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TV Review: Preacher (Season 3 Episode 1)


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It's 2018 and in the modern fucked up world, nihilist existentialism is having a moment in media. Some of television’s biggest hits in the last few years haven taken to this idea across a variety of genres.

Examples include Game of Thrones (more so than the books), Mr. Robot, Bojack Horseman, Rick and Morty and Westworld.

Standing alongside them is AMC’s Preacher, now going into its third seasonwhich decides instead to embrace the similar, but different concept of Absurdism. Based on the Vertigo comic by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, it follows a small town Texan preacher called Jesse Custer who becomes possessed by the offspring of an angel and demon called Genesis and is consequently granted godlike powers.

A preacher, but also haunted by a past life of crime alongside his ex-girlfriend Tulip O’Hara, Jesse is the perfect vessel for it. Meeting the vampire Cassidy and reconnecting with Tulip, the three become an unlikely trio. 

The show, like the absurdism that Camus put forward, agrees that life has no meaning, is absurd and can only be met with three reactions: suicide, a leap of faith or recognition of life’s absurdity. 

The first season acted as a prologue of sorts to what the show would make its focus from then on. In the comic we only hear of what happened to Annville, but the show develops it.

We meet townspeople, good and bad, in addition to the angels, Fiore and DeBlanc who were babysitters to Genesis in Heaven and attempt to coax and force Jesse into giving up the entity.

In the first big twist of the first season we find Jesse arranging a chat with God for his church congregation using a heavenly phone. The Annville humans seem to be gaining insight from their creator when it's revealed the person talking to them is just an angel in disguise since the real God is missing.

Even heaven doesn’t know where he is and the place is falling apart. God isn’t dead, but close. Adding to these dark absurd events are features like Graham McTavish’s character who is the Saint of Killers. The finale however shows it best when the Preacher trio head off in search of God, while a small mistake back in Annville makes it promptly explode in a fire of methane annihilating every side character we’d come to know. Their existence really is meaningless. 

Season two expanded on its absurd and existentialist themes. God in addition to being missing is rather into BDSM and is enjoying wearing a latex Dalmatian suit in New Orleans, while the idea trumpeted by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, is shown for the real horror it would be.

A secret organisation called the Grail guards the descendants of Christ whose blood have been kept pure and consequently so inbred that only their semi-divinity keeps them alive.

Finally, an Annville citizen called Arseface(due to his scaring after trying to shoot himself in the mouth), who Jesse accidently sent to Hell in a fit of anger, soon discovers the lack of meaning in the afterlife. People are treated to eternal torture in which they live their worst mortal moments over and over. 

Arseface soon learns that it doesn’t matter whether he is innocent or not. The system of hell just runs on purposeless torture and acts of goodness are actually punished. He soon learns he must act evil between torture seasons or an even worse hell awaits.

Oh, and he becomes friends with Hitler who is treated equal to everyone else and is actually bullied for being too nice.

The series ends with Jesse chosen as the next Messiah while Tulip is shot and dies. Jesse, Cassidy and Tulip’s body race in their car to Angeville, the home of Jesse’s grandmother, Gran'ma L'Angelle, and evil maternal family he’d renounced. The only people who can bring Tulip back from the dead. The lost shot is of God as he exits a toilet in his latex dog suit to blinding light.

Season three begins with the backstory of Jesse’s mother. Trapped with her family in Angelville who run a magic business for visitors, she attempts to run away to Jesse and his father, but is caught. When she eats the photograph showing her husband and son to avoid it being accessed, her mother simply cuts her open to get to it.

In the present Jesse promises to do whatever his grandmother wants to save Tulip and she accepts gladly. They manage to bring Tulip back to the living while she is in Purgatory reliving the shooting of her criminal father.

The cinematography of these afterlife scenes are a particular standout of the episode, especially the Joni Mitchell sequence, alongside the sound design which is always spectacular in the show. As she returns to her body, Tulip meets God in his latex suit who says she is part of his plan and tells her “Get Those..”. He’s cut off as she comes back to life. The episode ends with Jesse told by his grandmother that if he tries to go back on his promise he might get more than he expected. 

The first episode of season 3 expands the cast and sheds light on the best thing about Preacher’s brand of post-modern nihilist absurdism. The fact that it's nihilism with a heart.

Existence might not matter, but if we’re here lets make the most of it before we end up in a purposeless hell. As Camus stated in The Myth of Sisyphus, following our recognition of life’s absurdity we can respond with revolt, freedom, passion and through consciousness transform pointlessness into life lived fully. 

This is something we see in the main trio’s reaction to their situation.  Throughout the show, Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy try to unite with their born families to larger and lesser extents.

Last season for instance Cassidy turned his dying pensioner son into a vampire before killing him when he became the violent sexual stereotype of a vampire.

All three however recognize that in their messed up world it’s the family they’ve made together that matters. The love triangle between the three might complicate things ,but their love makes life worth it.

And that is the reason behind Jesse's choice to return to his abusive blood family and give up anything required to get back Tulip. As Gran’ma noted about spirits, sometimes it takes time for them to come back and sometimes there’s no reason to. For Tulip there is. Family. Love. Jesse says he needs her “for everything”, but the truth is all three need one another. Everything is meaningful when they’re united. They meet the void with revolt, freedom and passion.

A great start to the new, and what will hopefully prove to be, great third season. An absurdly nihilist show with a heart to make life worth living. 

New episodes of Preacher are available on Amazon Prime every Monday. 

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