There seem to be a lot of shows that have the godless forced to pose as servants of God. Mostly, these people are con men or criminals of some sort; but in a new Brazilian drama, the accidental pastor is an avowed atheist. In fact, his philosophy of life is… well, it’s a bit dark.
SANTO MALDITO: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: We see scenes of the universe and nature. “What is God?” a voice says. “Is God peace? Is God love? Is God power?”
The Gist: Reinaldo (Felipe Camargo) is an adjunct professor of philosophy at a local university and an avowed atheist. He teaches his class that God doesn’t exist; it’s a construct that humans have created so we don’t have to face the emptiness of death.
He is also a writer of philosophy books. He’s working on his second book but is having problems getting started. Life is good at home otherwise. He met his wife Maria Clara (Ana Flávia Cavalcanti) over a decade ago when he was lecturing and there’s still a lot of spice in their relationship, and their teenage daughter Gabi (Bárbara Luz) is tight with both of them.
A miscommunication puts Maria Clara at the site of one of Gabi’s taekwondo tournaments just as she pulls out in Reinaldo’s car. A dispute between her Uber driver and a motorcyclist leads her to getting shot.
Even though Maria Clara is in a vegetative state, Reinaldo’s lack of faith isn’t shaken. He is shaken by the extensive medical bills, which he is on the hook for because they don’t have insurance.
A month into what might be an indefinite coma, Reinaldo has had enough. He actually asks God for help, grabs Maria Clara’s breathing tube, and yanks it out, hoping to put her out of her misery. Instead, she wakes up. She’s blind but otherwise intact.
The nurse on duty, a devout Christian, videos this supposed miracle and shows his pastor, Samuel (Augusto Madeira). He approaches Reinaldo about giving a sermon to his flock, which is full of people that have medical issues and are hoping for a miracle (Samuel himself is in a wheelchair), and offers to pay him. Reinaldo at first refuses, with malice. But, with Maria Clara’s medical bills mounting, he essentially has no choice.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Despite the different circumstances, the “fake pastor who really doesn’t believe in God” part of Santo Maldito (translation: Damned Saint) can be seen in both Impastor and Irreverent.
Our Take: Unlike the two shows we mentioned above, there’s nothing light about Santo Maldito. In fact, there’s a lot about it that’s dark and cynical, especially the way Reinaldo approaches his atheism. He’s not a believer in free will, just that life can be unfair and random sometimes, but it can’t be connected to the grand plan of some invisible being. We generally see him brooding over just about everything except the life he has with Maria Clara and Gabi.
This is really what’s driving him to give a sermon to a group of people who believe in something he doesn’t. His family is truly his entire world and he wants to make sure they’re not saddled with debt. He also can’t explain how Maria Clara woke up from her coma, given the doctors telling him it would be a one-in-a-million chance.
In a lot of ways, Santo Maldito feels like a show that would air at 10 PM on ABC if it was produced in the U.S. instead of Brazil. Let’s face it: The circumstances that brings Reinaldo to this point are a bit insane. He’s wandering the ICU after dark. The only person who sees him holding his wife’s breathing tube is a nurse who’d rather record it with his phone than intervene, as he was trained to do. The nurse brings it to his pastor, who has a crazy idea, which just happens to coincide with the fact that Reinaldo desperately needs money.
It’s a lot to take in during the first episode, but it’s done so in a way that includes just enough story details to make it work. As the episodes go along, Reinaldo will lecture more, lured by the money he’s paid to do it. What will be interesting is if he actually starts believing in what he’s lecturing about and if he really thinks he can work miracles.
What we hope to see is more of Reinaldo’s background, and a little more about his family. We do know that his mother is a believer, so we’d like to know how Reinaldo came by his militant and nihilistic view of existence. The more we see of that, the more we’ll buy into Reinaldo’s reluctant transformation.
Sex and Skin: Nothing in the first episode.
Parting Shot: Reinaldo steps in front of the small crowd at Samuel’s church, takes a deep breath, and says “God does not exist.” “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen plays over the scene.
Sleeper Star: Ana Flávia Cavalcanti is radiant as Maria Clara. Though her character is a bit thin during the first episode, she definitely fills the role of the sexy younger woman who puts some light in what seems to be Reinaldo’s overly dark existence.
Most Pilot-y Line: In a flashback to one of their first interactions, Maria Clara asks “Beatles or Rolling Stones?” Reinaldo replies, “Clash.” “Cheater,” she replies with a chuckle. That certainly is a cop-out of an answer. If we were Maria Clara, we would have walked away and never looked back.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Much of the setup of Santo Maldito is pretty absurd. But it’s executed well, and Camargo’s lead performance is so incredibly gritty and dark that the show almost pulls its absurd premise off by the end of the first episode.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.
The post Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Santo Maldito’ On Hulu, Where An Atheist Becomes A Pastor After He Performs A Medical Miracle appeared first on Decider.