THE CHOSEN is a faithful adaption of stories in the Gospels. Familiar Gospel characters are given full lives, and Sunday school stories are given new, exciting contexts. The first episodes of THE CHOSEN tell of Jesus’ early ministry, including his healing of Mary Magdalene and calling of Simon Peter. Some creative new stories are imagined as well, such as when Jesus practices his teaching on children.
THE CHOSEN is delightful. At the core of its success is brave, artistic storytelling choices. They bring new life to the familiar tales. The writers balance perfectly between faithful biblical interpretation and a willingness to use their imagination. The cast is adequate for the task at hand, though they tend to fall short when intense, dramatic acting is required. The show is at its best when it leans into comedy and creativity. THE CHOSEN contains some violence, regular depictions of alcohol use and occasional light sexual references. Some episodes of THE CHOSEN warrant caution for younger children. However, a strong, faithful Christian message lies at the program’s heart, which takes seriously the life and miracles of Jesus.
In 2017, Dallas Jenkins released the pilot episode of his new show THE CHOSEN. Jenkins’ dream was bold: a multi-season television drama based on the life of Christ as told in the Gospels. The initial 2017 pilot, titled “The Shepard,” told the story of the birth of Christ from a unique perspective. This pilot was used as a crowdfunding tool to acquire resources for the whole project. Now, years later, we know that THE CHOSEN is the most crowdfunded television feature series project ever, surpassing $6 million by the end of 2018.
Season one’s eight episodes of Dallas Jenkins’ ambitious project have finally been released and can be accessed on VidAngel or through the app, thechosen.tv.
THE CHOSEN is designed to live in perfect balance between faithful biblical storytelling and imaginative exploration. The show contains incredible historical, biblical and theological accuracy while still maintaining a sense of wonder and creativity.
These first four episodes follow Jesus’ early ministry and especially focus on Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and Nicodemus. The writing team has taken these familiar biblical characters and stories and added a layer of historical and personal context. Simon Peter is a fisherman whose considerable tax debt drives him and his wife, Eden, to desperation. Matthew is a tax collector whose whole community has rejected him. Nicodemus is a famed Jewish teacher who’s beginning to worry he doesn’t actually know as much as he claims to know. These new characterizations help viewers see into the inner lives of familiar biblical characters. They also add a layer of rich human tapestry to the story of Jesus.
The writing is artistic and biblically-minded in THE CHOSEN. Clever, beautiful scriptural allusions and Easter eggs exist throughout, such as when Mary leaves an empty place at Shabbat dinner for Elijah, which is an ancient Jewish custom, and the spot is taken by Jesus. Viewers will be touched by the creator’s dedication to Scripture, but also by his willingness to strike out in new directions. For example, in episode three, which is a totally imagined story of Jesus set before his ministry began, Jesus practices his teaching skills on a group of local children.
The cast is generally strong, impressively led by Erick Avari as Nicodemus and Elizabeth Tabish as Mary Magdalene. Tense, dramatic moments are not this cast’s strength, however, and they tend to fall short in those scenes. A beautiful score helps along some of these dramatic moments.
There is some violence in THE CHOSEN, including multiple fistfights and a few beatings. Several scenes take place in a tavern and drinking to excess is portrayed a few times. Therefore, some episodes of THE CHOSEN warrant caution for younger viewers. However, families everywhere will welcome the strong Christian message at the show’s heart.
There’s little doubt that THE CHOSEN will soon become one of the most well-known and celebrated pieces of Christian media in history. It takes on an ambitious task, to artfully and faithfully tell the story of Christ’s life. In these early episodes, Jenkins and his team prove they are more than ready to bring the Good News.
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