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I Have Called You by Name

a review of the Chosen episode 1

This first review will have a bit more about the mundane things than the rest as I want to cover some areas that will not need to be mentioned again for the remaining episodes in Season 1. I also intend to keep this as spoiler-free as possible so that you can enjoy the surprises that come your way. I will be focusing mainly on the quality of the show overall as well as any historical or doctrinal inaccuracies. My goal is to provide you with an idea of whether you should watch the show and perhaps to guide you thru any controversy. (There is at least one!)

“Thus, saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” [1]

This passage is the heart of Episode 1. The setting is prior to Jesus’ earthly ministry and introduces many key characters of Season 1. First is Mary of Magdala, who, though not the star of the episode (there isn’t really a star in any episode), is the focus of the story. We also meet Nicodemus, Simon and Andrew, Matthew and others. Most are taken right from the pages of the Bible, but some are added for flow of the story. The episode is clearly setting up for the rest of the season and does it well for the most part. Nicodemus is a convincing Teacher of Teachers trying to serve God while being pressured by the Romans. He is shown to be a bit unhappy and pondering deep questions while keeping up a good front for his peers. Matthew is a traitor and an outcast who seems to be suffering from some obsessive-compulsive disorder which will be further explored. The only character that felt a little off to me was Simon (Peter). I just never thought of him doing ANY of the things he is shown to do. As the season progressed, I came to appreciate the director’s choices more and was reminded of what Simon said to Jesus after they filled their boat with fish. “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” [2]

I’ll add a note here about the historical aspects of the show. Vidangel did their research well. All the people around our main characters feel like a natural part of the world. The Romans, the Pharisees, the poor people of Capernaum all seem appropriate. The budget for sets and costumes is on the lower end at about $1.2 million per episode. That sounds like a lot, but compared to some other recent productions, that’s small potatoes. Game of Thrones spent $15 million on its final episodes, and Disney spent as much on their first season of The Mandalorian. I don’t know how that money gets spread around, but I am impressed with what Vidangel accomplished. The “cheapness” does not detract too much for me. The most noticeable problem to me was the Roman helmets, as almost none of them fit the actors wearing them. Renting may be how they kept their budget down.

The music! I am a musician, and I love this aspect of storytelling because it informs the viewer what to feel at the appropriate times. I watched Star Wars as a young man (we can talk about that in another post; don’t stone me yet), and I am convinced that half the reason the first movie was such a sensational hit was the music score. John Williams is my favorite composer and is the master of guiding your emotions thru a story. You may think you’ve never heard anything John Williams wrote but if you’ve ever watched the Olympic Games than you have. Now, he did not write the music for The Chosen, but it still felt correct for the time period and pulled you into critical moments.

This brings me to the “Flies in the Oil” segment. Ecclesiastes 10:1 says “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour.” [3] Ointments were carefully prepared with olive oil, herbs, and spices to smell good and even help with healing. (Think essential oils of today.) If flies got into the ointment, they would get stuck and die and spoil the good smell. A carefully crafted film is intended to delight, teach, or make a point. The flies of inaccuracies and bad story writing spoil those goals. I will rate the episodes on a seven-point scale of flies to oil. Whether or not filtering is deemed necessary will be one point, accurate portrayal of history and the Bible is three points, and good story telling three points. I give this episode a two-fly rating. (Fewer flies is better!)

Filtering Required

Hist./Biblical Accuracy

Fictional Story

My biggest fly was…the music. I know…I just said the music was good. But I am now referring to the opening credits music. Without starting a seminar on music in this blogpost, I will simply say that I found the credit music to be jarring. It took me out of the emotions I was feeling both at the opening and at the ending of the episode. The lyrics were hard to identify without the captions turned on, and they were mundane and repetitive. The idea was Jesus calling to Peter to walk on the water, but the style and vocalizations were completely unfitting. My purest oil was the ending. I won’t spoil it, so go watch it for yourself. Grace and peace be unto you, and please be amused responsibly.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Is 43:1). [2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Lk 5:8). [3] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ec 10:1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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