Messiah on Netflix has all sorts of elements that I tend to enjoy in a show – CIA spy stuff, a mysterious main character, religious and philosophical underpinnings. Filmmaking-wise, it reminds me of Body of Lies. Unfortunately, the main problem with Netflix’s Messiah is that it doesn’t go anywhere.
I’m not going to spoil it, but the season feels like it ends in the middle. Nothing is explained. It spends the entire series dangling all these questions in front of you, but it doesn’t definitively answer any of them. The main thrust of the story is asking the question of whether this guy, al-Masih, is a legitimate spiritual leader or if he’s a charlatan political strategist. So every couple episodes they tease it one way or the other. And then in the finale they just… do that again.
The totally unsatisfying season finale isn’t the only problem with the show. The other key problem with the show is that its pacing is enormously slow and stuffed with plot threads and secondary character relationships that go nowhere. It took me like 11 hours to watch this show, but I can sum up the whole plot of every notable thing that happens in those 11 hours in like 8-10 bullet points. It almost feels like a filler anime.
It spends a great deal of time hopping between secondary characters, which would be fine, but it only halfway makes you care about them, and they rarely tie back into the main plot. It’s got the Syrian refugee boy, who has a best friend that ends up on the opposite side of the conflict, but I don’t remember either of their names. It’s got the Texan girl who al-Masih says is special but doesn’t do anything special. It’s got the CIA agent and her repeated miscarriages, which is teased like it’s going to be important but ends up totally not being important.
So much of what happens in this show is not relevant to what happens in this show. It’s like listening to a drunk person try to tell a story but it’s so full of pointless digressions and explanations of people who aren’t relevant to the point that it becomes difficult to care. Case in point, the show, for the entire run of it, splits its time because the U.S. and Israel, implying that at some point those two plot threads will connect. But they never do. What was the point?
It feels like some of this stuff might get tied together in a second season, but it’s bold of them to assume they’d get a second season. Messiah on Netflix is not a self-contained season. End of the F***ing World, it is not.
The only thing close to an overarching theme this show has is a few sophomoric monologues tangentially related to U.S. immigration policy and foreign policy in the Middle East. When I say sophomoric, that’s exactly what I mean. It sounds like the foreign policy critique you’d get from a sophomore in college not majoring in international relations/religion/middle east studies, or anything else relevant to this show.
Also, what is the point of al-Masih himself? He’s supposed to be stoic and mysterious, and you’d suppose as the season went on they’d start peeling back the onion and showing his personality, but his personality seems to be “wooden plank”. “Wooden plank” doesn’t carry a show. Even actual Jesus had a personality in movies about Jesus.
Anyway, had medium-high expectations I was going to like this show and those expectations weren’t met. Tighten it up plotwise, give this al-Masih character more of a personality, and make it have some kind of overall point or theme. Messiah on Netflix is a meandering, dull road to nowhere.