Warning: If you plan to watch the show - stop before you hit #5 - spoilers begin there.
As a show, it was a bit of an odd duck.
It grabbed me right away and then lost me. Grabbed me again and lost me. It took me a little while to get through the whole thing, but it certainly was a lot better than most of the junk on TV. As many shows do, it bounced around with many different characters holding story focus, but some threads were just more interesting than others. So what I did, rather than just hang ‘em up at episode 7, (that I’ve never done for any show before) was just watched the segments I liked and pretty much fast forwarded through the rest. As such, I can’t tell you accurately if it was empirically good or bad. I can just say that it’s not coming back.
But there were a few pretty kick-ass things that came out of it. First and foremost:
#1: Gaia Scodellaro, who played Sister Celine.
I started watching her storyline because it was the Rob Lowe storyline and I was into him because of The Grinder. But she quickly took over the show and their scenes together and she was just captivating.
I just followed her on Twitter and she basically has 1100 followers. How is that possible? Did she open an account this morning? Gaia Scodellaro combines a timeless sort of beauty with actual talent. And she has that nearly-impossible-to-find quality of a gorgeous woman who has vulnerable eyes. (When she wants them that way).
I’m not saying you heard it here first, but I wish I could buy stock in her. Holy potential, Batman. Pajiba 10 much? Good lord.
#2: The best casting I’ve seen on a show in a while.
There were so many truly talented supporting actors on a network show, it was shocking. Casting Directors get a horrible rap, and many filmmakers (to their own detriment, in my opinion) view them as little more than meeting schedulers and drones. But one with a real eye for talent can make a huge difference. I’m guessing Kate Rhodes James (the top-listed Casting Director for the show) is probably one of those people. This cast was superlative. Honestly, you never know if it’s the casting director or the showrunners who should get the credit, but someone has a phenomenal eye.
#3: The reality that even an amazing cast doesn’t necessarily spell success
For example, this show had Jenna Fischer, Megan Mullally, and Diana Rigg in it and they were all kind of a shoulder shrug.
They had Megan Mullally decked out as a white supremacist with a swastika on her forehead and I could barely look at her.
Diana Rigg’s character was written over the top, but how could the Queen of Thorns disappoint?
And Jenna Fischer was super likable, but kind of dull. It’s not like they were ‘bad’ in an objective analysis. They were all actually good. The characters just didn’t deliver like you might imagine the talent behind them would. Hard to pinpoint why.
And there was also a cameo from Nick Offerman in another episode that was sadly underwhelming as well.
How is any of this possible? It really sucks, because when you assemble a cast like that, with an exciting high-concept idea, you just expect it to pop more. Sometimes, despite the best efforts, a concept doesn’t come together. TV is tough and unforgiving.
#3: Meanwhile, Joel Fry was amazing.
Every episode he was spot on. Who the hell is Joel Fry, you ask? Well he was the comic relief in YM & The Apocalypse, but he played Hizdahr zo Loraq in Game of Thrones. That’s some sick range, yo!
I’ll immediately tune in to anything he’s in going forward.
#4: Likewise surprising and rock-solid performances from some other cast members
…most of whom have had some success in the UK but are less well known stateside. They all have easy-to remember (and distinguish, which helps the audience) faces.
Let’s start with Grace Taylor who played Frankie. She’s a little kid! And she can act! It often feels like every little kid on television is grating as hell, but she was great. Super accessible and believable in kind of a tough role (as a possible capital M Messiah).
Nina Sosanya as U.S. Marshall Tess Carter. Sosanya is fairly well known, but this is what happens when you cast someone with this much talent in a supporting role: it feels weird. Because I would watch a show about U.S. Marshall Tess Carter this instant. Like right now. She was so so so good, and she just kind of carried her body so perfectly in the role. If you read interviews with her, you can see how intelligent she is, but it’s kind of a next level thing to be able to just completely transform your physicality to suit the role, like Mark Ruffalo did in Foxcatcher. Big fan of hers, and as a bonus, her face is storied and interesting and amazing to look at.
Honorable Mentions for also being really good:
Karla Crone as Kayla and Bronagh Gallagher as Larsson. Both very good.
#5: The Coolest Job on Television
Rob Lowe as Father Jude Sutton. He’s the literal Devil’s Advocate. Meaning that if the church wants to cannonize someone, he’s the foil. He tries to prove the person isn’t worthy of sainthood. And he was played so sharply by Lowe. That’s what brought me into the fold. In episode one, a brazen Father Jude asks his new assistant if she’d be offended by the term “Christ on a bike” which he just uttered to resounding looks of disdain from a group of clergy. She agrees about the tasteless nature of the phrase and he says “See, I think he’d be likely to ride a bike. He seems like that kind of guy to me.”
Anyway, a guy like that, funny and cynical but with unassailable faith? That’s a cool character.
#5: The most provocative plot line ever that no one gave a shit about. (warning: big spoilers from here on out)
Father Jude ends up falling in love with Sister Celine. As he should have. As we all should if we have beating hearts and are humanoid. They can’t live a lie so they plan to leave their jobs and get married. It’s just kind of awesome and they have great chemistry. But when Celine goes to Jude’s offices, he’s DEAD! Hung in front of the stained glass windows of his office in the Vatican. It was probably the most jarring beat of a straight up comedy in TV history. We get a shot of the shoes hanging in the air. Celine breaks down and I was like WHAT THE EVERLIVING F IS GOING ON?
Because Jude was so happy. He was just waiting in his office for Celine so they could spend the last few hours of human existence together, and then he’s just dead.
And here’s the thing: he was ordered to be murdered by the cardinals of the Vatican! Hiyo! Because earlier that day he had protested them deciding to anoint a false messiah to comfort humans as the world came to an end. So they hung him! The Vatican!
I never heard one single word about this scandalous portrayal of the Church anywhere. Is it because no one was watching long enough to see it in Episode 8?
#6: The Hero Loses!
The main characters are two twin brothers, both played by Matthew Baynton. One is the good one, one is the vicious evil sociopath. At the very last scene we see the good one make it into the bomb shelter. Whew! Then the asteroid hits and the earth begins to be destroyed. And then we see that the good one is outside the bunker, crawling in his underwear. The sociopath knocked him out, stole his clothes, and got in the bunker. We cut to the sociopath smirking in safety as the hero of the story dies outside. Um. Holy shit!
#7: And that’s it. Shit goes boom. No second season.
What a cynical, shit-eating, nose-thumbing, weird way to end a show!
Anyway, watch for yourself and see if you agree with me on NBC.com.