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Amazon’s ‘Hand of God’ is a punishing experience

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Dramas don’t get much darker than Hand of God.

Two stars

Hand of God Season 1 available September 4 on Amazon Prime.

Dramas don’t get much darker than Amazon’s punishing Hand of God, which often feels like the TV-series equivalent of wearing a hair shirt. It’s yet another iteration of the tortured middle-aged male antihero, in this case powerful judge Pernell Harris (Ron Perlman), who’s out for vengeance after experiencing what he believes are messages from God. Is Pernell crazy, or is he really speaking with God? The show doesn’t want to answer that question, but it’s hard to care either way, since Pernell is such an unpleasant person to spend time with, both for viewers and for the other characters.

Pernell’s son is clinically dead and being kept alive by machines following a suicide attempt, to which he was driven after being forced to witness his wife’s rape. And yet Pernell makes the entire situation about himself, his need to find and punish the rapist, which will somehow cause his son to miraculously wake up (you could build a drinking game out of how often he insists that his son isn’t really dead). Pernell’s nasty quest is wrapped up in a tedious story about municipal politics and corruption in a small California city (unfortunately reminiscent of True Detective’s second season), with dull subplots about only slightly less unlikable supporting characters.

Hand of God’s bleakness doesn’t serve any greater purpose, and all the bluster says nothing about the nature of faith or revenge. Like its main character, the show ostentatiously wallows in sin and then tries to pass it off as genuine redemption.

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