Review: Hand of God Series Premiere

Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but I was totally unaware of Amazon’s original programming until this new series popped up on my radar earlier this month. Naturally, a show entitled Hand of God peaked my interest and I figured I would check it out. How bad could it be, right?

Episode Recap

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In the wake of his daughter-in-law’s rape and his son’s attempted suicide, Pernell Harris finds himself in church and baptized. Now, he’s hearing the voice of God and seeing visions and everyone thinks he’s crazy. They’re probably right.

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Meanwhile, his best friend, Bobo, is trying to push a deal through with Brooks Innovations and it looks like Pernell’s erratic behavior is endangering his plans. While Bobo and Pernell’s wife, Crystal, try to minimize the damage and convince everyone that he’s ok, Pernell continues to follow the voices and fulfill his promise to find Jocelyn’s rapist.

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Of course, you can’t quit your day job even when you are the hand of God, so Pernell returns to the courtroom where he sits as a judge meting out justice like a modern-day Solomon. One of the cases that comes before him just happens to be another recent convert, KD, who has some anger issues whenever people disrespect Bible study. Understandable, since I’m sure we’ve all wanted to beat someone with a chair when they keep interrupting quiet time. Well, maybe not.

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Pernell continues to do God’s work and search for signs in between threatening people and visiting with prostitutes.  One of the signs eventually leads him to the man who raped his daughter-in-law, or at least Pernell believes that. His increasingly erratic behavior is causing problems for everyone, and while Bobo and Crystal run around trying to clean up the messes, Pernell meets up with KD and decides to take justice into his own hands.

Episode Review

I’ll start by saying that this was an odd show for me to watch and I’m still not sure if I enjoyed it or not. Normally, a show with this much cursing is an immediate no-go for me, but I was oddly mesmerized by the plot even while I was repeatedly asking myself “what?!?” and trying to figure out where things were headed. I’ll hit some of the highlights to help you understand what I mean.

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First of all, the pacing of the show is borderline painful. The creators spend so much time trying to lay out the complex plot from the beginning that at points it feels like there is no connection and you are simply watching someone’s life fall apart. In addition to this, Pernell is not a particularly likeable man and there isn’t even an element of sympathy to fall back on to make you keep watching. In fact, most of the characters are reduced to caricature status: the shifty best friend, the devious wife, the charlatan pastor. If you want a clearer picture of what I mean, just watch the scene where Crystal and Bobo have a tactics planning session in the bathroom with the sounds of his intestinal distress in the background. What?!?

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On the other hand, KD (Garret Dillahunt) and Jocelyn (Alona Tal) have some pretty amazing scenes. In fact, the contrast between their characters and the others is probably intentional and it was one of the things that kept me watching the episode instead of giving up. KD’s conviction that his actions are God’s will is completely believable (if a little disturbing), and Jocelyn’s anger towards Pernell is both uncomfortable to watch and heart-wrenching.
With a title like Hand of God, you might be expecting religion to factor into the plot somehow, and you would be right. However, the theology in the show is intentionally laughable. Pernell is obviously corrupt and admits to anyone listening that he isn’t a good man. Oh, and apparently he’s been “born again” somehow and he’s not really happy about it, but there’s no going back. The insinuation that he was “saved” on accident and now has to suffer through it is odd and would be offensive if it wasn’t also completely laughable. Of course, his preacher is a con man looking to fleece his flock, so it’s really no surprise that Pernell is a little confused.  I’m assuming that the writers aren’t particularly fond of organized religion.
All in all, I would say that watching this series premiere is a little like watching a train wreck. You’ll be a little horrified, a little confused as you try to understand the horror of what is happening, and in the end you’ll be asking yourself why you kind of want to see it again.

Content Warning

Language – There is a lot of cursing throughout the episode (f***, h***, s***, d**n, d**k, a**, p****) and several instances where the Lord’s name is used as an expletive (Jesus Christ, Godd***).
Violence – Violence is discussed when talking about Jocelyn’s rape and PJ’s suicide attempt. There are also several scenes with outright violence: a man is beaten for interrupting a Bible study, and a scene where a man is stabbed and killed. There is also a lot of blood imagery used in Pernell’s visions.
Sexual Content/Nudity – The show opens with Pernell naked in a fountain, though nothing is shown below his waist. A woman makes sexual advances to a man in exchange for his cashing a check and her breasts are exposed. Pernell engages a prostitute and their encounter is shown in detail along with most of her body. Crystal threatens the preacher by touching him inappropriately. A man is forced to expose himself in order to prove he is not a rapist and his bare butt is shown.
Drug/Alcohol Use – There are several scenes showing people drinking alcohol. There are two or three scenes which show people smoking pot.
Other Negative Themes – It seems as though everyone is corrupt and has an agenda, especially the police. The judge has a standing appointment with a prostitute.
Spiritual Content – While the main character believes himself to be doing God’s will and following his orders, the show handles religion and faith in a way that borders on mockery. Those that claim to be “born again” are either crazy or criminals, and their actions following God’s will include threats, kidnapping, and murder.

The Bottom Line

 

 

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Lari Burkhart

A life-long book addict, I spend most of my time trying to find a way to avoid reality through sci-fi and fantasy. I've been a Christian for quite some time (no numbers, please) and I'm always ready for a discussion about how fiction mirrors the Bible and its principles even when it's trying not to.

2 Comments

  1. Charlie on September 7, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I will stick to Doctor Who, thank you.

  2. Sarah on August 31, 2015 at 3:46 am

    Based on your review (very good btw). I won’t be watching it.

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