When a mist starts bearing down on a small town, people are attacked by a sinister force inside it.
Directed by Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
Teleplay by Sam Catlin
Television Story by Catlin, Goldberg, & Rogen
* For a review of the next episode, “See” – click here
Here we are, the series premiere for AMC’s adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s graphic novel(s) Preacher! So excited. Let’s dig in.
We open on a view of outer space, as something rushes around the galaxy. Even bursts a hole through a ring around Saturn. It also cries like a baby, or at least we can hear the cries of a baby. Very interesting (I gather that’s something people who know the comics understand). Heading into Africa. Just like a comic book right off the bat in the way it looks and feels. Dig it.
We cut to a priest in his little African church preaching to the congregation. Naturally, that fucking thing from space is headed right for this poor guy. You already know that. It bursts through the doors and blasts him hard, shocking everybody. Of course everybody thinks it’s a “miracle” and they could not be farther from the truth. The priest rises and speaks in a terrifying voice. Before bursting into a spray of blood over the people. A great opener.
Now we’re with Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper). He wakes in a small room, bottles of booze empty at the bedside. There’s this great little moment where he fixes the sign way out front of his church in Texas, obviously tampered with by some young men being trouble. Father Custer doesn’t exactly command the attention of his congregation reading off his papers, as little kids flick their iPads and others just roll their eyes. Outside everybody is barbecuing and having fun, a few drinks, all that sort of stuff. Custer hears the problems of his people, inconsequential moments. Except for one little kid that’s worried about his mother. Worse, he wants the preacher to hurt his father for beating up on his mom. Seems before Jesse was preaching he did… things. Ah, foreboding little kid. Custer freaks the kid out a little. Freaked me out, too. Still, doesn’t do much good for the kid whose life is probably hell at home.
I love this first ten minutes. Lots of good stuff. And that goodness continues.
The little Texas town is a wild spot. Big ruckus about. Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) is awesome, as usual. Love how he blatantly sees Jesse swig some whiskey in his truck, but completely ignores it. He also ignores a lot more than that in his town. Root doesn’t seem to like the preacher much, so I’m looking forward to watching that develop. I’ve not yet read the graphic novels, I know nothing really of the story. Dig this on its own.
We then switch to 30,000 feet up in a nice little sequence taking us to a plane in the sky. Enjoy the directing from Goldberg and Rogen so far in this episode. Very stylish.
Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) and others are enjoying themselves in a jet. Flying high while flying, as in coked up. Cassidy ends up coming across a Holy Bible marked with some creepy shit throughout. A few moments later he starts an amazing fight with a homemade flamethrower, taking on guys with axes and crossbows and swords – oh my! – and this is one hell of a fight sequence. At one point, Cassidy starts cracking off beer cans like golf balls and it’s golden. A guy tries pouring Holy Water on him calling Cassidy an “abomination” then proceeds to get chowed down on, right in the jugular. Yikes. I’m loving this character already. Going in blind, not knowing the comics, this is a thrill ride for me. When the plane is fucked Cassidy siphons himself off a pint of blood then jumps out. What a cool vampire bastard.
Back down on the ground, Jesse eats breakfast with Emily (Lucy Griffiths). She helps out at the church. We’re graced by Mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe), a great actor playing a hilariously nebbish type of character.
Although we’re quickly whisked to Africa, where the priest was attacked by the presence. And some men are investigating. Hmm. The plot thickens.
Jesse checks on a man named Walter who hasn’t come in to work. A woman is in the shower, which sort of unsettles the preacher, so he heads on out.
Another quick switch sees us in a fast flying car heading through corn fields. Inside, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” plays on the radio and Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) fights with every bit of her strength, tooth and fucking nail. The action so far in this pilot episode is just incredible, I must say. The fighting is spectacular. Tulip kills the dude in such an awesome way. She gets chastised by a brother and sister for running around beating things up, killing people. “A girl doesn‘t always need some stupid guy helping her,” the little girl exclaims, likely summing up exactly what Ms. O’Hare is all about. She’s good with kids, good with fighting. Good with making bazookas and taking down platoons full of men. God damn regular Rambette.
Flashbacks of Jesse’s briefly reveal his father might have been killed. For those of us that haven’t read the comics, this is a mystery starting out. Like how they only give us a taste. Not too much at once. At the same time, Cassidy is a splattered mess in the ground, stuck in a hole. Amazing effects. Creepy little scene, as he finds himself something to eat.
We zip on over to Russia. In a temple, a similar event to the one in Africa happened. Brains, blood everywhere. Some men show up to investigate again.
Custer is busy about town. He meets with the kid’s mom from earlier; she claims BDSM type stuff. Then he’s over meeting with Tulip in her car, even finds an ear. Though she tosses that one off, both figuratively and literally. Their dynamic is interesting, they obviously have history, and that’s all coming into play in their current relationship. What I love most is how we get a real sense of Jesse as a preacher, a genuine man of the cloth, because he sees everybody, he goes around talking to them, he’s just like a small town preacher is in real life (I come from a relatively small town).
Another interesting piece – Sheriff Root is making a Tabasco and meat smoothie, which Jesse brings up to the one, the only Arseface (Ian Colletti). Poor guy. Butthole for a mouth. He tells Jesse he used to talk to God, and he could hear him talk back. Real faith. Now he doesn’t hear anything. Seems Arseface did something, bad, as it looks. Is that what made his mouth look like an anus? I feel bad for him now. Can’t wait to discover the full story. Lots of intrigue for an outsider like me that hasn’t read any Preacher.
In a bar, Cassidy arrives and sits next to Custer. On television nearby it says Tom Cruise has exploded. Amazing. Then Jesse gets a fight thrown at him by the husband of the wife he talked to earlier, Donnie Schenck (Derek Wilson) about all the abuse stuff. Oh my, the preacher’s being pushed to display his fighter side. And fight he does. Not just one man, a bunch. Big, small, all sizes. He kicks a ton of asses. Before breaking the abusive father and husband’s arm viciously.
Cassidy: “Jesus, what kind of a preacher are you?”
Love Joseph Gilgun. He plays Cassidy incredibly, makes me laugh so much. Furthermore, he and Dominic Cooper have chemistry. They are each quite different in their roles, obviously. But also they make it all the better with their portrayals of the respective characters.
Custer says he’s quitting. He doesn’t feel it’s going to work in that town. Not any more. Too much history, I imagine.
Up at the church he finds something strange going on inside himself. He talks to God, asking for answers or else he’s “done“, in his own words. When he gets on his knees and begs forgiveness, nothing comes. Unsurprised, he sits back for a cigarette. Only something other than God has that answer for him. A presence moves forward to where the preacher stands. Then it takes him off his feet, flinging him back.
Later, Jesse wakes in bed. Emily is there to comfort him. He’s been out for three whole days. Coming to he feels different. He acts differently. He even makes Ted Reyerson (Brian Huskey) head to see his mother, so that he can be honest. To open his heart and be true. He literally opens his chest cavity. Takes the heart out for dear mom. “For all this I am responsible,” says Jesse as we cut directly to him. “This is why I‘ve come home. To save you.”
Afterwards, the two men checking into all the strange incidents around the globe are in Texas. They know that the thing from outer space is at the church. Excited to watch that play out further.
What a whopper of a pilot episode. Again, as someone not having read the comics this is a lot of fun. I’m sold already. Bring on more episodes and let’s have a fucking riot! Preacher delivers the goods on all fronts.
Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot
Directed by Craig David Wallace
Written by Aaron Martin
* For a review of the following episode, “Digging Your Grave With Your Teeth” – click here
The pilot for Chiller’s first series Slasher starts on Halloween in 1988, giving us a setup for the events to come. A husband and pregnant wife discuss Halloween plans, whether he’ll stay home with her instead of going to a party with his friend Alan. She tells him to take the scarf off his cowboy outfit, it’s too “Liberace“-looking. Then at the door arrives an ominously masked man who’s let in without question, assumed to be a friend obviously. But afterwards his friend Alan shows up. This immediately causes worry: “Who‘s that?” asks Alan. The murder begins, which gets pretty vicious before the killer slams the front door to the world. Police find a man with makeup around his eyes sitting there, holding a crying baby. Wow.
I’ve got to say, despite anything that might come later, this opening is appropriately savage for a series calling itself Slasher. We’re given a pretty neat little scene to start things off.Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath) and her husband Dylan Bennett (Brandon Jay McLaren) move back to where she was born, in the town of Waterbury. They actually move right into her parents old house. So we know where this is headed. It’s got a great premise for the slasher sub-genre of horror. The cinematography is fairly solid, too.
Sarah and Dylan do their best to settle in. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Sergeant Cam Henry (Steve Byers). He’s an old friend of Sarah, so we have one of those almost staples of the slasher sub-genre – both the old friend and the young lawman in the hometown. Then she expresses to Cam wanting to meet with Tom Winston – the man that murdered her family. Yikes. Also, there’s the married couple Robin and Justin (Christopher Jacot/Mark Ghanimé), they’re her landlords. Fun characters. Although, I worry for them; maybe everyone around her is about to find themselves in danger.
Verna McBride (Mary Walsh) calls Sarah’s mother a “dirty slut“, right to her face. There’s obviously some kind of bad, bad blood between Verna and Sarah’s family. What could it be?
All these hometown secrets, the small town mindset, will surely come into play as the plot move on in this series. Sarah wants to start digging into the murder of her parents, and being a good husband Dylan goes along to get along. Helps a bit that Dylan is editor-in-chief for the newspaper in Waterbury. But when they watch a clip of Winston, his rage coming out on camera, it affects her deeply.
When Sarah sees someone following her, they wear a mask like the one worn during the murder of her parents. This begins a typical slasher chase scene, out in the dark, the shadowy streets at night almost swallowing her whole. Luckily, Dylan arrives and they end up coming across a group of young guys, which puts him at odds with them. Not a great start for them in the neighbourhood.
But one of the guys doesn’t leave. He ends up coming across the killer. Who does some serious damage to the kid. Already we see this slasher’s brutality. Must be someone else copycatting right? Or are we so sure?
Well Sarah goes to see Winston after all. He’s almost excited to see her, but she tells him: “You need to stop smiling.” She gives him a good earful about her life, what he did to her through killing his parents. But before she ends up walking out on him, as he can’t keep taunting, Winston says: “You have to immerse yourself in the past, Sarah; all of it. Find out what was going on in your parents lives 30 years ago, find what was buried in that house. No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar so that those that enter may see the light.” This spurs her on slightly, as it would. Even if this man’s a killer, his demeanour is too calm and too rational to completely ignore everything he’s saying.
Turns out there’s a reason why Verna hated Sarah’s mother – she made some pornographic movies with Peter, the husband of Verna. Definitely has a Scream-esque vibe. Although, it’s not copying. Just sort of a wink and nod to the Maureen Prescott plot of those films. Love how there are direct and indirect homages to the sub-genre’s most prevalent titles. This will surely continue as a recurring presence.
Verna’s over in the Bennett place snooping around. At the same time, Sarah shows a picture from the porn she found to Cam, who confirms it’s Peter McBride. Mystery swirls around the deaths of Sarah’s parents, yet Cam believes some things are “better left undisturbed.” Does Cam know more than he says?
Sadly for Verna, she is quite disturbed once finding the porn playing on the television at Sarah’s house; further than that, she removes the tape. Uh oh. There’s no telling what this could do to a woman like Verna, alone in that big house, lots of time to go crazy while drinking wine and obsessing over the newly discovered evidence. At the door someone rings, but when she answers no one’s there. More of the usual slasher elements. Leading to Verna’s encounter with the killer. And it is gruesome.
After seeing shadows in the window, Sarah makes the mistake of leaving her house, door open, and heading over to Verna’s place. Is writer Aaron Martin purposefully letting Sarah do this? If so, I’d say excellent use of typical slasher movie moments. If not, another long line of dumb slasher movie mistakes. Either way, it puts Sarah in the house where Verna was just being butchered. And she finds Verna before a brief encounter with the masked killer. A fall down the stairs renders her unconscious, left by the killer to survive along with the Peter McBride porn tape laid on her chest.
She wakes up in the hospital where Dylan and a police officer wait. Sarah tells the officer it was “the Executioner“, not Winston but “someone dressed like him“, which makes both men sceptical. Lots of interesting confusion is about to begin. Cam ends up hearing about the Executioner rumour from a woman on the street, and it definitely worries him in some way. What’s he keeping under wraps? There’s something.
Poor Dylan is slightly conflicted, being EIC at the newspaper. He does what’s possible to keep her out of the headlines and the aims of his journalists. Only so much he can do, though. He’s also personally interested; he ought to be, perhaps he needs to be wary of what’s coming next. And there’s more to Cam, too. His father is a local priest, he even promises to catch the killer, as if there’s more than simply duty. Is there more behind Cam, possibly his father? Excited to find out more.
This pilot sets up a good deal of suspense and tension. Lots to work off with Verna’s death, as well.Sarah tries to get more out of Winston after the murder of Verna, to see if he has some stake in it, if he’s egged on a copycat. He’s willing to help her, though, has nothing to do with it. “McBride died for a reason; why?” he asks. There’s an almost Hannibal Lecter-Clarice Starling vibe happening in this episode finale. Even some Se7en-ish stuff leaning towards the Bible as a reference for these new murders. Again, not copying. The homage is an interesting part of what makes Slasher work. It isn’t metafictional, but rather it comes to us through allusion to all this other material. It’s fun, and this series is fun.Not a perfect episode. That doesn’t matter. I’m still excited to see what will happen and grow out of all that’s been setup here in the pilot. Stay tuned with me for a recap and review of the next episode, “Digging Your Grave With Your Teeth” – soon to follow!
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed & Written by Vince Gilligan
* For a review of the following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag…” – click here
A large Winnebago is barreling down a road out in the desert surrounding New Mexico. Inside there’s a man driving wearing a gas mask and only tighty whitey underwear, in the passenger seat is a passed out man wearing the same (gas mask; not tighty whiteys). After a minor crash, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) runs out and frantically, at the sound of sirens, records a message to his family, tears in his eyes. Then he heads out onto the road confidently, with only a shirt and underwear on, brandishing a gun at the sound nearing him.
Intense opener to a favourite show of mine.
Walt: “My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 87104. To all law enforcement entities, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to my family now.”
Switching gears, we’re back with Walter lying in bed next to his sleeping wife Skyler (Anna Gunn). There are baby things everywhere. Colour swatches, likely for a baby’s room. On his wall in another room are commendations for scientific work in his name. In the morning, Skyler has a cute 50 spelled in veggie bacon over his eggs – Happy Birthday. Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) isn’t impressed with that.
At school, Walt drops his son off. Inside, he teaches chemistry to uninterested teenagers. We’ve all been in that position, as teens; I’m sure chemistry teachers know the feeling on the other side. Then there’s the real dick kid who makes it tough on Mr. White, if only for a moment. Part-time Walt also works for a caterpillar-browed man named Bogdan Wolynetz (Marius Stan). Humiliatingly enough the dick student from earlier ends up having his car cleaned by Walt after Bogdan needs him to do a bit of extra work.
It’s after this event, on the way home, we see a great subtle little moment with Walt alone in the car – his glovebox will not close and he repeatedly bangs it up, frustrated. Sort of symbolizes his life at the moment.
A surprise party really does take Walt by surprise at home, late to his own party. Skyler’s sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) is there, along with her husband Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and a ton of others. Everyone’s drinking and having fun. Meanwhile, the loud and boisterous Hank gives a toast to the birthday boy. Then quickly brings everyone to the television where he’s on talking about a big bust. Here is the first mention of meth we see in Breaking Bad. The seizure was big, tons of money. Walt takes notice. Even further, Hank tells him to get a bit of “excitement in your life” offering to take him out on a raid someday. Later, Skyler flicks around on her laptop in bed while trying to jerk Walt off with one hand.
The next day at work Walt has a short coughing fit, which puts him on his face in the car wash. He wakes up in an ambulance with an EMT asking if he smokes cigarettes and Walt has laboured, heavy breaths. Tests at the hospital lead to a cancer diagnosis, naturally leaving the poor guy reeling: inoperable lung cancer.
Only Walt can’t help but focus on the doctor’s mustard stained white overcoat. Then he’s back at home, not telling his wife about what happened yet. Slowly, things begin to feel different for Walt. He’s outside himself almost. Nothing else is important compared to the whopper of a diagnosis he received.
Walt: “Fuck you, Bogdan.”
Walt: “I said fuck you, and your eyebrows! Wipe down this.”
Quitting his part-time job at the wash, Walt has Hank and his partner Steve Gomez (Steve Michael Quezada) take him for a ride along. They stay stashed outside a house supposedly run by a Captain Cook: he puts a dash of chili powder in his methamphetamine. A SWAT team shows up from the DEA, busting the place in. Out in the jeep, Walt gets information on the way meth operations run, et cetera, from an eager Hank.
But when Hank and Steve head in for a minute, a guy in his underwear slips out the top window of the house, pulling on pants while falling off the roof. A familiar face to Mr. White – former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). He takes off in his car, license plate THE CAPN.
Walt catches up with Jesse later, the latter covering his car to avoid any heat. The older of the two makes an offer to “partner up” in the meth business. Walt’s looking for a quick payday cooking crystal.
The relationship between Jesse and Walt in this episode is perfect. “Did you learn nothing from my chemistry class?” asks Walt. “No,” replies Jesse, “you flunked me. Remember?”. As a scientist, Mr. White wants to do things perfectly, to make the most excellent product on the market. Only problem is they need a proper place to cook. Jesse knows someone needing to sell a Winnebago. Supposedly. Handing over every last bit of his money to Jesse, Walt puts his trust in him.
Jesse: “Nah, come on, man. Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass all a sudden at age, what, 60, he‘s just gonna break bad?”
Walt: “I‘m 50”
We start to see a tough side to Walt when he and his wife take Walt Jr out to get clothes. Some people are making fun of Junior who has trouble trying on some pants, due to problems with his disability. But Walt takes the guy down from behind, grinding his foot into the guy’s knee on the floor. He intimidates the guy and his friends, who leave. Junior looks impressed with his father. Is this the change in Walter budding?
Cut to Jesse and Walt out in the desert with a Winnebago. This is their new place to cook. Walt starts to take his clothes off and Jesse’s a little weirded out. In they go with Walt in his tighty whiteys. They start to get things ready and the cook begins. The yield? Glass grace crystal meth.
Jesse: “This is art, Mr. White.”
Trying to sell some of their new work, Jesse goes to see an acquaintance, Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). Their meeting happens to be a bit tense, ending in a sequence which will bring us back to the episode’s opener.
With Jesse along, Krazy-8 and his cousin go to see Walt with a bag of cash. Not exactly friendly, though. When the cousin, Emilio, recognizes Walt from being with DEA Agents Schrader and Gomez, things go sideways. Using a bit of basic chemistry, Walt outwits the would-be captors and locks them inside the Winnebago until they suffocate, or at least pass out. Grabbing a passed out Pinkman, the panicking Walt tries to tame a fire started from Emilio tossing a cigarette earlier.
Now, we’re back in the driver’s seat with Walt at the start of the pilot.
I love everything about the episode. Because how it’s filmed has a certain charm to it: both visually appealing, though, it’s not overly complex most of the time. The music, both soundtrack and score, is totally fun. And the plot is just incredibly wild, as well as darkly humorous. This episode sets up a ton of things to come in a vivid, interesting fashion.
A final shot sees Walt running money through his dryer. Then crawl into bed, late, to a worried Skyler. This new life, plus the cancer, is creating a divide between them already. It’s bound to widen. For now, Walt assuages any guilt of his and worry on her part with sex.
The following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag”, will be reviewed shortly. Stay tuned, fellow fans. I know most have already seen this, but hopefully you may find something worth re-reading. I’ve watched the series a few times over, so I want to see if there is anything I might spot a third or fourth time around.