'Preacher': What That Massive Comic Book Cameo Means Moving Forward

Preacher - Season 1 - Joseph Gilgun-Dominic Cooper-Ruth Negga-H 2016
Matthias Clamer/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for episode two of Preacher.]

If the cold open of Preacher's second episode left you scratching your head, odds are good that you haven't read the Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon comic book series on which the show is based. Comic fans, on the other hand, were likely left breathless at the introduction of one of the genre-bending epic's most significant characters: the Saint of Killers, played by The Hobbit trilogy veteran Graham McTavish.

The latest episode of Preacher, called "See," begins with a sequence ripped right out of the Saint's origin story. It's the 1800s, and a virtually mute gunslinger treks across the desert to find a cure for his daughter's growing illness. Without spoiling the outcome of the journey, the Saint's subsequent moves see him picking up two all-powerful revolvers with a divine purpose — one that sees his destiny directly intertwined with Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), the hard-drinking holy man at the heart of the show.

According to showrunner Sam Catlin, it was never a question of including the Saint in the series, only an issue of when and how. For one thing, he says, the Saint "sets up an interesting dilemma," given that the first season of Preacher is built around the town of Annville, Texas; a significant change from the road trip nature of the comics.

"The Saint is unstoppable," says Catlin. "It works in the comic because Jesse's on the move, but in this, he's not. He's easily found. We didn't want to put off the Saint of Killers, so we felt this was an opportunity to introduce him and have him be in the world and be a character, and in its own way, tell the audience that he's coming and he's connected to everything that's happening and he's connected to the town."

Indeed, the Saint's connection to the town goes back to the first episode of the series. Whiskey bottles boasting "Ratwater" labels are featured throughout the premiere, the same name of the town the Saint rides toward at the end of the cold open. 

"We also loved the idea of Garth allowing us to do these standalone chapters," Catlin says of the reason for starting the Saint's story in this way, promising more to come. "The story of the cowboy will continue to be told over the first season. Then, by the end of the first season, you'll realize why he has everything in the world to do with Jesse."

If the premise of recurring Saint of Killer sequences sounds familiar, that's because it's a move taken straight from Catlin's previous television endeavor, Breaking Bad.

"In season two, we told the story of the plane crash," he says. "Preacher lends itself to that kind of storytelling. It's a way of expanding the universe, especially because season one is going to be the most contained of all the seasons. It's a way of telling the audience that this isn't just about a small town in West Texas. It's about the entire world."

As for Ennis, the co-creator of the Saint of Killers, the Irish writer was left reeling the first time he saw the character come alive on screen: "That was great. That's where I thought, 'Holy f—ing shit, it's a Western.' That goes back to the very beginning, to me being three or four and watching Westerns with my grandfather. It was stunning."

Ennis hopes it leaves faithful Preacher fans with a similar feeling, especially viewers still skeptical about the show's prospects, given some significant surface chances between the comics and the television series. In his mind, the Saint delivers an important mission statement: "You're going to get what you want. Maybe not right away, and not in the order you expected, but you'll get there."

It's a notion further reiterated by what Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg told THR and other outlets at a press conference ahead of the Preacher premiere. When asked if there's anything they felt they could not adapt for the television series, the answer was pointed, brief, and delivered without hesitation or elaboration: "No."

What did you think of the Saint of Killers' introduction?