A mystical unearthly light streaks through outer space, past Saturn, through untold giga-miles of space dust, coming straight toward Earth. Africa, specifically: a church where a preacher sermonizes a great war coming. “The light and the darkness are at it again!” He quotes The Book of Revelation, the part about the white horse, that ride so faithful and true. The mystical light descends from heaven, and goes into the preacher. “Be quiet!” he declares — and everyone is quiet. “I am the prophet,” he says, “the chosen one!” And then he explodes in a supernova of blood and gore; the unearthly light departs, leaving the cross upside-down by the church.
Somewhere in Texas, a preacher named Jesse Custer sits, and thinks, and remembers. His father, kneeling in front of him; “Promise me, Jesse,” his father says. All that was years ago. Now Jesse preaches in a local church. He talks about salvation, but they don’t listen. The kids are buried in iPads; the adults are less distracted, and much worse.
A local boy comes to Jesse to ask for help. His father is physically abusive. Rumors are flying about what Jesse did before he was a preacher. “You did things,” the boy said. Can Jesse hurt his dad? “How hurt do you want him? How far do I go?” Jesse asks rhetorically. “Violence makes violence makes nothing much at all.”
Speaking of violence! Thirty thousand feet above it all, a man named Cassidy has met some new friends. Well, “man.” We quickly learn that Cassidy has powers not usually associated with humanity — loves blood, mostly invulnerable, not great with sunshine — and his friends pull out crossbows and spray holy water on him, to no great avail. Cassidy winds up jumping out of the airplane, without a parachute. He lands in Texas, a mess of intestinal overflow, still alive.
Speaking of “still alive!” We cut to Kansas, not that long ago, and meet another curious traveler. She drives through a cornfield and bites a man’s ear off and builds a bazooka and uses that bazooka to take down a helicopter. All with the help of a couple latchkey kids, to whom she gives some nice advice such as: “A girl needs to be strong. Stand on her own.” And also: “Don’t come out till the noises stop.” Her name is Priscilla Jean Henrietta O’Hare, but her friends call her Tulip.
Following the better angels of his judgment, Jesse decides to approach the abusive-dad situation directly. He goes to her wife, asking if she needs help. “When he hurts me, I like it,” his wife explains. “I do.” Jesse looks horrified.
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But not as horrified as when he discovers that Tulip has come home. (She’s currently crashing with her Uncle Walter.) She tells Jesse about a new job: Something about a map, how this isn’t just any old gig. But Jesse has turned over a new leaf. “More like trying to fill your daddy’s shoes,” says Tulip. They tell each other they’re sorry; for what, precisely, we’ll have to find out later.
NEXT: Hello, young man!
Jesse visits the home of Sheriff Root, where he visits with the sheriff’s son, Eugene. Eugene hasn’t been going out much lately; the big hole in the center of his rebuilt face is part of the reason. (In the Preacher comics, that character tried to commit suicide in imitation of his beloved rock star Kurt Cobain. In the Preacher show, Eugene wasn’t even born until after pop-punk; it will be interesting to see how they explain his current state.) Jesse assures the boy that God wants him at church — and that God forgives all.
Meanwhile: Men of faith are dying around the world. A magister here; Tom Cruise at the Church of Scientology there. Jesse watches this on TV, not that interested; apparently he wasn’t excited about Edge of Tomorrow 2. The abusive dad shows up, flanked by his bully boys. They came from a Civil War re-enactment battle, so they’re all dressed like Confederates. The man’s not happy Jesse was talking to his wife — and he threatens his own child. Something snaps in Jesse; he fights the guys, with a little help from fellow barfly Cassidy and breaks the abusive dad’s arm bone right out of his arm. “Jaysus,” says Cassidy, “What kind of preacher are you?”
Jesse declares that he’s done as a preacher. He’ll announce at the Sunday Service. “I am who I am, I guess” he say — a reference to Exodus, paraphrasing what God said when Moses saw that burning bush. Jesse goes into his church, tries to say hello to God. “I want an answer right now, or that’s it,” Jesse says. “I’m done.”
There is no answer — or is there? Some invisible heavenly presence walks into the church and goes inside of Jesse. In his unconscious state, he sees his father. “You’ve gotta be one of the good guys,” says Jesse’s dad. “Cuz there’s way too many of the bad.” Custers don’t cry; they fight. Jesse’s dad must have been fighting someone; he dies in front of Jesse’s eyes, gunned down.
Jesse wakes up, having slept for three days. (Cassidy has moved into the church attic in the interim.) At the service, a local youth plays “Amazing Grace” on an electric guitar. Jesse plans to announce his retirement… but then changes his mind. “I’m gonna do what all good preachers have done. Offer peace to the restless. Avenge the innocent. Cool the wrathful. Welcome those who are lost. And speak forth the word of God.”
A nice sentiment. But there are darker things afloat. For days now, one of Jesse’s parishioners was asking him for advice: What to do about my mother? Jesse, frustrated after his coma, told him simple: “Be brave. Tell her the truth. Open your heart.” And the parishioner follows Jesse’s advice. He flies to see his mother. He is brave, and truthful: “I am your only son, and if you would treat me with some kindness and consideration, it would make me so happy.” And then he opens his chest up with a knife, holds up his heart to his mother, and dies.
The word of God can be misunderstood, perhaps. And perhaps there are other forces at work here. Strange men have been following the unearthly presence. They track it to Jesse’s church. Before they go inside, they put on a couple cowboy hats. When in Texas, do as the Texans.
What did you think of the Preacher premiere?
In the newest episode of Entertainment Geekly, we talk about the new TV show. (Like: Did we need a Preacher origin story? And: What are Tulip and Cassidy really doing on this show?) Then we dive deep into spoiler territory, addressing the complete run of the original Preacher. Does the comic book series hold up? Was it nasty for the sake of being nasty, or did it have a real emotional and intellectual depth? (Spoiler alert: It was pretty awesome.) Listen to the podcast below, and subscribe now on iTunes!