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The Chosen Season 4 sets a darker tone as the Passion draws near

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Jonathan Roumie delivers a profoundly emotive performance as Jesus in the beginning of the fourth season. Credit: The Chosen
Jonathan Roumie delivers a profoundly emotive performance as Jesus in the beginning of the fourth season. Credit: The Chosen

We left The Chosen at the end of season three with the feeding of the five thousand and Christ walking on water.

Now as season four begins, the hit biblical drama has taken a darker turn, with burgeoning danger and the cross on the distant horizon.

This first and arguably best episode of the new season focuses on the last days of John the Baptist’s life, which unravel like a compelling political-historical drama.

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When John’s public condemnation of Herod’s marriage incurred the wrath of the King’s second wife Herodias, his imprisonment quickly led to his execution, brought about by the conspiring queen and her daughter Salome.

The fulfilment of John’s mission is made clearer through flashbacks from Mary’s Visitation to his mother Elizabeth and his presentation in the temple, which are juxtaposed with scenes of his execution.

As the horror unfolds, the personal, political and spiritual dimensions of Jesus’ own crucifixion are foreshadowed.

Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ’s life, so too must he prepare the way for Christ’s death at this crucial moment in history.

In the second half of last season, The Chosen moved away from its iconic character-establishing narratives and began to explore the everyday conflicts and complications of the apostles’ ministry with Jesus.

The record-breaking series emotively explored the suffering, sacrifice, guilt and grief as Jesus’ core group struggled with past failures, persistent afflictions and the growing pains of a new life radically different to the one they knew.

These emotional story arcs, notably Simon Peter and his wife Eden’s marital distress following a miscarriage, culminating at the feeding of the five thousand, bring a level of maturity, authenticity and complexity building on that of prior seasons.

But with John the Baptist’s death, director Dallas Jenkins marks the midpoint of his predicted seven season show with a big step up in artistic and technical quality, and a darker tone.

After all, with John’s beheading, Golgotha and the cross have been prefigured.

One of the strengths of The Chosen is the way in which it delves into the human experience while staying true to the overarching biblical themes.

Grounded scripts have saved the show from becoming preachy but left room for the writers to unpack the central biblical lessons in an honest and spiritually fulfilling way—although Catholics shouldn’t expect a catechism or church history lesson.

While episode one ends with Jesus and his disciples reacting to the news of John’s execution, episode two begins with a remarkably well-written interaction between Jesus and Andrew, which touches on their grief.

This exchange, in which Andrew finds himself questioning the appropriateness of his grief at John’s death, is a true-to-life insight into the concept of grief and the way in which one honours the departed.

As John stirred up great emotions amongst his enemies and his own disciples with his preaching, so too did Jesus.

Episode two also includes that most Catholic of passages, the elevation of Simon to “Peter the Rock” on account of his confession of Jesus as the Christ on route to Caesarea Philippi.

Some of the disciples take Jesus’ decision hard, and question Simon Peter’s worthiness.

Matthew is among them; the scriptwriters depict him as having ripped off Simon Peter and his family while collecting taxes.

For Simon Peter, forgiving Matthew for the suffering he has caused is just as inconceivable.

Both confront Jesus separately, and are taught that both are responsible. They must both repent and forgive in order to reconcile.

The dialogue, pace and deep emotions expressed by all three actors in these beautifully composed scenes make the sequence one of the episode’s most memorable moments.

Many Catholics will watch these interactions, in which Jesus insists on bringing the moral dimension down to earth by eschewing abstract principles in favour of addressing the facts of each man’s life, and draw strong parallels with the sacrament of confession.

Those producing The Chosen must be acknowledged for the high quality of writing, compelling compositions and artistic creativity, which improves each season.

Though the dialogue can be cheesy at times, each actor gives an authentic performance that is delivered with heart and is unmatched by any other scripture-based series.

Episode 1 and 2 from Season 4 of The Chosen is currently showing in cinemas around Australia.

You can find further information on future episodes or watch past episodes at http://www.thechosentv.com.au/

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