Catholic review of The Chosen, Season 3
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It’s time for another lively discussion of the wildly popular Christian TV series The Chosen, following on the release of its third season, which stretches from the sermon on the mount to the feeding of the five thousand. Since the show is written by Evangelical Protestants, Thomas and James make a point of keeping an eye out for any doctrinal errors, and Br. Joshua Vargas joins to share his knowledge of Scripture and ancient Jewish and Christian culture and practices. The good news is that season three (unlike the 2021 Christmas special) is The Chosen’s least doctrinally problematic season yet.
By this time the show has hit its stride, having established a consistent set of strengths and weaknesses. The chief strength, as always, is Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie’s performance as Jesus. As Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees becomes more open, we get to see him in a more provocative and even stern mode than before. The show’s portrayal of the spiritual value of suffering and the importance of Peter as head of the apostles both tend in a more Catholic direction as well. And its unashamed faith in the supernatural aspects of Jesus’ earthly ministry continues to edify, with the apostles themselves now being given authority to perform signs and wonders.
After somewhat holding back their non-doctrinal criticisms while The Chosen got off the ground in its first two seasons, James, Thomas, and Br. Joshua now critique the show’s aesthetic weaknesses, which may be as much a product of today’s pop storytelling as of Evangelical Protestantism. Often this takes the form of “telling” rather than “showing”. The least interesting moments are when character drama takes the form of bickering, in which we are expected to believe the stakes are high despite the apparent pettiness of the conflict.
In general, there is a lack of faith in subtext, so that while often the show’s expansion of the terse Gospel accounts is illuminating, at times it actually diminishes their impact, especially when extended fictional backstories are allowed to overwhelm real Gospel moments.
There are also moments when the show’s emotional tenor keeps it from portraying large-scale scenes such as the feeding of the five thousand in an appropriately awe-inspiring way. As Br. Joshua puts it, “The show excels much more at making intimate scenes feel epic than at making large scenes feel epic.”
Finally, the writing, while good in many ways, frequently resorts to jarringly anachronistic language, at times betraying a lack of sensitivity to how different ways of speaking reveal different ways of thinking. The writers seem to think that while people in the ancient world may have had different opinions from us, their basic emotional experience of reality was the same as ours. It was not. Certain quips put into these first-century characters’ mouths are self-aware and self-referential in a way unmistakably a product of the age of mass entertainment and social media.’
Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com
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