Monday, 5 October 2015

Hand of God: Season 1 Review

Rating: 7
Very Good

In A Nutshell

First up, you don't need to be religious in any way to watch this show. If you like mysterious dramas and psychological emotional TV, then you'll find yourself in a "happy" place with this show.

Having seen the pilot of the show earlier this year, I looked forward to the series being made available, and very recently Amazon put all 10 episodes up for us all to feast on at our own pace. At 50-60 minutes an episode, you've got a realistic good chance of breezing through in one week.

The show centres heavily on the main character, Pernell Harris, a city judge who is undoubtedly at the top of his profession and very good at it, but is also not against manipulating other people and the law to get results. When his son, PJ, commits suicide and is placed on life support (events that take place before the pilot episode), Pernell's mental health starts to go off on a massive tangent and he sees visions that he believes are coming from God.

Pernell is a character that carries emotion so well that I very quickly got wrapped up in his mental torture and suffering. Using a criminal, KD, to do his extremely dirty work, he's soon committing the very crimes he's locked people up for all his life. But he's headstrong, and fully believing that what he's seeing, in the form of hallucinations in various guises, although often via the voice of his son PJ, are justifyingly right, and will lead to his son waking up.

We discover along the way the real reason he's so headstrung in having PJ wake up, and that there is a bigger conspiracy and undertone to why PJ shot himself in the head, and events that led to that. It's all revealed in drip drop fashion over the course of the season, eventually with actual flashbacks adding real texture to what went down in the 24 hours before PJ's suicide.

There's a plarithory of top quality characters and actors in the show, with Pernell take the majority of screen time, along with events concerning his best friend and city mayor, Bobo, probably the main sub-plot which actually quickly integrates to be very relevant to Pernell's "visions". Time spent with Pernell's "disciple" of sorts, KD, are often disturbing in nature as it's KD doing the real bloody dirty work, as well as having a very heavenly belief, twisted with a naturally violent personality. KD is like a cuddly toy in how he responds so mannerly and cute to people the one moment, and then the next he's sickeningly beating and killing people. Bobo's story, as a mayor trying to make a real difference, develops much slower for obvious reasons, but it's certainly central to everything come the last few episodes.

The Hand of God is the local church, and some time is spent with Pernell seeking guidance from the priest, Paul, who himself has a slightly unsaintly personality but spreads so much joy and love into people's lives, that he becomes another person you cheer for, despite his failings. I believe a lot about Paul isn't fully revealed this season, but he certainly has his troubles along the way, not least with his church and his lover, the church "second in command" Alicia. They have to manipulate some situations that aren't exactly what one might say 100% Christian, and deal with the consequences of their relationship, of which is pretty graphic on occasions.

The real hook though is Pernell and his visions, or are they hallucinations? We're lead to believe they are the former, until a serious game changer in the second half of episodes not only challenges Pernell, but also gets us wondering if we're just watching a true nutcase or not. Visions or hallucinations, there's no doubting they open a world of intrigue and questionable morals. For the most part the series isn't very predictable as secrets are revealed and circumstances twist and change a multiple of times. The finale however is probably the most predictable in terms of outcome, although there's a genuine surprise in whom Pernell finds eventually sharing with him in his visions.

If you like getting into the mind of people, and the emotional rollercoaster that produces, you'll love this show. The visions add mystery and high intrigue, but there is some really severe violence and sexual encounters along the way, making it certainly an adult-thriller-drama.

What I liked

There's a strong cast of characters outside of the lead, Pernell. His wife becomes considerably more central and intriguing as time progresses. Likewise the likeable charismatic Bobo, and cuddly/violent KD do own the stage when they have their moments to play.

Gritty, dark, and morally challenging storytelling.

Religious undertones are heavily invested in the show, and serve a real purpose.

Mysterious twisted visions of Pernell are inventive, creative and captivating.

Pernell and KD easily rule every scene by a country mile.

Promise of deeper secrets to come, largely I believe from PJ and the priest, Mark.

Some amusing dark humour along the way in every episode, including a genuine LOL moment as Emergency Bobo Procedure is tested out ...

What I Didn't Like

There's a sub-sub-plot involving Pernell's "hooker" and her relationship and issues with her mum and brother, and although there's surprise in amongst that, it's really no where near as interesting as everything else. The brother revelation is also somewhat taken in his stride without any real shock value when it's brought up in conversation. Quite flat and a little thin his aspect of show.

Some scenes might be hard to swallow for non-religious viewers, as it does get heavily happy-clappy and devoted to religious ways on multiple occasions.


Pernell, morally questionable and emotional troubled by visions. A highly captivating character.

Jocelyn, PJ's wife, comes in and out of the show during the series and may be one of the least interesting characters, but she has a very crucial part to play.

The highly likeable yet violent religious KD, is Pernell's man to do the real dirty, violent and bloody work.

It's that lady from Extant who played the doctor in the first series of that show. Guess what? She's a doctor here too.

Priest Mark, and his lieutenant-come-lover, Alicia, are the main source of religious tones throughout the show.
And Finally

Mysterious and captivating from the word go with the pilot episode, Pernell's visions and emotional behaviour is highly engaging. The series might start out with everyone else other than Pernell and KD feeling surplus to requirements and your attention but they quickly gather their own traction by mid-season, leading to a real convergence of everyone interacting and involved with each other.

This is primarily a psychological and mysterious drama, that makes Pernell and us viewers question what we're watching at one point. Yet with everyone largely having their piece in the jigsaw and with, dark humour and strong characters, this show delivers with tension, emotion and secrets being revealed in satisfying numbers along the course of the series.

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