What would happen if Jesus Christ returned to earth today? It is a philosophical question that some people may ponder as an interesting hypothetical debate, but Netflix’s new series, Messiah explores that in its ten episode first season. For those looking for an intriguing quarantine binge, keep reading!
The series opens with a mysterious man preaching to a crowd in Damascus, Syria as it comes under attack. A sandstorm envelops the city and deters the attack, and many people come to believe that the man is a prophetic figure responsible for miraculously saving them. Al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi), as he comes to be known, remains an enigma throughout the entire series. He never explicitly comes out and states, “I am the messiah,” and he likewise does not deny it. As he comes to the attention of CIA officer Eva Geller (Michelle Monaghan) as a possible cult or terrorist leader, Al-Masih just becomes more and more of a mystery. He has an uncanny ability to read people and get into their heads, and every episode swings back and forth like a pendulum around one central question: Is this just a very convincing con man, or is he an actual miracle worker and the son of God?
Even as an atheist who grew up Catholic, I found the series to be very compelling. Actor Mehdi Dehbi wows in his portrayal of the mysterious Al-Masih. You cannot help but feel that the rhetorical, authoritative way in which he addresses crowds and individuals alike is what the savior might sound like today. As numerous governments investigate Al-Masih and question his true motives, deeper questions arise. If he isn’t the messiah, what does he want? If he could be the messiah, is following him worth abandoning your current life to go with him at a moment’s notice? If you disagree with him and he is in fact the son of God, can you admit that you love the idea of God and your interpretations more than the real deal?
Aside from Dehbi, other standouts in the series include John Ortiz as Felix, a small town preacher suffering a crisis of faith who ultimately becomes one of the strongest supporters of Al-Masih. His doubts and then renewed faith are sure to resonate with many viewers. Michelle Monaghan also shines as a CIA officer with a core of steel and sharp eye for details.
Perhaps another topic the series asks us to consider is the commercialization of religion. We do see one mega church network featured at one point, and characters discuss helping Al-Masih reach a wider audience with his message. In a sense, though, they are also discussing how to profit from him. For those with access to HBO, this corruption of faith is explored in an irreverent and lighter tone on The Righteous Gemstones, a dark comedy series that explores the pitfalls of a family mired in very unethical antics despite running a lucrative mega church.
Regardless of your actual religious beliefs, or lack thereof, Messiah provides phenomenal drama that will make you question everything, both in the series and perhaps in your own belief system as well. Be warned that the ending may confuse you at first; I had to read an article or two to confirm my conclusions after the last scenes. Ultimately you will leave with some answers about Al-Masih and hopes for a second season from yet another of Netflix’s winners.
—Antonio Rodriguez, Blogger.
Joliet native Antonio Rodriguez is a jack of all trades, having worked in several careers since obtaining his bachelor’s degree ten years ago. An obsession with Mad Men and a love of advertising has led him to focus on studying Marketing at Lewis University, which he balances with walking his two rescue dogs. If either the zombies or machines rise up, he’s the man to find.