in the case of Preacher it is also thematic. There is no plan or reward, except for the fact that there is no plan or reward. The universe waits for you to put on a dog costume. Maybe he's laughing behind that mask; Maybe he's screaming. Or maybe the horror of comedy and both realize that there is nothing there.
Preacher season 3 will premiere at AMC on Sunday June 24 at 10PM ET.