Occasionally, there are actors of such quality that you'll watch them in virtually anything they do, even if the project is weird or just not to your usual taste as a viewer. Former Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi is one of those people, which means that many of us have watched everything from DC Comics superhero films to Lewis Capaldi music videos just for the chance to see what he's been doing since he left the TARDIS and the Twelfth Doctor behind. (Fun fact: Lewis Capaldi is Peter's nephew.)
This means that many fans have doubtless tuned in to (or are planning to watch) his newest project, the buzzy psychological drama slash time-wimey mystery The Devil's Hour, currently streaming on Prime Video. But the six-episode series may be too much even for the most dedicated science fiction fans. Its wildly ambitious story and purposefully disjointed narrative mean the show feels like a lot of work to watch for relatively little reward.
Thankfully, The Devil's Hour boasts an outstanding ensemble cast who work overtime to infuse the series' unnecessarily dense and convoluted plot with actual emotional weight. While Capaldi is having the time of his life playing the man who may or may not be the series' villain, his effort is more than balanced by former Call the Midwife star Jessica Raine, who does her best to ground the show's weird twists in realistic and genuine emotion.
One part serial killer drama, one part supernatural mystery, and one part horror story, with a dash of everything from child abduction to romance, philosophy, and family strife thrown on top, The Devil's Hour is undoubtedly a series that defies easy description and/or categorization. In the simplest terms, the show follows the story of Lucy Chambers (Raines), a social worker and single mother who's desperately trying to hold herself, her job, and her fraying family together.
Her son Isaac (Benjamin Chivers) is creepily troubled in a way no doctor seems to be able to diagnose properly, and her husband Mike (Phil Dunster) has abandoned their marriage because he can't deal with the fact that his son appears to be incapable of expressing human emotion. If that weren't enough, her mother's health is failing, and Lucy isn't sleeping properly: She wakes up every night at precisely 3:33 am, which some refer to as "the devil's hour," when creepy, supernatural events are likely to occur. Lucy also experiences strange, déjà vu-like visions, although they aren't reminders of past experiences but odd glimpses of the future that has yet to happen. Oh, and also, their house may or may not be haunted.
When Isaac is kidnapped, Lucy's forced to finally confront some uncomfortable truths: That there's something genuinely wrong with her son, that her visions of the future are somehow real, and that this all somehow connects to a man named Gideon Shepherd (Capaldi), whose behavior is ultimately as sinister as the show's general atmosphere (and Capaldi's menacing glowering) would initially have you believe. The search for Isaac also leads Lucy and DI Ravi Dhillon (Nikesh Patel) to a decades-old murder case that may or may not involve Gideon.
Lucy and Dhillon's ongoing interrogation of Gideon is the framing device meant to hold all this together and help keep the various narrative threads straight. However, some of the multiple rounds of vague question-and-answer sessions are more successful than others.
Nevertheless, the scenes between Raines and Capaldi are far and away the series' most compelling, as the two actors slowly circle each other, with Lucy growing increasingly desperate and Gideon growing ever more vague and esoteric. As the series continues, and our understanding of what's happening in the present-day reality we're watching versus various dreams, hallucinations, and flashbacks becomes muddier, it often feels as though Gideon and Lucy's weird connection is all we have to hold on to.
The Devil's Hour's weird swerve from domestic thriller to hardcore sci-fi time travel drama will undoubtedly shock some viewers expecting a more traditional murder mystery or a show whose answers were easily broken down. Here any potential "answers" only lead to more questions about which timelines were changed and how and what the various versions of characters did or did not do in the ones that came before.
Though The Devil's Hour initially reads as a relatively grounded crime drama whose answers will inevitably involve all-too-human monsters, it's a story about philosophy and time, sacrifice and penance. Yet, the idea that time travel, alternate realities, and the existence of a multiverse are the secrets at the heart of this story is somehow less interesting than the questions of madness the show hints at throughout.
Gideon's many secrets (and lives and deaths and the ways they have altered existing timelines) are so complicated it will probably take extensive googling and several robust fan explainers for most viewers to catch everything, and even then, some of the changes/connections/twists just don't make any sense. There are purportedly clues in everything from characters' names and the wallpaper in their houses to the random plastic flower Isaac keeps buying in the toy shop and the neighbors that keep popping up at various points. Still, it's a lot of work to figure out how these things relate to one another, and a few of those intersections have to be taken on little more than blind faith.
In the end, The Devil's Hour features the sort of top-notch cast (and excellent performances to match) that means it's a whole lot better than it has any right to be. But is that enough to make the show worth watching? Your mileage may (and will) vary on that point, but for me, it felt like an awful lot of sound and fury that ultimately signifies nothing.
The Devil's Hour is currently streaming on Prime Video.