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The Italian supernatural crime drama Christian has premiered in the US and it is terrific — a great show with which to kick off your Euro TV viewing this weekend.

Edoardo Pesce in Christian
Christian: Edoardo Pesce as Christian — Photo © Matteo Cantamessa Graia, courtesy of Topic

I love me some Christian — both the series and the titular lead character — and I am thrilled to bits to know that a second season is being produced. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for it to arrive on our screens. But first, Season 1.

Inspired by the well-regarded graphic novel Stigmata (Stigmate in the original Italian), Christian stars Edoardo Pesce (The Hunter, The Guest Room) as Christian, a lovable, huggable, good-natured teddy bear of a henchman. Skilled in using his fists to get results, he is the enforcer who does the dirty work for Lino (Giodano De Plano, The Trial), a thoroughly nasty piece of work who is the crime boss of their depressing, council housing-filled neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. The two men couldn’t be more different. They are also related.

So it becomes quite inconvenient when Christian starts feeling strong pain in his hands, bad enough to prevent him from doing his job (and more, ahem), and excruciating after stigmata appear and begin bleeding. (Come si dice “What the what?!? in italiano?) Frightened and confused, Christian freaks when Rachele (Silvia D’Amico, The Man Without Gravity), a drug-addict neighbor, awakens with a start, gasping for air, from his touch. She wasn’t passed out from an overdose, like he thought; she was dead. Now Rachele is alive again. And she is a changed woman.

Elsewhere in this godforsaken place, Christian’s mother, Italia (Lina Sastri, The Promised Life), a devout Catholic with dementia, attends Mass; mercenary medical man Tomei (Francesco Colella, ZeroZeroZero) does jobs for Lino while also pocketing money for a variety of goods and services from everyone else who walks into his hole-in-the-wall place of business; and a mysterious man checks things out with a keen eye as he makes his way through the neighborhood, even returning to one place to stop believers from being fleeced by a fraudulent religious icon.

Claudio Santamaria in Christian
Christian: Claudio Santamaria as Matteo — Photo © Matteo Cantamessa Graia, courtesy of Topic

That man is Matteo (Claudio Sanatamaria, Casino Royale), a Vatican postulator who, as a child, directly experienced a life-changing miracle. Now he is on a multi-pronged mission, one of which is to stop chicanery being perpetrated on religious faithful. Another is to find signs and confirmations of actual miracles, which, if found, would lead him to the third. So Matteo begins to track Christian, suspicious that our man of the stigmata is faking his saint-like healing powers in order to defraud locals of what little money they have… yet also hopeful that he isn’t.

Meanwhile, life goes on here. For some people, it looks quite different from even a few hours ago; for others, it comes to an unnatural end. As some thank Christian and others blame Lino, Matteo still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Neither has another person with connections to the Vatican, except his focus isn’t on miracles or the divine. Quite the opposite…

Had I not started watching the screeners for Christian so late in the evening, I might have binged all six episodes in one sitting — so invested was I in Christian’s story, intrigued by Matteo’s, and entertained by the sub-plots and supporting characters who personify the themes of hope, fear, obedience, revenge, power, good vs evil, and deception.

Despite his chosen line of work and aspirations to be a sort of mini-me of Lino, Christian is such a likeable character. When he’s not physically hurting money borrowers in arrears, he’s kind and caring, he loves his mamma, and he’s a good friend. There’s a lot of good in him. He’s also a product of his environment, as are Rachele, Lino’s son Davide (Antonio Bannò, Suburra: Blood on Rome), gypsy barmaid Michela (Romana Maggiora Vergano, Don Matteo), and the like. Crime is all around them, opportunities are limited, and dreams for a better life look like merely grander versions of life as they already know it. It’s almost like there’s a glass ceiling on the ambitions they can have here. The series doesn’t dive deep into or dwell on the social commentary aspects of the story, so it doesn’t get depressing, but you are reminded of them in various scenes and when images of the imposing and oppressive Nuovo Corviale housing complex just outside Rome, where some of the series was shot, are shown.

Aside from Christian, my other favorite character is Tomei. Initially I likened him to the character Ravn in the thriller Valkyrien, but more of a third-rate version of the Norwegian doctor. As the series progressed, Tomei became less Ravn and more wry comic relief — quick on his feet in creating and dry in giving reasons to get euros out of people’s pockets and into his. (There’s a scene in the Season 1 finale in which Tomei makes a comment that is so him, but feels like it came from out of nowhere in the context of what had just happened, that I literally laughed out loud.)

There’s more to like about Christian, from the scenes set in years past that provide the backstories to the people and events in the present day, to the plot twists that were so satisfying that I wrote “yay” in my notes for one of them.

The first three episodes of Christian have been streaming in the US and Canada since yesterday, when the show premiered here exclusively on Topic and its digital channels, including Topic on Amazon. New episodes will drop each Thursday through January 26.


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Euro TV to Watch: Terrific Italian Supernatural Crime Drama ‘Christian’
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