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TV Series Review

God speaks in mysterious ways. And Amazon's original series Hand of God believes He speaks in bloody ways as well.

Pernell Harris is an unlikely recipient of memos from his Maker. Until recently he'd gone to church only twice in his life: for his wedding and his mother's funeral. He lies, curses, cheats on his wife and has been engaged in underhanded dealings for much of his life. Never mind that he's a judge—and one who slaps other lawbreakers down with near Old Testament vigor. He figures he's owed a certain amount of, shall we say, leeway.

But that was before someone raped Pernell's daughter-in-law while forcing his son to watch. Before his now-comatose son tried to kill himself, blowing much of his brain away. In the aftermath of those tragedies, the not-so-honorable judge found God through the machinations of a charismatic pastor who's not above using the Bible to further his own fame. Or at least Pernell's found … something. His still-unconscious son is speaking to him, after all, and he's seeing visions full of blood and horror. He believes that God is directing his steps down a dark-but-holy path, to expose the culprits behind his daughter-in-law's rape and smite them with a terminal vengeance.

Hand of God is rooted in a compelling question: Does God speak to us today? But when the script answers with a grotesquely rendered "Let's hope not," it's not a promising start for serious spiritual discussion.

Not Saved by This Blood

The series stands as one of Amazon's first real bids to be taken seriously as an entertainment creator, not just an online entertainment warehouse. But it would seem that Amazon seriously miscalculated. Vox calls Hand of God "excruciatingly terrible television." The Los Angeles Times says it features "miraculous acting and little else." And Plugged In will now chime in with this: Sometimes when you pile on grim upon grim, bleak upon bleak, you're left with a big stack of nothing.

OK, to say there's nothing here is probably unfair. Hand of God has lots of things to talk about, actually: lots of sex, lots of unprintable curses, lots of really horrific moments of violence. It's almost as if the show, like Judge Harris, believes that the blood can save it. Alas, Amazon mistakes the true blood of Christ for gallons of fake hemoglobin it has apparently stored away in one of its warehouses, and the only thing you get when you bathe in that stuff is really, really messy. It's probably a stretch to say Hand of God makes Game of Thrones look like How to Train Your Dragon, but rarely have I seen a show as rawly discomforting or spiritually bludgeoning as this one.

While it'd be nice if Judge Harris could find real salvation somewhere down the line, the show he appears in deserves no such consideration.

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Profanity/Violence

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Episode Reviews

Hand of God - September 9, 2015 "Pilot"
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