There’s no way to do justice to the Epix series Perpetual Grace, LTD in print. There’s no way even watching one episode of the series could do it justice, because there is a style and rhythm to the drama that is unique unto itself. It’s like watching Deadwood in that it takes an episode or two to fall into its rhythm and understand its sensibility (previous experience with Amazon Prime’s Patriot is helpful). But the thing is, once you find that rhythm, Perpetual Grace LTD is exhilarating and infectious, so much so that I find myself walking around my house humming lines of dialogue.
What’s Perpetual Grace, LTD about? Again, to describe it is to do it a great disservice because I don’t want to reduce the show to a series of plot points. I’ll say this, though: It’s brilliantly kooky but accessible. It’s not a complicated television show, but the way in which the characters speak takes some adjusting to get used to. It’s by no means a musical (although, Ben Kingsley does sing “When Doves Cry”) but there is a halting sing-songy quality to the dialogue. There’s a Coen Brothers sensibility to the storytelling, but the patter is more like poetic Sorkin, slowed down and stripped of pretension. “Your husband’s a fucking crumb, fucking crumb husband and father. Get my wife crumb, bring my wife crumb, fucking bring my wife, you fucking crumb.”
To give you a feel for what kind of show it is without revealing much about the plot, there’s a scene in this week’s episode where Pastor Byron Brown (Ben Kingsley) — a man who cut off his thumb with a beer can so that he could escape handcuffs and find his wife — is driving with a Mexican police officer named Hector (Luis Guzmán) to a place in the desert where Hector buried the Pastor’s wife alive. The Pastor spends most of the car trip critiquing Hector’s terrible novel, before turning to his marriage. When they finally arrive in the desert, they have to cut down a tree with a dove in it because they can’t hear the Pastor’s wife — buried in a coffin under the sand — over its cries. The entire episode is a goddamm perfect love story.
I’ll also say this, too: Perpetual Grace, LTD is littered with fantastic talent, all of the character actor variety because it takes a high level of acting talent to deliver Conrad’s dialogue with his particular brand of diction. Ben Kingsley is an outstanding vessel for it, but honestly, I could listen to Kurtwood Smith and Terry O’Quinn hold a Conrad-written conversation for hours. It’s intoxicating. I want to bathe in their back and forth. In Perpetual Grace, LTD, Smith — the Dad in That ’70s Show — is my favorite character. He plays a man wrongly accused of sexually touching a little boy who ran into a department store dressing room where Smiths’ character was trying on underwear. He’s a good man, broken but resigned to his fate, and there’s just something heartbreaking about watching him wearily live out his bad fortune, wandering aimlessly from one bad situation to the next.
But everyone in Perpetual Grace, LTD is terrifically cast, from Jimmi Simpson — who at one point entreats a rattlesnake to bite him so he can have an ankle monitor removed — to Luis Guzmán to Jacki Weaver to Damon Herriman to Conrad regulars like Michael Chernus and his brother, Chris Conrad. Efren Ramirez and Hana Mae Lee have these small parts that also feel exquisitely tailored to them — the latter plays a woman who marries a man 12-minutes out of gay conversion therapy, while Ramirez plays a coroner aspiring to be the first Mexican astronaut.
Perpetual Grace, LTD is, if not the best show on television right now, at least the most original, and creator Steven Conrad is one of the most unheralded talents on television. I suspect that Perpetual Grace LTD will ultimately fall into the same crack that his Patriot fell into on Amazon, passionately appreciated by the few who watch. One day, however, Conrad will create another TV series or write a movie that will break out in such a huge way as to introduce its fans to his television shows. Television this good does not stay buried forever.
Header Image Source: Epix