As is tradition, I once again drank far too much over the holiday break, bringing with it the usual scourge of pounding hangovers. Being the somewhat resourceful bloke I am, I used that downtime to suss out one Netflix's latest original series, Messiah.
I had first heard about the show when its trailer dropped late last year and was intrigued by the overall concept. If someone showed up out of nowhere claiming to be the second coming of Jesus, how would that go down on a global scale? How would political leaders act? Would those without faith suddenly believe? Messiah had so much scope to explore these ideas but ultimately, the whole thing falls disappointingly flat.
The series follows a number of characters as a Christ-like figure emerges in the Middle East and grows a following across the globe. Known primarily as Al-Masih (messiah in Arabic), the biggest story hook comes from the perspective of CIA officer Eve Geller (Michelle Monaghan) as she races to uncover the origins of the charismatic man and if he poses a threat to humanity. Is he a crafty conman, a terrorist, or the actual second coming of Christ?
Other supporting characters include a Texan preacher and his family, a pair of young followers left stranded at the Israeli border, and an Israeli spy haunted by his past. While I can see what Messiah is trying to accomplish with these differing perspectives, most of them end up straying too far from the central story to carry any real weight.
As Al-Masih becomes known throughout the world, he's seen to perform a number of "miracles," but they always walk a line of ambiguity. Everything he does has a potential real-world explanation, which becomes the main driving factor for watching the series through to the end. You want to see if this bloke's act is gonna get shattered or if something truly biblical is gonna hit the fan.
Unfortunately, Messiah spends too much energy hedging its own bets to the point of feeling forced. I'll try to keep the rest of this as vague as possible, but if you do plan on giving the series a whirl on your own terms, there are some potential mild spoilers ahead.
When Messiah ends, don't expect any real closure to the questions posed from the beginning. Obviously, Netflix is looking to set it up for a second season, but it's hard to see any compelling places it can go with the idea that it hasn't already explored or ruled out.
This isn't to say the series can't be salvaged – I'd love to see it really take off in a second run – but I think the most interesting aspects of its concept are simply glossed over. I would have loved a limited single series of Messiah that really explores the human and wider political aspects of a second coming. Hopefully, we get more of that in the future.
Either way, I'm keen to see what Netflix ends up doing with the series if it's renewed for second season.