Pros: Unusual look at religious themes; demonstration of the specifics of hybrid warfare and the use of information weapons in the post-truth era; good casting; the intrigue continues until the last frames of the season Cons: There are too many minor characters in the series, which dilutes the story; a somewhat generalized interpretation of many religious tenets Messiah / “Messiah”
Creator Michael Petroni
Cast: Mehdi Dehbi (al-Masih), Tomer Sisley (Aviram Dahan), Michelle Monaghan (Eve Geller), John Ortiz (Felix Higueiro), Melinda Page Hamilton (Anna Higueiro), Stefania Owen (Rebecca Higueiro), Wil Travel (Wil Mathers) and others.
Year of release 2020
So, in war-torn Syria, a man appears who preaches in a square for 40 days, and to whom people attribute the credit for starting a long sandstorm that swallowed up ISIS artillery, which was already ready to shell the besieged Damascus. Outwardly, this person looks like Isa ibn Maryam al-Masih (an Islamic prophet identified with the New Testament Jesus Christ), and people decide that this is the second coming, which the holy books talk about. Al-Masih gathers followers and goes to the border of Israel. After some time, he appears on the Temple Mount, where he performs a miracle, and after some time he ends up in the USA. The Prophet gathers crowds of followers who expect revelations and miracles from him… And at this time, Israeli and US intelligence services are trying to understand who is behind al-Masih, what they are trying to achieve and what consequences his actions will lead to. Tensions in the Middle East begin to rise, and another Intifada breaks out in Palestine.
The idea that during the second coming people will not recognize the Messiah, as was the case during the first coming, was widely exploited, for example, in science fiction of the 60s. Now, in the era of the Internet, terrorism, hybrid wars and post-truth, the likelihood of distinguishing a real miracle worker from a charlatan is several times less than 2000 years ago. Miracles can be faked, information can be distorted, any truth can be confused with millions of false versions.
Who was Jesus of Nazareth: the son of God and a miracle worker or a populist politician trying to incite the Jews to another uprising against Roman rule? Who is al-Masih in Messiah: is he really a prophet of several religions at once or an agent of foreign intelligence, whose task is to divert US attention from the build-up of Russian troops on the borders with Latvia and Lithuania? I must say, the creators of the series keep the intrigue until the very end. And although the brave agents of the CIA and Mossad find information about the childhood and youth of al-Masih, it does not confirm or deny his divine origin and the miracles that he works. For every fact that proves that al-Masih is a charlatan, there is another fact that makes you doubt it.
Messiah has very good casting. Moreover, I would like to note not the Belgian actor Mehdi Dehbi, who plays the main role, but the people who follow him on orders from the government: French actor Tomer Sisley (Largo Winch duology), playing a confused Israeli intelligence agent, and American Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Gone Baby Gone, Mission: Impossible – Fallout), as a determined CIA agent who wants to prove that al-Masih is a deceiver and a terrorist.
However, this good casting, including for the supporting and third roles, has one problem – a large number of secondary plot lines that blur the story of the Messiah. Yes, showing how al-Masih affects the lives of the people he touches along the way is undoubtedly important, but sometimes it feels like there are almost more of these side stories in the series than the main ones. Another problem is the rather free interpretation of the sacred texts and dogmas of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. No, there are no too serious mistakes here, but there are some distortions and simplifications for the sake of the script.
Surprisingly, Messiah did not manage to cause a storm of protests from representatives of three religions, whose feelings it offends. The beginning of 2020 turned out to be so hot that the provocative series was simply lost in the flow of news from the Middle East. No, Muslim audiences, of course, expressed a negative attitude towards Messiah immediately after the release of its trailer, but only in Jordan the authorities asked Netflix to refrain from showing the series.
By the last frames of the tenth episode, when, it would seem, all questions to the prophet / “prophet” should have been answered, Messiah, on the contrary, asks new ones. The series ends on a massive cliffhanger, and given that the fate of the second season of the show is traditionally unknown for Netflix, this somewhat spoils the impression of the finale. However, Messiah plays on some contemporary themes quite interestingly and overall looks good; the show can be safely recommended to fans of conspiracy theories and spy TV series.
An interesting look at the likelihood of the second coming of Jesus in a post-truth world