Amazon's 'Hand of God' a fascinating, if uneven religious satire

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Lord, no: Dana Delany and Ron Perlman in Amazon's fascinating new drama, "Hand of God." (Photo: Amazon Studios)

What would you do if a man professing to be Abraham asked to borrow your car so he could take his son Isaac to a mountain to sacrifice the boy?

Would you hand over your Prius? Or would you take the guy to the nearest psych ward?

That's one of the tantalizing questions raised in Amazon's fascinating, if uneven, new drama, Hand of God, starring Ron Perlman as an erstwhile godless California judge who wakes up one day convinced he hears the word of the almighty.

It's a weird and not always successful mix of religious satire. Created by Burn Notice writer Ben Watkins, Hand of God premieres Friday.

The pilot opens with a shot of Judge Pernell Harris (Perlman) naked in a fountain, arms stretched up to heaven. He appears to be speaking in tongues.

Pernell has had a religious conversion thanks to the Rev. Paul Curtis (Julian Morris), a self-styled preacher adept at separating rich folks from their money.

Seems Pernell has gone off the rails because his only son, PJ (Johnny Ferro) is in a coma. PJ shot himself after he was forced at gunpoint to watch an intruder rape his wife, Jocelyn (Alona Tal).

Yep, Hand of God takes us to a territory usually reserved for Shakespearean tragedies.

Pernell believes God will help him hunt down and punish Jocelyn's rapist, which in turn will bring his son back. He will stop at nothing to finish his quest for justice, including murder.

Is he really guided by God, or just crazy? Watkins' series remains neutral about the question, while also suggesting the signs and portents Pernell follows actually lead him in the right direction.

Hand of God is set in the fictional small town of San Vicente, Calif., founded by Pernell's great-grandfather and controlled by the family ever since. The series kicks into conspiracy thriller mode when Pernell threatens to ruin a real estate developement deal engineered by his wife, Crystal (Dana Delany), and the mayor (Andre Royo).

Hand of God tries to do too many things. On one hand, it's a savage satire about American religiosity and hucksterism straight out of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. On the other, it's a twisty crime mystery.

Yet it's such an engaging, original, quirky, and thought-provoking drama, it should be seen.


TV REVIEW

Hand of God

The series will be posted Friday on Amazon Prime.


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