Netflix‘s new religious-themed thriller Messiah sees CIA officer Eva Geller (played by Michelle Monaghan) investigate Al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi), a man attracting international attention and a cult following through acts of public disruption. As Geller embarks on a global, high-stakes mission, her main goal is to uncover whether Al-Masih is a divine entity or a deceptive con artist.
While the series breaks boundaries of cultural and religious terrorism and looks at how the coming of a divine entity can pose more of a threat than possible salvation, it seems to present more questions than it does answer them.
Before the show even aired, it was revealed in the trailer that the titular messiah was named Al-Masih, which means ‘Messiah’ in Arabic. But many Twitter users noted that Al-Masih is a shortened version of an Antichrist-type figure in Islam known as Al-Masih ad-Dajjal. Taking to social media to share their thoughts on that mega-twist ending – specifically that Al-Masih was actually the Antichrist – some fans were reportedly were reportedly blocked by Netflix for letting the cat out of the bag too soon.
So what does it all mean? Were those fans on the money, or are they just as confused as the rest of us? Here’s our best effort at explaining the Messiah ending…
Is Messiah‘s Al-Masih the Antichrist?
The show doesn’t really give viewers a comprehensive answer. In fact, there’s not a single direct mention of the name ‘Dajjal’ at all. So does that automatically mean Al-Masih is not the Antichrist? Is he, as expected, the Second Coming of Christ instead? Or is he just a man suffering from a delusional disorder? The answer: we don’t know. But there are a few clues.
In the final episode, ‘Wages of Sin’, Al-Masih’s miracle abilities are taken to a whole other level, when he appears to showcase immortality after surviving a plane crash. When his plane is shot down by the US government, not only does he appear to resurrect disgraced Mossad agent Aviram Dahan, who was travelling on the plane with him, but he proceeds to raise another one of the plane crash victims from the dead. So, while we’re not 100 per cent sure of who he is, he definitely appears to be some sort of divine entity.
Are there any other examples of Christ/Antichrist-like behaviour?
There are the times Al-Masih seems to cause natural disasters, such as a storm in Syria, a tornado in Texas and a flood in Florida. Later, he walks on water, much to the astonishment of his rapidly growing following.
But he was born on earth, right?
Yes. It is revealed that Al-Masih’s real name is Payam Golshiri, a man who once suffered from a psychiatric disorder.
Confirmed by Al-Masih himself, CIA agent Eva Gellar uncovered that Payam Golshiri was a real individual who was brought up by his grandfather to be a professional con man, running run scams with his brother in their Iranian village to survive.
Surely the CIA have some answers for us?
Saviour or sinner? Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence comes from Payam’s association with cyber-terrorist (also professor) Oscar Wallace. When agent Gellar visits Wallace, she suggests that he (as Al-Masih) is conning everyone, at the behest of Wallace, in order to weaken global confidence in established governments.
In actual fact, Wallace claims he is a follower of Payam and not the other way around. “Between him and me, I’m not the dangerous one,” he says. “I’ve been happy to serve his cause.”
Does anyone else offer any clues?
A subtle clue to Al-Masih’s true nature comes from Rebecca, the epileptic daughter of the Iguero family. In episode nine, ‘God is Greater’, Al-Masih backs up Rebecca’s importance to his plan – to use her to deliver his message to the world via her grandfather’s TV show. Bits of the message she delivers describe Al-Masih as “the eye of the storm.”
For the uninitiated, in the Muslim doctrine, the aforementioned Antichrist-type figure, Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, is known to only have one eye. During her epileptic seizure, Rebecca could be having a vision of Al-Masih’s one eye, but that remains unconfirmed.
So if Al-Masih is the Antichrist, who is the Messiah?
Could it be Jibril, the young boy who becomes a follower of Payam from Syria to Israel, and calls him “Imam”?
At one point in the series Jibril walks naked towards the Israel border. Mostly unharmed by the harsh desert conditions, he is let into the Holy Land. His bravery earns him a lot of attention and notoriety, and he becomes a prominent figure among Muslims.
Aside from his desert trek, he also survives a bomb attack less than a few feet away from him. Barely conscious, as he is carried clear of the wreckage he reaches over to grasp the hand of a corpse next to him. While we don’t get to see what happens next, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear in the next season that Jibril brought that person back to life. So could he be the true Messiah?
Whatever the answer, Messiah‘s main narrative is one that looks at the consequences of having a real-life messiah in a media-driven world. So whether he’s real or not doesn’t actually make all that much difference. Maybe we’ll get the answers to the Messiah ending in season two, which is yet to be confirmed.
‘Messiah’ is streaming now on Netflix.