Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Reaction - The Chosen Season 4 Episodes 1-3

Last Sunday I got my chance to see The Chosen Season 4 Episodes 1-3. I want to give my reactions, but I’ll try to avoid any spoilers, so I’m going to restrict my comments to what can reasonably be inferred from the trailer, by anyone familiar with the Gospels. Nonetheless, if you really don’t want to be spoiled at all, you may want to stop reading at the break below.

Aside—if you came here looking for another installment of my review and analysis series, I’m having to cut back my frequency on those. I’ll try to keep posting one a week, but two a week I can’t manage. If you are reading those, I very much appreciate it.

So, as everyone has been saying, Wow! The ending of episode three is as powerful as everyone is saying. 
Beyond that, from the trailer we can see several things happening:
  • Significant and personal interactions between Jesus and Simon, and Jesus and Matthew, both by firelight, and Simon walking away from Matthew during the daylight
  • The disciples walking toward a brightly colored shrine at the base of a rocky cliff, as Jesus speaks of “dark places”
  • An angry exchange between Jesus and Pharisees at the entrance of a synagogue, with a large crowd looking on
  • An ornate party with a woman dancing as entertainment
  • A gathering of Pharisees being addressed authoritatively by an older man and Shmuel in attendance, looking distraught
  • Atticus warning Quintus to prevent revolution from breaking out in Capernaum, and Quintus angrily making his way through a crowd of people
  • Several quick shots of familiar faces such as Joanna, Gaius, Thomas, Ramah, and John the Baptizer, as well as others who are unfamiliar
  • A man telling the Pharisees, “I was blind; now I see.”

 So—first impressions:

The episodes were divided up—as in, you’ll see the opening credits three times—rather than being edited together as one movie, which is different from what we saw when Season Three opened in theaters. This made sense, as each episode was very self-contained, although I’ll admit I could have done without viewing the entire opening three times.

I don’t think you have to read too much into the trailer to recognize that the party with the woman dancing is Herod’s birthday party (Mark 6:21-26, Matthew 14:6-9). I thought it was an interesting take on Salome’s dance that she was not erotically enticing King Herod, as she is in King of Kings or Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, the performance is symbolic and acrobatic, and Salome is modestly clothed in a loosely fitting bodysuit. This accords with the scripture's ascribing Herod’s motivation for complying with Salome’s request as “his oaths and his guests,” rather than simple drunken lust. The whole incident is handled with all the subtlety and complexity we have learned to expect from The Chosen. It is also very interesting and works very well that, as is hinted at in another clip that Dallas has released, what takes place at the party is the result of an intentional plot, not a spur-of-the-moment impulse.

The scenes between Jesus, Simon, and Matthew are significant, and bring to a head storylines that have been developing throughout the entire series. I want to say more, but can’t now. The sequence is very moving, though. Related to this is an increasing theme of conflict and awareness of status and position among the disciples which we see recurring in the gospels themselves (e.g., Mark 9:34; Matthew 20:21; Luke 9:46, 22:24).

Shmuel has certainly been affected by his prayer with Jesus; nonetheless, he is still a Pharisee on a trajectory toward prominence, as Nicodemus recognized back in Season One. One wonders exactly where that will all lead. As conflict with the Pharisees escalates, several characters’ attitudes toward Jesus will become polarized—it is becoming less possible to remain neutral or under cover regarding him.

The shrine at the base of the cliff figures prominently; earlier promotional videos have already identified this place as “the gates of hell,” a phrase Jesus employs in Matthew 16:18. Is this connected? I really shouldn’t say.... What I will say is that there is a very interesting juxtaposition of scenes involving the gates of hell and the gathering of prominent Pharisees. Very interesting indeed.

A scene between Simon Z and Judas foreshadows some developments to come. Actually, I found it a little overly obvious in its foreshadowing and its symbolism, but it does begin to explain some motivations for events to come. Speaking of Simon Z, there’s a good joke that comes in involving his name.

As the trailer implies, we do see the healing of the man born blind from John chapter 9. The incident contributes to a lot of other things building up in the episode.

Although the first two episodes were each powerful in their own way, I also felt that they were a little overly involved in wrapping up loose ends from the previous season. (I felt that way about the first couple of episodes in Season Three as well, but it wasn’t a problem when I saw how the whole season developed.) It’s the third episode, I think, that really begins to cast forward the plot lines that will propel the rest of the season. Significant things happen involving heretofore major and minor characters.

And the ending that everyone is talking about—or, as here, trying very hard not to talk about. It is as heartbreaking as everyone is saying. I will say this: I was not as surprised as some might have been by it. When something like this happens in a different show, one that is entirely fictional, it is often because external events have forced the writers to go in a certain direction. One might imagine the same thing here, but I think that that is emphatically not the case. I think what happened was planned all the way back in Season Two, and is a necessary part of a particular character’s development.

I can’t say more. If you know, you know.

I highly recommend checking these episodes out in theaters if at all possible, not only because viewing them on the big screen is a wonderful, immersive experience, but because it helps to fund future seasons. You can find out where The Chosen is showing in theaters here. You can directly contribute to funding future seasons at the Come and See Foundation.

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