“For The Rain To Gather” pulls the neat trick of providing some supporting characters with interesting enough stories to point out how Hand Of God lacks a main character. Ron Perlman’s in there swinging, but Pernell Harris isn’t so much conflicted and tortured as he is buffeted to and fro in a series that’s never defined him.
Tonight, Pernell, frustrated by the lack of recent visions, takes Paul’s advice and fasts, despite the fact that Crystal’s recent couple’s dinner’s have brought them closer together than they’ve been in years. When he barges into Jocelyn’s memorial/poetry reading/shadow puppet theater in P.J.’s room, he hears P.J.’s disembodied voice (“The Devil is close, find the devil”) alongside an effectively spooky, elongated arm of one of the shadow puppets stretching out to indicate… someone, before a security guard interrupts to disperse Pernell’s intruding prayer circle. When Pernell realizes (thanks to an expositional nurse with some medicated Jell-O) that Crystal’s home cooked meals have been seasoned with his antipsychotic medication, it’s a solid twist. Confronting Crystal at home, his pills and her mortal and pestle in the foreground, it’s the first time the couple’s conflict has been laid out so nakedly, Pernell and Crystal staring straight ahead at their son’s home movies, their voices ringing hollowly with their combined resentments.
We’re doing better now. Better than we have in a long time.
How would I know?
I didn’t drug you, I gave you your medicine.
You tried to take the thing I needed most. You did it all for me?
For us, because I love you.
I hope so, because that’s what I’m gonna tell myself.
It’s a clarity of purpose that both characters dearly needed, and Perlman and Dana Delany sell it well. It’s just that, as has been the case all season, the moment is surrounded by Hand Of God’s choppy storytelling and characterization. Pernell’s new vision renews his (and the show’s) fervor for the conspiracy plot, which also renews the show’s habit of interrupting any sort of performing flow Perlman can lend the judge.
Nowhere is that rhythm more evident, or less welcome, than in the moment directly before Pernell’s vision. Bobo, stinging from a particularly degrading encounter with Robert Joy’s Goldstein, comes to the hospital and kneels next to the praying Pernell. Andre Royo’s been good in his limited role on Hand Of God, but this is the first time he’s been able to do more than steal a scene—in pleading with his best friend to understand the cost of cleaning up after Pernell’s selfish behavior, Royo’s Bobo owns the scene.
Look at everything you’re doin’ for your boy. I know you’re trying to be a good man, trying to do the right thing. But you are fucking up everything else along the way.
Who cleans it up? You have no idea what I do, what I let someone do to me in front of my son, my boy. But it’s fine, right Pernell? I’m gonna be the first black man with a statue in front of city hall. Right?
Seeing his friend so distraught momentarily breaks Pernell out of his single-minded pursuit—and then the vision comes, and Bobo’s pain is forgotten. By Pernell, anyway.
“For The Rain To Gather” makes explicit Hand Of God’s assumptions about race and class in its San Vicente, allowing Bobo, Emayatzy Corinealdi’s Tessie, and Erykah Badu’s April to call the show’s main (white, wealthy) characters on how their various schemes are affecting the city’s less fortunate. The big land deal upon which San Vicente’s fortunes depend is built on the usual web of shady deals and minority disenfranchisement, and the episode’s focus on the people actually affected by it is welcome and overdue—it isn’t Show Me A Hero or anything, but it gives the series some needed context. The problem is, that, while the focus on these characters here is far more compelling than last episode‘s pointless Paul-Alicia storyline, it also serves to point up the weakness at the show’s center.
Emayatzy Corinealdi’s Tessie, having gone along with Pernell’s bigamous wedding ceremony, is still maintaining her wary distance, acceding to the judge’s wishes that she find out the names of tenants at the apartment building discovered by K.D.—but she still makes Pernell honor their traditional business relationship. (She also accurately assesses how little perspective Pernell has left, calling him out for sending her to gather info on murderers and rapists.) Still, Tessie crushes it with the supercilious realtor, sending his suspicions and veiled racism volleying back at him in a truly impressive display of bilingual bluffing. Erykah Badu’s April, it’s revealed, has been attending Paul and Alicia’s church in order to find out damning information for Crystal, and she, too, bridles under Crystal’s assumption that she’s just the rich woman’s errand girl. (Mocking “massa” jibe included.) When she finds out about Paul’s meth addiction, she reveals that, but holds back the fact that Alicia’s pregnant—Crystal’s a good customer and a fun person to smoke with, but April refuses to betray a confidence about someone with whom she’s formed a human connection.
And then there’s Bobo, whose interactions with the ever-loathsome Goldstein see the mayor express some particularly thoughtful and satisfying sentiments to his son/aide Asa (Cleavon McClendon, whose only gotten more interesting in his small role). Goldstein’s abuse—repeatedly calling the mayor “nigger” in order, he states, to make a semantic point that “there’s a line” that Pernell crossed last episode—is pretty blunt, dramatically, but Andre Royo makes Bobo’s evolving response deeply affecting, especially as Asa finally loses patience with his father’s gladhanding forbearance. In response to Bobo’s counsel “You play the game until you win the game,” the roused Asa snaps back, “And when you get that, dad, what are you gonna have left?” When Asa accuses him, saying, “You jut let that asshole who ranks beneath you to call you a nigger,” Bobo returns, “They all think it, so who gives a fuck if they say it. As long as I get what I came for.” Both actors are great, but, as with Bobo’s conversation with Tessie earlier in the episode, the energy in the scene is in seeing two underserved characters assert their agency in a story that’s relegated them to the periphery. The problem with that is, Hand Of God wants to be about Pernell Harris’ moral dilemma. And Pernell Harris’ story doesn’t offer the same sort of humanity.
In the end, Tessie obtains the tenant list, Josh is on it, and Pernell stands in the gathering storm gripping the city and watches as Jocelyn and Josh finally make out in Jocelyn’s car in the hotel parking lot. Pernell’s got his visions back. Hand Of God keeps casting around for what’s important.
- Crystal, after Pernell tells her Paul’s advised him that fasting will open him up to his visions again: “Is that what these people call low blood sugar?”
- Royo really has a great episode here. After Goldstein backs out of signing out on the grid expansion, he flashes back with, “You wanna call me nigger a few more times, get you back in the mood?”
- Crystal, smoking her one-hitter on the hospital roof, advises Jocelyn to move on from her son with the waiting-in-the-wings Josh. Jocelyn, although suspicious, eventually takes her advice which, considering what we’re learning about Crystal’s methods, is most likely a mistake.
- Josh had recorded a conveniently elaborate explanation from P.J. about his desire never, under any circumstances, to be kept alive through artificial means. That’ll come in handy for Jocelyn in court.
- Too-neat it may be, but Bobo getting Goldstein to give in and call him daddy is pretty satisfying, nonetheless.
- Garret Dillahunt’s K.D. is out of jail, but bewilderingly sidelined here, appearing wordlessly over Pernell’s shoulder at the prayer meeting.
- There’s a huge storm coming, so Crystal naturally advises Jocelyn to “build an ark.” But the episode’s title has a less obvious resonance, considering the main stories therein: