Cape Town - In Perpetual Grace Ltd, a divine plan goes to hell when a young grifter, James (Emmy nominee Jimmi Simpson from Westword), is caught up in a scheme to swindle Pastor Byron Brown (Oscar winner Ben Kingsley) out of his ill-gotten millions.
But though the pastor and his wife Lillian (Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver from Silver Linings Playbook) – known to their parishioners as Pa and Ma – look like an easy mark, they turn out to be far more dangerous than James suspects.
Part bleak, twisted crime caper (gone oh so very wrong) and part black comedy, this 10-episode modern noir is now streaming on Showmax. Here are five reasons to add it to your binge list:
1. Ben Kingsley is already tipped for an Emmy - and sings When Doves Cry
As Pastor Byron Brown, aka Pa, aka "the pale horse of death", Kingsley is already The Hollywood Reporter's "odds-on favourite to win the Emmy for best actor in 2020."
In his best TV role yet, Kingsley even sings, channeling Leonard Cohen in a cover of Prince's When Doves Cry.
The cast also includes Luis Guzmán (Godfather of Harlem, Traffic), Damon Herriman (100 Bloody Acres), Chris Conrad (Patriot), brilliant young comic Dash Williams (Fresh Off the Boat), Emmy winner Terry O'Quinn (Lost), and BAFTA nominee Timothy Spall (Harry Potter).
2. Everyone's looking for grace, but not everybody gets it
Simpson plays a guilt-ridden former firefighter, whose misguided efforts to course-correct go horribly wrong.
As Simpson sees it, "It's a man going through the gauntlet of self-destruction only to realise that he's a much better man than he thought he was."
It's a situation we can probably all relate to, Simpson proposes, because, "We're all one bad, thoughtless decision away from being a piece of shit. And then we're all a thousand thoughtful, good decisions to becoming a good human again."
But it's the sort of show where happy endings aren't guaranteed. "Everyone's looking for grace, but grace is limited," says writer and co-creator Bruce Terris. "There's only so much grace to go around. Not everybody gets it."
3. The script is "shockingly original"
The series is written and co-created by Terris and Critics Choice-nominated writer Steve Conrad (The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Wonder) – the team that made the critically acclaimed Patriot.
Kingsley says the script was a key hook for him. "This is not a copy of a copy of a copy. Everything is shockingly original."
"There's an element of fearlessness in the writing," he adds. "In the words that are put into Pa's mouth, there are very few concessions to the niceties of boundaries. That makes the language Pa uses, in fact, that everybody uses, from the gut."
Similarly, the dialogue was the first thing that attracted Weaver to the part of Ma. "It's the kind of dialogue that you mustn't paraphrase, because every tiny little word matters. Growing up in theater, where you had to treat the text as, you know, biblical almost, it's lovely to get a television script that is so beautifully written," she says.
4. It makes New Mexico look "gorgeous"
Emmy-nominated cinematographer James Whitaker directs four episodes, with Conrad directing the other six. They've put together a show that's seriously easy on the eye.
"New Mexico is so gorgeous," says Simpson. "I've never really been to such a beautiful place. For this show, it's an essential element. And it does go so well with this story, because the pace and the patience of letting a story unfold is very Old West. There's that slow walk to each other as you're about to kill each other. It looks terrifying, but oh, it's beautiful. That's this show."
5. Critics love it
Perpetual Grace Ltd has a 92% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Entertainment Weekly calls the series "A funny, freaky crime tale that's also a gutter-poetic western," while The Washington Post praises its "neo-noir characters who act and speak as if they belong in a never-made Coen brothers film."
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
Watch Perpetual Grace Ltd first on Showmax
(Photos supplied: Showmax)