‘Hand of God’ Q&A

Friday, March 10, marks the premiere of the second and final season of Amazon Prime’s hour-long drama series, Hand of God, starring Ron Perlman and Dana Delany, and directed by Marc Forster. (Amazon Prime subscribers can stream season one now.)

The Savvy Screener recently conducted an exclusive, three-part interview with the creative force behind Hand of God, executive producer and showrunner Ben Watkins. Watkins, who previously helmed Burn Notice for USA Network, shares his thoughts about the show, what it’s like to write for streaming television, his next project and some surprising streaming favorites.

In part one, below, Watkins talks about the upcoming season, including what fans can expect over the course of the final 10 episodes.

Ben Watkins

TSS: Amazon announced in September that Hand of God would end after two seasons. Were you surprised or did you always plan for a possible short run?

Watkins: I was very surprised. Hand of God is my baby, and naturally I’d like to see all my kids live forever. And I’d have loved for the audience to have been part of the conversation. Did they love it or hate it? Did it generate an emotional reaction? We had tremendous fan support for season one and I thought they’d get a chance to weigh in before a decision was made about the fate of the show. But this business is unpredictable. So when we learned the series wasn’t going to be renewed for a third season, it was one of those unexpected, unpredictable moments. But it was out of my hands. So I focused on giving the fans something they could appreciate to cap off the final season.

Hand of God is my baby, and naturally I’d like to see all my kids live forever… We had tremendous fan support for season one and I thought they’d get a chance to weigh in before a decision was made about the fate of the show. But this business is unpredictable.”

TSS: What can fans expect from the second season?

Watkins: They can expect answers. Season one was really geared to character and world building and setting the table. Now we get to pay that off. Season two builds on the psychological drama our fans loved, but really leans into the suspense element of the show – lots of surprise curve balls and lots of unexpected answers. I hope it’s truly deeply binge TV material.

TSS: Was the process for developing a conclusion for a streaming series different than doing it for a cable series?

Watkins: Binge viewing changes everything. Writing for binge viewing changes the way you tell a story. I remember when Hand of God was first picked up; Amazon still wasn’t sure whether they would release episodes on a weekly basis or all at once. They actually were planning to do some of both. But by the time we premiered they had made a decision to release all episodes all at once. It was a revolutionary experiment that today is SOP for all the streaming services.

Watkins on bingeability: “How many episodes will people watch in a row? How long does it take for people to watch the entire series? Such questions led to some very interesting conversations with executives about this thing people are still trying to figure out – bingeability.

How many episodes will people watch in a row? How long does it take for people to watch the entire series?

Such questions led to some very interesting conversations with executives about this thing people are still trying to figure out – bingeability. That term is kind of hilarious to me but it is real and the statistics are real. There are certain shows that people tend to watch more than one episode at a time. A lot of executives want shows that stream to build-in a cliffhanger at the end of each episode to make bingeing more likely.

As much as I think the story should dictate the ending of one episode and the beginning of the next episode, you can’t be oblivious to how people are going to be consuming your show. If you’re doing a show in a streaming environment, that means you have to think about how to build anticipation and momentum from one episode to the next. That’s just a fact. People are going to watch the next episode based on what they’ve just seen, not a weeks’ worth of promos and commercials.

TSS: Is there a chance Hand of God will be revived at some point?

Watkins: I can tell you I would love for that to happen, but the simple truth is it’s not my decision. It’s an Amazon Studios show, and they are the only ones who can decide its fate.

(In part two, Watkins discusses the differences between creating original content for a streaming service versus a basic cable network.)

 

 

 

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