When Preacher returns to AMC this Sunday, June 24, for its Season 3 premiere, viewers will finally begin the journey of the comics' best storyline: Angelville. But it won't really be the same. If you haven't watched Preacher Season 2 and don't want to be spoiled, stop reading now!
The main difference? Tulip is already dead. At the end of Season 2, Featherstone--who'd been masquerading as a neighbor named Jenny--shot her, and she unambiguously died. In any other show (besides Game of Thrones) that should have been the end of her. But this is Preacher, a show where Hitler is sympathetic, Jesus Christ has a disabled inbred descendant, and God is a pervert who spends most of his time in a canine gimp suit.
AMC hasn't been shy about the fact that Tulip is returning in Preacher Season 3. Actress Ruth Negga has been seen in promotional materials, and creators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg spoke openly about her resurrection during a recent conference call with press. To be fair, it's hard to keep a main actress's return a secret, which is just one symptom of the major ways the show is different from the books in this plot line. If they had kept Tulip's death and resurrection within one arc, like the source material did, keeping it a surprise wouldn't have been an issue.
In the comics, Grandma has Tulip killed after Jesse and Tulip are brought to Angelville against their wills. At the end of the comics arc, God resurrects Tulip to send Jesse a message: He's still around, he's still all powerful, and he wants to be left alone. It's one of the coolest moments in the series, and as it occurs near the start of the comics, it sets the tone in a lot of ways. In addition to not being a surprise and happening much later in the story, the show version will simply play out differently, apparently giving Tulip more agency over her own resurrection.
"The comics just has a lot of like, Jesse saving Tulip, and a lot of Jesse telling Tulip to not do stuff because it's too dangerous, and that he's gonna do it. And that's stuff that just didn't feel like--it just felt like stuff that could be improved on, and stuff that allowed us to give each character more opportunities to be active and to be heroic and to make some decisions," Rogen said during the call. "Most of the changes come from that type of thinking. It's not like, 'How do we make the comic book better?' It's mostly just, 'How do we give these characters more agency? How do we give them more control over their actions?'"
The other characters at Angelville--including Grandma, Jody, and T.C.--are being fleshed out more as well. When Jesse and Cassidy arrive there with Tulip's body in the Season 3 premiere, they won't be greeted with outright hostility.
"When you see in the comic books this spooky house in the bayou somewhere, you don't ask a lot of questions," Rogen said. "But as soon as it's brought into the real world, you're like, 'What do these people do? What do they do all day? Do they have jobs? How does this work?' And as soon as we started having that conversation we realized that there was actually a lot of opportunity to build out the mythology of Angelville and what they actually do and what the purpose of it is."
That's where the souls trade explored in Season 2 came from, and Season 3 will introduce the L'Angell family's main rivals in the business. That line of thinking is also what led to the expanded roles and personalities for characters like Jody and T.C.
"On the same note, Jody, T.C., and Grandma, in the comics they're great characters, but in a show, there's just more face time and you just need to round out the characters more," Goldberg said. "And so those characters need more hopes and dreams of their own, and more goals and specific history."
In other words, they're more realistic, and less like cartoon villains. That doesn't mean they'll have no edge.
"We've had a lot of different characters on the show, but these people are psychopaths, and they are terrifying people, and it's just a really fun and really different thing to tackle," Goldberg said. "The actual characters that Garth created are so fun, and these are three of the best ones."
Rogen said in Season 3, Jesse's going to need Tulip's help more than ever, but they'll have to work together, rather than one or the other being totally helpless and needing saving. He said the biggest challenges for the show at this point are keeping it realistic enough that viewers care about the characters, and keeping it surprising at the same time.
"The biggest challenge with the show always is how do we take this world that is by all means off the wall insane, and tonally runs the gamut that few things I've ever worked on or seen run, and how you balance that with making it seem real enough that people actually care and are invested in the characters," Rogen said.
"What's nice is in a world that anything can happen in, you can make anything happen. But the audience does very quickly get used to that," he continued. "A lot of thought goes into how to, in something that people know is surprising and shocking at times, and subversive, and all those things--how do you maintain that tone?...But it's something I think [executive producer] Sam [Catlin] and the writers don't seem to ever struggle doing. I mean, I watch every episode, and I know what's going to happen, and there's still ten moments that completely shock me every time I watch the show."
One criticism that's been leveled at the past two seasons is that compared with the comics, the show can feel slow. The books were structured as a road trip, and they jumped frequently between settings and different plot lines. Some fan favorite characters only appeared briefly, and it's been the show's job to flesh those characters out and find ways for them to stick around. But Rogen and Goldberg said the pace will continue to increase as Preacher continues.
"Although the first few episodes are kind of more revolving around the house at Angelville, the show itself travels a lot this year, maybe even more than it did last year as far as how many different locations the show takes place in and how many different cities it takes place in and all that," Rogen said.
"For this show we really think that the pace should get crazier as we go along," Goldberg added. "So this season, more happens faster with more ramifications...There's just so much story to tell in the universe that we have to play in that we can introduce tons of characters every season, kill more than you might think, bring more back, and do whatever, because it's just a grand universe [comics creator] Garth [Ennis] created."
Preacher Season 3 premieres this Sunday, June 24.