Ron Perlman fans no longer need to stream old Sons of Anarchy episodes in order to get their televised fix of the hulking actor. For at least one episode, Perlman is at the center of an emotionally charged holy roller coaster ride that goes by the name of Hand of God, which premiered today as part of Amazon Studios’ third Pilot Season. Thankfully, Hand of God shouldn’t need a miracle to become a fully-fledged series, as it delivers more than enough solid performances and discomforting drama to fit right at home in today’s TV landscape. Or whatever it is that Amazon’s original content fits into.
Perlman plays Judge Parnell Harris, a troubled father whose son P.J. (Johnny Ferro) is in a coma following a suicide attempt, spurned by being forced to witness the rape of his wife Jocelyn (Alona Tal), who is against keeping him on life support. Parnell is also a troubled husband who has few reservations about cheating on his wife Crystal (Dana Delany) with a prostitute. And even though these are both awful situations, his problems only begin there.
You see, Parnell has been born again, under the pseudo-guidance of priestly con man Reverend Paul Curtis (Julian Morris), who uses Parnell’s monetary investment to open up a small church. The Word of the Lord runs through Hand of God like the blood runs through Perlman’s forehead when he gets tested. He believes that he is receiving signs and omens from beyond, that his son is telepathically tasking him with finding the man who raped Jocelyn, and that he is miraculously being guided to identifying the rapist.
But don’t go thinking this is some schmaltzy rip on Touched by an Angel. There is danger and darkness at every turn in Hand of God, perhaps best exemplified by the rehabilitated KD (Garret Dillahunt), a man attempting to cure his violent tendencies through Bible studies. It’s a job easier said than done, of course, but his doomed path puts him in Pernell’s sights, inciting a most dubious partnership.
The bigger picture involves those surrounding Pernell in an official capacity. The cops think he’s nuts, and his frequent babbling is making Mayor Robert “Bobo” Boston (Andre Royo) nervous. Bobo is trying to lock down a huge development deal to keep the city of San Vicente growing, mostly on Pernell's dime, but the developers refuse to guarantee their involvement until Bobo can get a handle on Pernell.
All in all, Hand of God does a fine job of straddling the line between heady drama and subdued religion mongering. There’s always a sense that what we’re seeing might not be real, even when it isn’t just from Pernell’s twisted point of view. Add to that mystery an impeccable cast and solid writing, and this could be the best drama that Amazon Studios has put out yet.
As with the other Pilot Seasons, your duty is to watch the show here and then give it a rating at the bottom of the page. While excellent ratings don’t necessarily mean the show will get a full season, Amazon execs definitely take them into consideration. So spread the word!