Religion vs. Reality w/ "Messiah"
January 2020 was an exciting time, and not because it was officially the start of a new decade and everything else people have proclaimed what the year 2020 would be like for them... What January 2020 meant for me was that it was finally time for brand new Netflix series to hit the streaming platform!
Of the handful of series released, Messiah was one of them.
Having first come across the show as one of the many ads one see’s on the Tube or in one of London’s many Underground stations, posters and ads for Messiah were plastered everywhere with the simple but powerful caption, “Will he convert you? Or will he con you?”
To be completely honest, this ad and caption blew my mind! I mean, the name of the series plus that caption? I could immediately infer what the series might be about, but what had me the most curious was how this show would unfold, and how the protagonist (or maybe even potential antagonist?) would be portrayed in these modern times. Just imagine, someone claiming to be a Messiah in 2020, performing miracles here and there, gathering a following all over the world thanks to smartphones and social media? At first you might be amazed that this is actually happening in modern and not ancient times, but then reality hits you. A Messiah from Syria creating a global following would in fact, bring extreme attention from government intelligence agencies – who as we may or not know, are much too paranoid to believe in anything but the fact that this person is a terrorist, or is openly using social media to expand their terrorist ideologies. A sad truth. That said, my imaginative and curious side coupled with my realist side had me stumped on how to feel about it all, which is exactly why Messiah’s slogan hit me like bus.
Messiah starts out in present-day, war-ridden Damascus, Syria, where the protagonist Al-Masih is preaching to a gathering of people outside. When a sandstorm starts to near and cannons start going off nearby, chaos erupts causing everyone to flee, everyone except Al-Masih, who continues to preach about God’s power and the salvation of his people.
When the scene ends you're left wondering, “Did he die? No he can't be dead, the show’s just started, but then again it is called Messiah...” Questions and anxieties aside, Al-Masih survives (I mean, the show only just began so this definitely isn't a spoiler), and begins to cultivate a following in the Middle East, leading to his investigation by the CIA for terrorist notions.
Now although the above seems very straightforward and downright obvious, what catches you off guard are the miracles Al-Masih starts to perform throughout the season in various locations, matched with the intelligence gathered by the CIA and FBI on our protagonist. For every miracle performed, or every act that the average person or viewer just can't explain, you begin to believe Al-Masih is the modern day Messiah. But for each of these miracles and/or actions, intelligence agencies and conspiracy theorists alike are right on his tail, trying to bring it all crumbling down with cold hard facts or truths. These contrasting perspectives therefore leave viewers wondering if this Al-Masih guy just might be a modern day Messiah, or if he's actually some mastermind behind a terrorist organization who’s just conning you – as the CIA paints him to be.
From episodes one to ten, Messiah literally has your mind playing ping pong on what to believe (and even what you, out here in the real world, would believe if this was actually happening right now), bringing me right back to that initial discovery and that epic caption, “Will he convert you? Or will he con you?”