Messiah – Controversial Netflix Series or Just Disappointing?

Review

Messiah“, a ten episode American thriller series released on Netflix January 1, 2020, is highly anticipated to be renewed for a second season. 

The storyline follows CIA officer Eva Gellar (Michelle Monaghan), as she attempts to uncover information about a man gaining worldwide attention, who appears in the Middle East claiming to be the return of Jesus (Al-Masih), and how the modern world reacts: is he really a divine entity or a con man – a sensitive topic that needs to be looked at closely. 

Plot

Actor Mehdi Dehbi plays the role of Al-Masih, an otherwise unknown, enigmatic man that suddenly appears in Syria and claiming to have miraculously saved Damascus from ISIS by causing a strong wind. 

He gives speeches and recites Qu’ran, which charms hundreds of desperate Muslim followers in the war-torn country. They mysteriously call him “Al-Masih”(meaning anointed/chosen one in Arabic); not to be confused with Al-Masih ad-Dajjal – the false messiah, liar, the deceiver.

Nearly two thousand people follow him in walking from Syria to the Israeli boarders. Meanwhile, this raises strong suspicion inside the CIA, who watch him closely, fearing that he might be a new Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

This so-called Al-Masih gets arrested and detained by Israeli forces, but during interrogation he reveals a surprising amount of information about the interrogating officer, which panics him. 

Al-Masih subsequently escapes the detention, and as events continue to unfold, he performs more miracles, including reviving a dead boy and walking through a tornado.

Another Muhammed or Jesus?

The Netflix original shadows the traditional account of prophets. Al-Masih, who at the beginning seems to be Muslim, also quotes the Bible and speaks Hebrew. When asked directly about his religion he answered, “I walk with all men.”

He speaks of himself in mysterious, Jesus-like terms and yet does not reveal his identity. He refers to his father but doesn’t mention who his father is. He answers questions with questions. And through his miracles he keeps attracting more followers.

“Messiah” makes its audience wonder how people of our modern world react if someone suddenly appeared claiming to be the second coming of Jesus? Would people believe him? Would he be seen as a fraud? 

Muslim Perspective

Two days before the release of the Netflix original, The Royal Film Commission of Jordan requested that the provocative drama not to be shown in the predominantly Muslim country. 

This sparked a controversy on social media with people wondering if this series is about the second coming of Jesus or al-Masih al-Dajjal. Some conspiracy theory advocates saw it as an attack on Muslim theology, by praising the Dajjal.

Others saw it as a new idea by Netflix at a time were ideas are lacking.

Messiah - Controversial Netflix Series or Just Disappointing? - About Islam
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As a Muslim viewer, I am surely against the impersonation of prophets and holy figures. Also, the understanding of the series doesn’t fully comply to our religion, for simply Jesus (even as a prophet, not a divine entity) has no father. 

Other than that, I did not find anything seriously blasphemous. I am of the opinion that this idea is not an attack on Islam, but rather a trial to come up with some new idea at a time when only few ideas survive the first season. 

A big problem with the series is that, apart from the captivation to discover whether the protagonist is real or fake, there is almost nothing else of value in the series; including performances, script or directing.

I believe Mehdi Dehbi, playing Messiah, is not charismatic enough for such role. The best performance in the Netflix series is from Michelle Monaghan as the CIA officer.