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Month: February 2024

The Chosen: Season 4 Review – 8/10

The initial episodes of The Chosen: Season 4 were recently shown in theaters, and with the theatrical run for episodes 1-3 concluding yesterday, many are now anticipating the season’s release for free online streaming. Is it worth the wait? Be aware, spoilers follow.

Before the premiere of the show’s first batch of theatrical episodes, director Dallas Jenkins and his team described the new season as more thematically intense than its predecessors. The initial seasons portrayed Jesus as a rabbi gaining prominence in Galilee and Capernaum, attracting a diverse group of followers, including fishermen and women from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. This diversity drew the Pharisees’ scrutiny, which did not deter Jesus. Crowds were drawn to Him by tales of miraculous deeds, such as healings, exorcisms, and the multiplication of food for the multitudes. By the conclusion of Season 3, it appeared that the disciples had indeed followed the right leader, the Son of Man, who wielded authority over both the human body and the forces of nature. Additionally, the series depicted a blossoming romance among the disciples, with Thomas and Rama falling in love. The question remained: what could possibly go wrong?

Season 4 starts with a bang, though not without its flaws. The positives certainly outweigh the negatives. The showrunners, led by Dallas, dive right into the execution of John the Baptist in the first episode. Andrew, once a disciple of John, receives the grim news from a sympathizer within King Herod’s court. In the execution scene, as John prepares for the ax’s fall, he gazes out the window to his left and spots a lamb on a hillside under the scorching sun. This symbolic image signifies God’s welcome to John into paradise. Despite its visual appeal, this element doesn’t enhance the scene constructively. Moreover, the execution scene, which should have been deeply moving, intersperses John’s beheading with flashbacks to his birth, where his mute father, Zechariah, speaks God’s word over him for the first time. This biblical reference, while creative, fails to evoke the intended emotion, rendering John’s death a dispassionate conclusion to his earthly journey, as he passes the mantle to his cousin, Jesus.

The opening episode stumbled briefly, yet it’s excusable. The season swiftly rebounds with a scene where Jesus experiences a dream. He stands on a hill, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. He observes John the Baptist approaching him, bound in shackles. John extends his arms, as though to embrace Jesus, and his chains break. He signals to Jesus that the path is ready. With tears in his eyes, Jesus smiles and awakens, leading into Episode 2.

Following its first episode, this series takes the theological plunge into profound depths. After mourning John the Baptist’s death, Jesus takes his followers to Mt. Hermon, known as the Gates of Hell. Here, evil is said to be most potent. The decision to lead them to such a place, even to its very threshold, deeply disturbs the disciples and others in the group. Jesus assures them that, in the face of such darkness, the Church will battle evil and prevail, even at the Gates of Hell itself. Before arriving on this foreboding site, Jesus is bestowed the honor of being Rama’s spiritual father when she and Thomas plan to get married. She wishes that Jesus would give her away. Rama’s request, made before reaching the Gates of Hell, accentuates the gap between the disciples’ envisioned life and the reality that awaits them once Jesus completes his father’s mission.

Although the disciples have yet to understand the full danger of walking in Jesus’ footsteps, they are beginning to grasp his teachings on reconciliation. Simon and Matthew have been in conflict since abandoning their former lives to follow Jesus. Simon has previously declared he would never forgive Matthew for his tax collection for Rome, while Matthew, aware of Simon’s anger and aggression, finds it difficult to seek forgiveness. As fan favorites since Season 1, Simon and Matthew’s journey in ‘The Chosen’ culminates in a poignant and heartfelt reconciliation, reflecting the spirit of the New Testament authors.

In the final act of this trilogy’s opening salvo, Episode 3 portrays Jesus as angry and vocal, delivering a scathing critique of the religious authorities. His words carry an authoritative and stark bluntness, a departure from the serene, measured tone and reflective sermons of earlier seasons. Faced with demands for silence from the religious leaders, Jesus cautions that he is “just getting started.”

As the confrontation reaches a fever pitch, the Roman authorities attempt to disperse the assembly gathered at the synagogue’s entrance, where Jesus’ radical critiques are being heard. However, rather than scattering, the crowd starts to push back against the authorities, with an agitated Quintus drawing his sword in the turmoil. In a dramatic turn of events, The Chosen concludes the episode with the unexpected death of Rama, the woman Thomas wished to wed. This poignant ending effectively prompts Christian viewers to contemplate the significance of following Jesus in the face of devastating loss.

Observing the outcomes of this crowd-funded show, one cannot help but perceive a bold, divinely inspired direction at the helm. Each episode delves deeper into provocative and intriguing lines of thought, raising questions akin to those found in a thoughtful Bible study, but paired with exceptional writing and production quality that challenges even the most established Hollywood productions. The entertainment industry, often a leader in trends, finds itself trailing this time, as The Chosen has established a new vanguard, showing no inclination towards the decline seen in productions like God’s Not Dead. The Chosen is bearing fruit that God would be proud of, and the theater is where the harvest is now plentiful, supplied with tissues. Indeed, Jesus has Dallas on his payroll. It will be exciting to see where the story goes in the following episodes.

God Is in the Drama

I’ve seen The Chosen: Season 4, episodes 1-3, in the theatre. Having waited a year to see what this season would hold, I can now say it was worth the wait, and it’s inspired some reflection.

The Chosen is a blessing to Christians. Dallas Jenkins and his team had pulled back the veil of Christian tradition to write these historical figures with humanity, something that we had forgotten to notice in the scriptures. Believers now have entertainment that explores the faith authentically.

The crazy thing is we know where this story goes. We know how it ends. Dallas Jenkins has gambled on one truth that never fails. It’s what makes the audience care, even though it’s no mystery how the story ends.

The power is in the journey, how we get to the end. Since Season 1, which opened with Jesus’ healing Mary of Magdala near suicide, Jenkins and his team has gone to great lengths to tell this familiar story from unfamiliar angles. We’ve gotten to know the disciples. We’ve gotten closer to Jesus. What’s more, the writing focuses on Jesus through the eyes of the disciples. They love him, even though they’ve misunderstood him. They’ve followed him, even though they don’t quite know his purpose.

But Jesus has been their rabbi. He’s been human, walking with them, laughing and crying and swimming with them. He’s taught them, challenged and corrected them. He’s even ministered to them by not performing miracles to make their lives easier. He’s been living in the flesh as only God can.

Starring in this multi-season show, Jonathan Roumie’s Jesus has blessed viewers in ways Jim Caviezel’s Jesus never could. Where Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ tugged at heart strings in the span of a two-and-a-half-hour movie, The Chosen’s Jesus has had seasons to show his humanity, his warmth.

Of course, not everyone has recognized the value of telling Jesus’ story this way. While I was critical of this Jesus show in writing terms before converting to The Chosen fandom, many remain critical not just of the writing but of the show’s very existence. Many Christians consider it immortal, even blasphemous, to adapt the original text for any medium, period. To them, it adds to the Bible and leads many astray. To them, Dallas Jenkins has given his audience the option in The Chosen to roll the dice on the show’s historical accuracy instead of reading the Bible. In a time of convenience and illiteracy, such concerns have merit.

Ironically, The Chosen has had the opposite effect. Instead of leading viewers away from scripture, this multi-season story has left viewers hungry for the biblical text. A wave of genuine curiosity has swept the nation as the show brings the New Testament to life like never before.

That’s precisely what good Christian entertainment should do. It should reach a wide audience and tell stories that connect our humanity with the divine. That’s the power of drama.

There are 5 more episodes of this current season and 3 seasons left to go in the series. Hopefully, the curiosity doesn’t end with The Chosen in The New Testament. There’s a whole other Testament ripe for adaptation.

May God be in the drama.