The Chosen (Dallas Jenkins, 2020)

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A new TV show has been making waves in Christian circles – it’s called The Chosen, a life-of-Christ for the modern age. Produced by Christian streaming service VidAngel, it is the largest crowdfunded project ever and will be, it’s hoped, the first multi-series show on Christ’s life. Cheesy, but reasonably enjoyable, the first season is a qualified success.

The series is the brainchild of American director Dallas Jenkins. Aimed at a young audience, Jenkins wants to create a series about Jesus that people could binge-watch in the same way they do Game of Thrones. In this he appears to be successful – it currently has a rating of 9.8/10 on IMDB, a popular review site.

The Chosen develops the characters around Christ in a manner which owes much to multi-character TV shows like Game of Thrones. What Jenkins attempts to do is extend the stories of the Gospels to clarify what was at stake for each character.

That is perhaps its most distinctive shift from past Jesus-films. Jesus hardly appears in the first episode, which is a fictional account of Mary Magdalene’s conversion. The first series focuses more on St Peter, Nicodemus, St Matthew and Mary Magdalene.

It’s successful up to a point: solid storytelling and efforts at capturing the everyday life of contemporary Jews help to immerse one in the plot. The choices they face are of everyday survival for the most part and that is perhaps more relatable than spiritual struggles. However, it struggles to overcome the obvious issue that we know the story already: there is little tension because the result is pre-ordained.

Of course, though the film is not necessarily centred on Christ, He is its centre and His depiction is, as a result, vital to the success of the show. In this respect, the show is treading a fine line. It is deeply indebted to the historical, human Jesus, showing Him as an itinerant carpenter, dancing and interacting with children much as a father might.

However, His overt politeness and niceness becomes grating at times and you begin to wonder how anyone could have noticed Him, let alone rejected or killed him. There is a tension, between Christ’s humanity and His divinity, which the show may come to work out over the course of series.

It is worth at least beginning, but it will not be to everyone’s taste. Cheesy and engaging, it is a solid modern drama with a Christian hook. It is currently available to watch on YouTube.