Messiah Review: Netflix Drama Struggles to Keep Up the Pace

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Messiah, one of the many new series hitting Netflix to ring in the new year, is filled with twists and turns. At its core, it is a thriller with a central mystery. 

It follows the world's reaction to a man who arrives in the Middle East, claiming to be the eschatological return of 'Isa (Jesus) or the Mahdi. It's a thrilling hook, but the end result is a narrative that doesn't hit the ground running. 

There's an air of mystery surrounding Al-Massih as he seemingly makes the impossible possible, but the storyline never really derives from that. 

Messiah Lead

His first big trick is to cross 2,000 Palestinian Syrians over the border of Israel, and that comes with some positives and negatives, that propel the story forward. 

Instead of giving answers, however, we get more miracles thrown our way, making the series feel purposefully ambiguous to keep viewers guessing about what is really happening. 

Given the subject matter, it makes sense, but it would be nice if the producers went with a more unique approach, offering up conclusive answers along the way. 

Al-Massih and His Friend

Sometimes, TV shows excel when they leave no stone unturned. 

Mehdi Dehbi is solid as Al-Massih, but the character feels a little too one-dimensional to take as seriously as the show would like us to. It's a real shame because there is a lot of potential with the character. 

The biggest flaw in Messiah is the execution of it all. Michelle Monaghan is on board as CIA case officer, Eva Geller. She aims to make sure that Al-Massih does not pose a threat to the U.S. 

If you've never watched Homeland, then this plot might seem fresh and exciting, but for everyone who has, there are too many similarities between Messiah and those early seasons of Homeland. 

Monaghan is a great lead, but the plot feels too familiar. Like Carrie on Homeland, her character is going through some big stuff at the inciting incident of the series. 

Messia Female Lead

From the series premiere, it's clear the show will be about Eva confronting not only Al-Massih but her personal demons, ones that she's kept hidden from her nearest and dearest. 

From the cryptic phone calls with her father, it's evident there's more to this woman than meets the eye. As interesting as that part of the narrative is, it would have worked better to have more people in Eva's orbit. 

The series could have done a better job of writing this woman who is desperately battling to keep everyone safe while harboring some big secrets that could change the way everyone views the world. 

Despite the main plot being problematic, the B storyline is considerably more robust.

A Land Without Hope - Messiah

Focusing on a priest who is struggling to make ends meet, it plays out very well as opposed to the one at the forefront. The storyline with this one feels fresh and original -- the complete opposite of the prominent one. 

If the series opted to make that one more prominent, then it would make for a more watchable show. 

Having Melinda Page Hamilton at the wheel of the church arc is another positive.

Hamilton plays an integral character, and this may well be her finest acting to date. We've witnessed the actress do a bunch of roles in different genres, but if there's one thing Messiah gets right, it's giving this seasoned veteran time to shine. 

Drama on Messiah

Most of the other characters fail to cut through the clutter. There is a lot going on from start to finish, but not all of that is worth watching. 

Some plots meander with characters that feel expendable in the grand scheme of things, and others that feel dragged out for the sake of the alotted episode order. 

There's no question about whether Messiah is best served binged. It moves at a slow pace, with the interesting stuff happening at the end of the episodes. 

Had Messiah been a weekly series, many would take issue with the pace of it all. Some shows work better when watching all of the episodes in one sitting. Hey, that's how Netflix became a hit in the first place!

Will Traval on Messiah

Ultimately, Messiah fails in many aspects. Some of the storylines don't mesh well, but the central messages of the does have some resonance. 

For a show that has had calls for it to be banned, you would think there would be more buzz for it. Yet, even with the controversy, it feels like another Netflix show that is going to slip under the radar. 

Maybe that's a good thing given that it is a series that takes some of the best elements of shows that came before it and butchers them. 

Messiah premieres January 1 alongside Spinning Out. 

What are your thoughts on the controversy towards the series? Do you plan on watching?


Editor Rating: 2.75 / 5.0
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Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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