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'Messiah' Explores What Jesus Would Face if He Appeared in the Middle East Today
January 2, 2020  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment
 


Messiah
’s ambitions are as bold as its title.

Messiah, a dramatic thriller whose 10-episode first season premiered New Year’s Day on Netflix, envisions a charismatic Jesus-like character appearing in the modern-day Middle East.

Al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi) has Jesus’s hair along with His air of serene confidence. He stands on a street corner in Damascus and warns that mankind has lost its humanity because it has lost its faith.

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort,” he says. “If you look for comfort, you will never find truth.”

Crowds gather, mostly to hear him but some to attack him. He is a blasphemer, some say.

As he preaches, the modern-day forces of ISIL gather on a hill overlooking the city, threatening to reduce its rubble to even more rubble as part of a final all-out effort to seize control.

As the attack begins, Al-Masih declares that God will protect His children. And sure enough, a sandstorm sweeps over the city, thwarting the ISIL attack and giving Al-Masih a devoted core of several thousand believers who see him as their savior.

He leads them to the Israeli border, where he is promptly arrested as a security threat. He is interrogated by agent Aviram Dahan (Tomer Sisley), who is unnerved to find that Al-Masih knows several of Aviram’s secrets despite having no way to have found them out.

Nor is Aviram the only intelligence agent to have concerns about Al-Masih’s activities or potential. Back in the U.S.A., CIA agent Eva Geller (Michelle Monaghan) fears that he may be a terrorist and that his followers, though they are essentially refugees with no power, could cause trouble.

All this makes for a reasonably interesting contemporary geopolitical story, though that’s clearly not all that creator Michael Petroni is looking to say.

He’s raising, obviously enough, the question of how a Jesus-like figure, though revered by billions of people as an historic persona, would be received in the flesh today.

Petroni’s answer is “with suspicion,” which the Bible tells us is also how the original Jesus was received.

In the process, Messiah constructs similarities between the oppression of whole classes of people two millennia ago and the oppression of classes today. That’s part of the show’s geopolitics, making it the latest TV drama to step back and take a deeper dive into arguably the modern world’s most troubled region.

Then Messiah goes a step further by infusing theology into its storyline. This doesn’t come as a complete surprise, since its executive producers include Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Burnett is best known for his wildly successful reality competition shows, like Survivor, but he and Downey have also produced several shows with theological themes.

Call Messiah their passion project, and it has already drawn fierce complaints from Sunni Muslims for its treatment of doctrine. The Royal Film Commission of Jordan has asked Netflix not to make it available in Jordan.

That debate is likely to continue. Without trivializing the concerns of those who will conduct it, TV viewers who just want a good story will find Messiah sometimes plodding, frequently dense, and often intriguing.

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Zeke
I can just imagine how many people this will upset---
all for different reasons!
Jan 3, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
 
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