Saturday, August 3, 2019

Review: Preacher Series 4 Ep 1 "Monster Swamp"

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    Preacher Season 4 Episode 1

    Original Title : Preacher Season 4 Episode 1: Masada
    Genre : Comedy, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
    Air Date : 2019-08-04
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    Visions of the apocalypse plague Jesse as he and Tulip get ready to strike Masada, where Cassidy is trapped, but Grail and Starr are ready for their assault; Jesse tries to find an unusual rock formation; Tulip attempts to rescue Cassidy.

    Preacher Season 4 Review: One of TV's Weirdest Shows Is as Delightfully Demented as Ever

    When Preacher debuted back in 1995, fans immediately connected with the books bizarre blend of humor, horror, fantasy, and religion, making it one of the most unique books of its time. The complex nature of creators Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's narrative made it difficult for studios to develop a movie or TV series based on the project. AMC's adaptation of The Walking Dead paved the way for the Preacher series, which came to life thanks to Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin, yet the show's absurd tone has prevented it from finding as large a fan base. Luckily for devout viewers, the fourth and final season's first three episodes delivers all of the oddball antics you've come to expect from the series, all while adding a little more urgency as the series builds towards its crescendo.

    With Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) taken prison by the Grail, it's up to Jesse (Dominic Cooper) and Tulip (Ruth Negga) to retrieve their friend from Masada but, as expected, such a rescue mission is easier said than done. With both the Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish) and Starr (Pip Torrents) making it their mission to take down Jesse, making things Hell on earth for our "heroes."

    Despite the passionate following of the book, Preacher had its work cut out for it from the beginning, as its brutally blasphemous tone seems specifically calculated to offend audiences as much as entertain them. While the narrative has borrowed familiar horror elements in new ways, there's so many more concepts at play, with each episode offering audiences unexpected tonal shifts and storyline reveals that it almost intentionally obfuscates fans. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson, Preacher has always been "Too weird to live, too rare to die."

    All of us willing participants in the madness have appreciated the lengths the show has gone to to deliver a wholly unique experience. It is certainly possible that AMC could have adapted the events of the book into a more digestible series, but Preacher has instead offered a unique take on the source material that rivals the absurdity of the original while keeping fans familiar with the story beats a new experience. Season Four of the show maintains that outlook, as our three leads have created interesting and compelling characters that they've made their own, preventing us from comparing the TV version of the characters to the ones in the comics and allowing them to be individuals. Supporting characters like the Saint of Killers and Starr are still featured little enough that they don't require reinvention, which helps comic fans keep connected with the series' origins.

    The biggest improvement in this season from prior seasons is there is more of a sense of an urgency to the events unfolding. This is likely due to it being the series' already-announced last season, but even without that in mind, the storyline is much more cohesive and has more narrative momentum. Fans familiar with the books will likely deduce that this final season will deliver a blend of the "Proud Americans," "War in the Sun," "All Hell's A-Coming," and "Alamo" storylines, which are some of the most beloved and action-packed books in the series. Given that so much of the series has featured our heroes traveling from one place to another and mostly just milling about, this final season could figuratively and literally go out with a bang.

    The first episodes of the final season aren't a total success, as we still get a sense that, with some sequences, the minds behind the series were, as Ian Malcolm noted in Jurassic Park, so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should. The series has been pushing the envelope from day one, which this season continues to do, but that also means we're still given scenes that feel more like collections of moments as opposed to organically inspired exchanges. One scene, for example, sees a stop-motion interpretation of God creating the universe, which results in a claymation dinosaur eating its own poop. While it might make for an entertaining sequence, it feels like a step back when it takes place in between scenes that show an improvement for the series' narrative momentum. Some of these ambitious sequences do manage to be effective, like a hallway fight scene that honors Park-chan Wook's Oldboy, but more often than not these moments take you out of the story.

    Another stumbling point for these first few episodes is fans having to suffer through Cassidy feeling sorry for himself, which is arguably the least entertaining version of Cassidy that we've seen in the show. While the entire cast of characters have had their ups and downs, Cassidy's downs have been the more mundane components of last season, so we hope that he can bounce back in later episodes.

    Unlike almost any other TV show out there, which attempt to entice viewers before subjecting them to unconventional storytelling beats, the final season of Preacher is keeping in line with previous seasons and offers audiences an uncompromising experience that is unrivaled on the small screen. Both in its narrative and direction, the series continues to deliver fans the unexpected, training us to not settle for being spoon-fed the things we think we want and instead force us to accept a storyline featuring a character named "Arseface" and Adolph Hitler himself. Preacher definitely isn't a show for everyone, but those of us who have enjoyed it surreal absurdity and boundary-pushing storytelling are sure to enjoy the series' swan song, knowing that we got to enjoy a series that never settled for being easily digestible as it paved the way for more innovative storytelling.

    Preacher Season Four debuts on AMC on Sunday, August 4th.

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