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Divine: The Series
Divine: The Series
Principal Cast
Ben Hollingsworth -- Father Andrew
Dan Payne -- Divine
Chasty Ballesteros -- Jin
Allen Sawkins -- Deacon Jim
John Emmet Tracy -- Scorn
Lisa Marie Caruk -- Lon
Haig Sutherland -- The Prophet
Misha Collins -- Father Christopher
A review by Kay Hawthorne

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Online projects have been improving rapidly over recent years and we're relentlessly advancing towards a new era of entertainment. More and more of us are reading online, playing online and discovering exciting new TV series online.

Finding that decent TV content can be tough but Divine: The Series had the advantage that actor Misha Collins was involved and he shared the news about his latest acting project to his dedicated minions on Twitter. Word of the new horror/fantasy series quickly went viral, helped by details about Collins wearing a priest outfit and the involvement of a large number of Supernatural TV series crew (on which Collins plays angel Castiel). Soon the wider Supernatural fan community was spreading the word as well and the Divine website started to get a lot more traffic.

The Divine crew already had the first two episodes in the bag by this time, filmed during the coldest of November nights in 2010 near Vancouver. Releasing trailers, teasers, and fun blog entries, the Divine website visitors were soon enthralled by glimpses of action-packed episodes and mysterious entities.

After a successful round of fundraising on Kickstarter.com, the Divine crew set about making the remaining four pilot episodes in June 2011 and finally, after an agonising wait, released the very first ten-minute episode on their website at the end of August, free of charge and available world wide.

All six episodes have now aired so we can finally decide whether it was worth all that buzz...

Taking them in the order they were released, let's start with...

Episode 1 'Divine' — Opening in the heart of the action, Divine arrives back at the Eastside Rescue mission fatally injured and bleeding profusely. He is received by Deacon Jim and Father Christopher who perform the necessary religious rites and Divine is miraculously healed.

Hitting the ground running, there's no room for slack in these short episodes. The viewer is expected to get onboard and figure it out or be left behind. We get gore, life and death situations and a very tall naked bloke. We meet most of the main characters -- Divine himself, his side-kick Jin, Deacon Jim and Father Christopher; and we find out that God is performing miracles, right here, right now, and healing Divine's wounds. But there's a shedload of questions left unanswered.

Episode 2 'Choices' — A gang of thugs terrorise a mother and her baby until the gang find themselves the victims of the mother's unnatural habits. Divine arrives, with Jin in tow, to help the one gang member who has tried to protect the mother from the attack.

This is a disturbing and visually ambitious episode as we see how Divine's injuries have been inflicted -- fighting monsters and defending humans -- along with undertones about why he does it. All the effects, from the mother's weapons and motion capture baby scenes to the disembowelments and heart extractions, are of a superior quality and add to the enjoyment of the episode. Repeated viewings also yields more enjoyment as additional details are spotted in hindsight, so do go back and take another look before moving on.

Episode 3 'Feed Him For Life' — An episode dedicated to introducing regular character Father Andrew, a troubled priest facing a crisis of faith, sent to the Eastside Rescue Mission after failing to stop another man's suicide.

Featuring an interleaving of storylines, Andrew's current journey by taxi to the mission alternates with his flashbacks about why he was banished to this run-down church but the episode twists in the final moments as the taxi driver's strange affliction is revealed. Then in the closing seconds, the underlying sense of being watched is reinforced, but needless to say not explained.

Episode 4 'Simple Men' — After seeing Deacon Jim's ritual to heal Divine, Father Andrew wrestles with the knowledge that God exists and miracles happen. Divine is clearly making a habit of going out each night, saving people's lives and coming home bloody and torn. Andrew wants to tell the world, but the Deacon thinks they'll only make a false idol of Divine. Leaving the room to think things through, Andrew doesn't see another of Deacon Jim's secrets revealed.

It's another character driven episode but much more intense than the previous one with a conversation that takes place between two blood soaked priests. And we get the first hints at the potential depths of the story as opinions clash and warnings are given.

Episode 5 'Bestiality' — Divine's back in action but this time he's up against a demon -- expanding the pantheon of evil beasties roaming the back streets of this twenty first century reality. But the show is elegantly stolen by the appearance of a new and clearly significant player on the side of darkness. Here then is the entity who has been keeping close watch on Divine.

Despite the mysterious appearance of the man with the hawk, this is the most disappointing episode of the six for a few reasons. Firstly, the demon doesn't convince. The close ups are great but the distance shots are too 'man-in-a-rug' to seem scary and it's definitely a less-is-more scenario. Secondly, Jin seems to have been working with Divine for a while so she should know that when he's facing off an enraged demon he doesn't want to be distracted by pointless pleas for help. Jin's character has been generally more of a hindrance than a help so far although she does contribute a lot towards the comic relief at times and here her actions just seem illogical. The final problem is that the prostitute took quite a beating from the demon but when you see her face afterwards, it looks like she was hardly touched. Again it's not logical and these things just keep popping you out of the story. Fortunately by the next episode, we're back on the right track again.

Episode 6 'Lips of Men' — It's a thoughtful episode to end on as Divine talks to Father Andrew about his situation and the Father starts to understand the true implications of Divine's immortality. And maybe there's also an insight into why Deacon Jim has been looking pale and dark-eyed recently -- with nightmares like this it's no wonder. Apparently, something sinister happened to Father Christopher which will probably be revealed in a future episode.

It's all rather satisfyingly complex, with more conflicting points of view, abundant grey areas and an intriguing shock ending that definitely leaves you wanting more.

Overall, it's a visceral series with the promise of a deeper symbolism and comment about freedom of choice versus fate that has only been hinted at so far and is yet to come fully into focus. Like Supernatural before it — and you can't avoid the comparison with some of the actors and a fair proportion of the crew working on the Supernatural series as well -- the quality of the writing on this series makes it stand out against the plethora of bland offerings we're getting these days.

Unusually, despite having loose story threads in each episode, they all manage to stand on their own, fully formed in their ten minute allocation. On top of that, the episodes are skillfully and successfully designed to be non-linear and can be viewed in any order. There are so many mysteries that you will all arrive at the same set of infuriatingly unanswered questions, regardless of the route that you took.

With respect to style, the episodes alternate between action-filled and character-driven and even when the instalment revolves around Divine getting seven shades beaten out of him, each ten minute slice is crammed with an amazing amount of detail. There's not a frame wasted anywhere and you have to pay attention or you'll miss something.

Fortunately, you can watch them as many times as you wish and you will probably go back and re-watch them sooner or later -- if only to check that you saw what you thought you saw in an earlier episode (even though it didn't make total sense at the time you first saw it). The experience is something like doing a jigsaw where you are given a different piece (or pieces) of the puzzle in each successive episode. Then it's down to you to put them all together for the whole picture. There's certainly no dumbing down going on here and for those who don't like being spoon-fed, it's a refreshing experience.

If you weren't already getting engaged on the story front, the Divine creators have another ace up their sleeve. Via their website, Twitter feed and Facebook page, the crew and creators continue to be available for questions, happy to interact with the fans. They're encouraging feedback, sharing the highs and lows, making little documentaries about what's happening behind the camera and generally appreciating their fans. They're connecting with a world wide audience with enthusiasm and it's creating a strong and supportive community.

So was Divine: The Series worth all the early buzz? Definitely. Despite budget limitations they delivered an impressive series of well written episodes featuring good quality effects. And it's all free of charge to watch on the DivineTheSeries.com website whenever you want.

Where they go from here depends on how much support they can muster through their online channels. They've hinted at continuing the series on a tight budget regardless of outcomes but it would great to see this getting picked up for a full blown series and getting the financial oomph that it needs. They have indeed performed miracles with the limitations they've had, lets hope some of the bigwigs take note of everything they have built and achieved so far.

You can watch all six free episodes at DivineTheSeries.com.

Copyright © 2011 Kay Hawthorne


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