Every good comic book story needs a Big Bad for its hero to face off against… and AMC's adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's hyper-violent comic series finally introduces Jesse Custer's biggest rival in Season 2. But who is Herr Starr on Preacher, and what does he want from Jesse? The villainous character makes his long-awaited debut in the July 3 episode, "Damsels," played by The Crown's Pip Torrens. And although he doesn't say much, he's already an imposing presence.
"But wait!" you might be thinking. "Doesn't the show already have a Big Bad in The Saint Of Killers?" While it's true that the undead cowboy is gunning for the show's protagonist, he's more an unstoppable force of nature than a character in his own right. Any protagonist needs someone with an actual personality to clash with… and he gets that in spades from Herr Starr.
The villain makes his first appearance in an opulent London office, where he's keeping a file on Jesse Custer and ruling over a "super secret crypto-religious fascist organization with designs on total world domination," as explained to the preacher by the femme fatale jazz singer he meets in New Orleans. Those familiar with the Preacher comics will know that she's referring to The Grail, a group that's been dedicated to keeping the bloodline of Jesus Christ pure and intact for two thousand years.
It's also revealed that the singer — played by Fargo's Julie Ann Emery — is actually a member of The Grail herself, when she's picked up by another agent — played by Timeless' Malcolm Barrett. Readers will recognize this pair as Featherstone and Hoover, two of The Grail's best operatives.
Given that Starr doesn't actually speak a word in this episode, the character remains a bit of an enigma for those unfamiliar with the source material. (Spoilers ahead for the uninitiated!) In the comics, Herr Starr is a former German counter-terrorism soldier who is recruited by The Grail and quickly becomes their Sacred Executioner, the leader of the organization's military branch. It turns out that Jesus didn't die on the cross; he simply slipped into a coma, awoke three days later, married Mary Magdalene, and had several children before he was run over by an offal cart and died. Ever since, The Grail's holy mission has been to protect Jesus' offspring.
The group's ultimate goal is to bring about an apocalypse through nuclear war, and then unveil The Messiah — the literal descendant of Jesus Christ — and install themselves as the world's new leaders under his holy rule. But Starr is horrified to learn the truth: The Grail kept the bloodline pure through centuries of incest, resulting in The Messiah being a feces-flinging, inbred idiot. So Starr makes it his goal to find a worthy replacement… and Jesse, with his divine powers of persuasion, seems like the perfect fit. (End spoilers!)
Technically, this isn't the first time viewers have seen Herr Starr; he briefly appeared in Season 1, Episode 3, "The Possibilities," although then he was played by a different actor and referred to only as The Man In The White Suit. At the beginning of that episode, Tulip met with a woman named Dany and gave her a map that she'd stolen from someone in exchange for the location of Carlos, the man that had betrayed her and Jesse. Dany then took the stolen map to a movie theater and gave it to a white-clad man — Herr Starr, as it turns out.
So far, AMC's adaptation seems to be following the source material rather closely when it comes to Starr's storyline; however, there is indication that some alterations might be in store somewhere down the road. One of this episode's subplots concerns Eugene's experiences in Hell, where the unfortunate teen — consigned to the underworld when Jesse told him to "go to hell" — is forced to relive the sins of his past, much like The Saint Of Killers was when viewers first encountered him last season. (In a surprising twist, it's revealed that Eugene didn't shoot his crush, Tracy Loach, as viewers had been led to believe. She actually committed suicide after her boyfriend cheated on her, and Eugene subsequently shot himself as well.)
But when Eugene's Hell cell is mysterious unlocked, he wanders into the hallway and soon finds himself face-to-face with none other than… Adolf Hitler? Yes, that's the Führer himself, played by Game Of Thrones actor Noah Taylor. And considering The Grail is described in the episode as a "fascist" organization, it seems likely that these two storylines are linked in some way. Has the TV showed morphed Herr Starr's mission from "use Jesse Custer to replace an inbred Messiah" into "use Jesse Custer to bring Hitler back from Hell"?
This is all new territory, considering Hitler isn't actually a character in the source material. (He is, however, an oft-referenced figure, as the object of lust for the sadomasochistic neo-Nazi Miss Oatlash, who is Odin Quincannon's lawyer in the comics.) The fact that AMC's adaptation has introduced the Führer as a character in his own right on the show surely signals some big changes ahead for Preacher, which will surprise readers and non-readers alike.