We did not choose him; he chose us.
It's one of many powerful statements from The Chosen, a provocative, compelling, and inspiring series brought to you by the writer and creator behind The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.
The series in itself is unprecedented. It's a 100% crowdfunded project, reliant on thousands of investors. It's the largest crowdsourced media project, the first series to stream in over 180 different countries in roughly 52 languages via its app. And it's the first series of this caliber focusing on Jesus.
These are the facts and figures. But did the Gospels inspired faith-based series following Jesus' journey through the eyes and experiences of those who associate with him live up to the hoopla?
The answer is unquestionably and resoundingly yes.
The Chosen is must-see, even if you're not into Christian or historical programming or particularly religious. It's an extraordinarily created piece and a labor of love in motion.
It's an impressive amount of attention and devotion to every facet of this short eight-episode series, and director Dallas Jenkins has done an incredible job making this visually stunning and arresting show come to life.
Every aspect of this piece came together in what was a sensory experience that was transformative from the incredible cinematography to the near-seamless editing and a fitting score that heightened every second.
Once you start watching the series, it's difficult to stop, and it's an easy binge. You'll be captivated by the dedication to making it feel as authentic as possible.
It's one of many things that separates The Chosen from other works and attempts at telling a story about Jesus. In that sense, it's not your grandparents' throwback film, and it's not focused on hitting the Jesus highlights either, instead choosing to add layers to the time before he fully stepped into his mission.
There's a modernity to The Chosen that makes it appealing to all ages, but namely those more youthful who have reservations about a faith-based project not aligning with how they view the world now. It's also real, funny, and genuine in a way that's engaging. It makes you laugh, smile, gives you chills, and also moves you to tears.
The Chosen's authenticity has the same effect. The costuming was impeccable. While it's hard to ascertain if every detail was as exact as it should be, you understood the series was telling its story through every medium because of its attention to detail.
What was also notable was the language, from the use of Hebrew to the infusion of Jewish culture and customs. It suggests the series consulted with many to ensure The Chosen would feel real and be as respectful as possible.
It also extended to the casting of multi-racial individuals with dark or olive skin and dark hair that belies their location and the light pallor of the Roman soldiers or those of Germanic descent.
It was racially diverse while also mindful of location and origins showing a melting pot of individuals that suited the time and places they were in. It shouldn't be noteworthy, but given the frequency of similar works disregarding these details, it was refreshing all the same.
The series starts off a bit slow as it drops us into a seemingly random part of the timeline and introduces us to different characters who will become of importance down the road.
It also jumps and skips timelines on occasion, for flashbacks, but overall, it remains linear in its storytelling.
If you weren't paying attention, or you're unfamiliar with certain names and individuals, it could make it harder to follow, but fortunately, not by much.
In the first installment, it was the most cause for confusion as you wondered which person would be whom as we jumped from Mary Magdelene to Nicodemus, and Matthew and Simon and Andrew, too.
The first hour sets the tone for the series, but the turning point, the moment that hooks you are those final moments of it when we catch our first glimpse of Jesus when he calls Mary Magdelene, formerly Lillith, by name and therefore redeems her from the demons that have possessed her.
It's a moment that will give you literal chills. It's also the second it's clear how well cast Jonathan Roumie is as Jesus.
Roumie has such a quiet but commanding presence in those moments. With his first line to Mary, "That is not for you," he speaks with such calm authority, and it carries throughout the series as he brings such humanity and sincerity to this role.
The series managed to recognize Jesus as divine while also showcasing him as a grounded man, one who was humorous and loving, and down to earth.
He was a simple man capable of extraordinary things with a powerful message, and the balance both the series and Roumie brought to that was remarkable and heartening.
Throughout the series, there are a plethora of miracles Jesus performs, many of them the most familiar. However, the decision to begin with Mary Magdelene's redemption was laud worthy.
As previously mentioned, there's a modernity to the series that's endearing, and that in part extends to Mary Magdelene's recognition as a follower of Christ.
She was, and yet her narrative is often a diminished one in favor of the 12 disciples.
By starting things off with Mary's story where we got to know and understand this woman by adding context and texture behind the parables, it showed the series has no interest in disregarding the female presence.
It was something else that was decidedly exhilarating in that Mary Magdelene, Eden, Mary, and others were depicted as strong women of faith, fully-realized outside of the men in their lives, but also devoted, with mindfulness and respect for tradition.
Each of the most prominent characters had their own respective relationship with Jesus, and for Mary, it was touching how much he trusted her abilities and embraced her gift of discernment.
She was integral to setting the path into motion, and the value in that and depicting it was beautiful.
For she was the one he performed a private miracle on, and it led to Nicodemus' quest to find the healer of which everyone spoke about.
She was also the one to carry the message that led to Jesus and Nicodemus as two profound teachers having a sit-down and discussing faith and the will of God in what was one of the strongest moments of the series during the seventh installment.
Simon Peter's wife Eden, despite a smaller role, was also pivotal in setting her husband down the proper path toward following Jesus.
She was a no-nonsense woman who didn't bite her tongue when it came to calling Simon out on his shortcomings and for not being the man of faith that she married.
Her love for him lept off the screen, and they were such a wonderful representation of a marriage that endures hardships and rough times but still perseveres.
The way the story unfolded, we had time to understand many of the characters and what made them tick. It's one thing to read or hear scriptures, but it's another for the series to add context and layers to everyone. They managed to make some artful choices expanding on what's in text without disregarding it.
It grounded them and made them human and more realistic. While there were many standouts for this series, Shahar Isaac's Simon Peter was highest on the list.
Simon was such a wonderfully flawed man, and with each passing second, we learned more about him, he became more relatable.
The series introduced us to him and Andrew being saddled with debt, as he resorted to all sorts of troubling means to get from beneath it.
With his sharp wit and sarcasm, his wavering faith, and devotion to saving his family, he was familiar like someone you know, love, or see in the mirror. He was prominent and for good reason.
Simon's bone weariness over his circumstances made him instantly sympathetic. He was a man in over his head, who had lost the faith and trust of fellow fishermen due to his deal with Quintus.
The beauty of this series was how willing it was to allow these familiar names and people to be real, raw, and imperfect.
You could see yourself in any of them as they battled real life, relationships, problems not distant and unfamiliar than any of the things most of us are dealing with now from marital spats to financial woes or familial disputes.
Simon was probably the most in need of the sense of purpose Jesus provided him. He was a reluctant person, so easy to dismiss Andrew after hearing of Jesus' miraculous acts and teachings, and the pacing of his arc as the stressors of life were closing in on him were perfect.
It made you eagerly await the momentous act that would bring him to his knees and his senses. And then the miracle of the fish happened, and once Simon was aboard -- spared from death by Romans due to his debts and having Eden's endless support and blessing, it allowed the viewer to completely fall into the journey too.
It was also fascinating to watch Simon grapple with his renewed faith and passion versus his imposter syndrome and self-worth as he wondered why Jesus deemed him worthy enough to follow him.
The series' title was splendidly weaved throughout the series in a plethora of ways, from the reminder of what it meant to be God's chosen people and all they endured to Simon constantly wondering why Jesus chose him.
He was so accustomed to being a virtual screwup in some capacity or another, that he couldn't process what he had to offer, and Simon trying to carve out a role and space for himself was charming.
It was amusing how he took it upon himself to serve as a sort of enforcer for Jesus, attempting to protect him from any perceived threats.
And it's reasonable that no matter how often Jesus, Eden, and Andrew reminded Simon of his worth and that there was more to him than his past sins or the limitations he placed on himself, it was still something he struggled with even at the season's end.
Jesus wanted a student and a disciple, not a bodyguard, but he also knew how to allow Simon to play to his strengths.
And then he often used them to teach Simon lessons. Simon was the most aware and insecure when it came to his flaws and sins, while also being the most hesitant to embrace others and quick to judgment.
He was always the first to act as a go-between when it came to others and Jesus, but it was most evident with his response to Matthew. The irony of it is that he projected the same judgment to Matthew that he was forgiven for by others.
Simon, too, understood how it felt for his people to reject him as a result of his actions.
Meticulous Matthew was a delight and has a special place in my heart, and Paras Patel was impressive as this fastidious character. He made me smile the most.
The depiction of Matthew as a savant with OCD and who presented as someone potentially on the Autistic spectrum was unconventional and inspired.
He, too, was chosen. Others often pointed out his eccentricities and that he was "odd," but he played a vital role in recording everything he saw with great detail, all the while drawn to a new purpose.
As a tax collector, he was the enemy of his people, viewed as a traitor who made money and lived a life of luxury at their expense.
His family disowned him as a result, and we saw the impact of that and how isolated he felt when he attempted to spend Shabbat with his family before recognizing that would be a bad idea.
Matthew's journey toward Jesus was a quiet one, but also one of the most engaging. He was one of the most instantly lovable characters.
You knew, eventually, Jesus would call him, and by the time it happened, it was hard not to grin from ear to ear. I doubt anyone could make it through this series without having a soft spot for Matthew, so I trust Simon will come around too.
Matthew had little to no one to work through this new pull he had toward Jesus. He spent much of his time seeing and documenting the miracles he saw Jesus perform in front of his eyes while simultaneously growing more disillusioned with his work with the Romans.
He found a way to talk things through with his mother as best as he could, but it was most rewarding when Gaius, who couldn't hide his affection for Matthew, relayed the news of Matthew's decision to his parents, and they were proud.
Nicodemus' portion of the series as a Pharisee compelled to expand his beliefs as he sought more information about Jesus was rich storytelling as well.
He was a man whose faith was already stagnant, and he was at a point in his life where it seemed he was asking questions that others felt he should have known already. It wasn't until the end of the season while speaking to his student that he perfectly summed up what that meant.
The whole point, as a person of faith, is that you never stop learning. With life in general, you'll never know or learn everything; we are eternal students.
Nicodemus could've easily been an antagonist to the narrative. His decision to investigate Jesus and the excitement he left in his wake, could have stirred up some issues, but as Mary said, he was earnest.
He had to see for himself how someone redeemed Mary, whom he thought was beyond saving. He wanted to understand what that "heretic" John the Baptist was rhapsodizing about.
As an aside, in those few moments, John the Baptist was riveting, and WHEN we get a season two, I hope the series revisits him.
As Mary herself said, Nicodemus was earnest. And Jesus saw it too, he called for him to join him, but sadly, Nicodemus couldn't do it.
He came close, and his internal and external struggle as a man of the cloth was poignant.
He was disenchanted and fully recognized how the religious leaders had become extensions of the Roman law enforcers.
He believed in the Pentateuch, but he also saw how wildly others, including his student Shmuel, was choosing to interpret things. It was as if the messages and their meanings had gotten lost, and he was lost too.
It was another way that you could pull from the series and apply it to your life. How often does it feel as if even those who are presumed men and women of the cloth or faithful Christians misinterpreting and warping the message?
Jesus made his message simple, but just as the other characters were so distinctly human, so was he.
He was a man who loved and laughed, danced, and smiled, he adored and respected his mother, and he got his hands dirty.
One of the best installments was Episode 3's "Jesus Loves the Little Children." In its totality, it's a hopeful series but none more than Jesus' time spent with the precocious, curious Abigail.
She was such an inquisitive young girl, and she wasted no time bringing her friends along with her to meet Jesus and later on help him with his carpentry work while he regaled them with stories and taught them.
It was a moment when he was looking at this sea of young, bright-eyed faces, and he was so overwhelmed by the innocence that his eyes watered.
Children are innately hopeful, and they possess an intuition that life stomps out of most adults. You could see how affected he was by them, and in some ways, it was more moving than the number of miracles he performed.
It felt like it confirmed something for him, and that's where this series was refreshing in showing Jesus as a man with some hesitancy.
He wasn't always self-assured, and we saw that through his reservations about when to go public.
He did minor things here and there to enlist his followers and help out but had his battles too.
I loved the parallels to the beginning of Episode 5 when they showed us a flashback to young Jesus after he spent three days in the temple preaching, to when Mary echoed the same words her son told her years before regarding working a miracle: "If not now, when?"
It often felt as though he didn't know when was the right time to embrace and embark on his journey, and I loved the notion that his mother's encouragement at the wedding was something he needed.
He did small deeds, knowing the word would spread, from healing the leper to curing the paralytic, but he still wanted an air of mystery behind him.
It started in the first hour when he didn't want Mary to share his name with anyone and carried throughout as he both helped and spread the word while also trying to keep a lid on things.
But people were talking, and his reputation wouldn't stay within the confinements of Capernaum. Simon was most protective and conscious of this, arguably picking up on Jesus' reservation more than most.
Throughout the short season, Jesus' threat via his teachings spread along with the word. His presence was like a powder keg that no one could contain.
After Jesus' sermon, Quintus declared that large gatherings were a punishable offense, and Shmuel filed a claim that Jesus was a false prophet. Around then, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that he was the Messiah.
"I am he, the one who is speaking to you," he told her and led her to spread the word.
The series is masterful in how it finds a way to weave actual scripture in organically, and that was another example of it and certainly one of the most powerful.
It was a pivotal moment of the series and a point where his journey was about to really begin, and the others noted that when they arrived and saw the woman happily on her way to tell the others about the Messiah.
It hit all of them that their journey was only starting. The varying responses to joining Jesus was one of the best aspects of the series.
The uncertainty of the unknown and being fearful and excited at the same time was palpable; it wasn't a simple thing where all fell into place with ease, and they had it all figured out.
It was clumsy, uneasy, scary, and thrilling all at the same time. They stepped out on faith with no idea what was in store for them.
And all of them were working out the kinks and figuring out what it meant together. It was captivating in that sense.
The final scene of all of them heading into a new city, all smiles, and laughter, hugs, and love with a distinctive song about trouble playing in the background was such an emotional, exciting end of the season.
It held a promise that there was more to come. It captured the spirit of Jesus, a rebel, rogue, and renegade to many. You can't change the world without getting into a little good trouble, no?
Given the mindblowing crowd efforts to get this first season off the ground, I have no doubt they'll reach their goal and that in no time the second season will be funded. It's already on its way there.
It's more than deserving of it too with rich, compelling storytelling and writing, and a phenomenal cast led by Jonathan Roumie and Shahar Isaac.
They hope to get another seven seasons, and they certainly have a myriad of stories left to tell. If they can maintain the quality of this first season, they could succeed in their goal.
If you were fortunate enough to see the series, hit the comments below with all of your thoughts.
If you haven't checked the series out, and it's something that appeals to you, I highly recommend you do so.
Also, follow The Chosen on Facebook for behind the scenes footage, interviews, updates, and so much more.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.