“He That Hath An Ear” reveals a potential second coming, as an enigmatic figure leads 2000 followers to Israel.
This recap of Messiah Season 1, Episode 1, “He That Hath An Ear”, contains spoilers.
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Messiah starts how it means to go on in “He That Hath An Ear”, both by being morbid and raising the complicity of God in our tragedies and successes. As a little boy wakes up his mother, asking why “he died”, she explains that it was written in God’s book; God loves him but had a different plan for him. It’s the theme of things to come as we see the boy, Jibril (Sayyid El Alami), pull his mother’s corpse from some rubble and bury her.
Via news reports in Messiah Episode 1, we’re introduced to more of the show’s on-going themes — American foreign policy, for one, and a burgeoning Islamic Caliphate subsuming the Middle East, with Damascus on the brink of falling to ISIL. Jibril encounters his friend Samir (Farès Landoulsi), and they both happen upon a charismatic, handsome man addressing a growing crowd with what some of the onlookers determine to be heretical preaching. This man is Al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi), a new prophet bold enough to wear denim on denim, and as if to emphasize his holiness, a sandstorm envelops Damascus while he speaks, and he continues to proselytize through it while the crowd disperses.
In the next news report of “He That Hath An Ear”, we learn that the sandstorm was a record-breaking one, having wrought calamitous damage but also buried Daesh ground forces, cutting off their supply chain and forcing them to withdraw. Al-Masih has taken credit in the aftermath and claims to be leading his 2000 new followers to their destiny. We’re introduced to CIA agent Eva Geller (Michelle Monaghan), explaining to an Agency interviewee that the truth isn’t grey, only black and white, and watching footage of the new messiah.
Eva has some — at this point undisclosed — health problems. Her father calls checking up on her, but she’s brusque with him, more interested in information from Q (Assaad Bouab), a colleague with whom she discusses Al-Masih, where he might have come from, and what his aims might be. In the bathroom, she injects her stomach and clumps of her hair fall out.
Jibril, who is following Al-Masih, refers to him as Imam. But the assumption that he’s Muslim might be a premature one. He says that God works through all believers, and when another of his followers suggests only if they righteously follow Islam, Al-Masih chastises him: “Do not tell me what I mean.” He asks why there are no women among his followers, and the same man laughs. Al-Masih knocks him to the ground, telling him to find a woman and give her his seat. “Mankind is a rudderless boat,” he says, “cling to me.”
At an all-night diner, Eva talks with Keon (Siddiq Saunderson), who works there. It’s implied she’s there a lot, possibly due to insomnia. Keon had an uncle who worked for the CIA and died in Turkey the previous year; whatever connection these two might have isn’t explained in “He That Hath An Ear”, though it stands to reason there is one.
Al-Masih, meanwhile, takes a particular shine to Jibril, who perhaps coincidentally seems incredibly susceptible to his preaching. In clear foreshadowing, Al-Masih says that God is going to ask some hard things of the boy.
Eva, still interested in this new prophet, speaks with her boss Katherine Bailey (Barbara Eve Harris) about him. She wants to keep an eye on him and is given minimal resources to do so. Using satellite imagery she finds Al-Masih and his followers, though nowhere near Damascus. They’re instead close to the border with Israel. Al-Masih’s followers are split; some believe he has led them to their deaths, but others eagerly believe he has led them to battle. Al-Masih tells his followers to bury all their weapons. They approach the border, and Israeli guards see them coming, readying themselves to fight. Al-Masih himself crosses the border quite nonchalantly and is arrested for doing so.
Messiah Season 1, Episode 1 makes the American position clear. The U.S. is compelled to defend Israel, and the longer people are left starving at their border, the less defensible that position becomes.
The Israeli perspective is delivered mostly through Avrim (Tomer Sisley), a heavily-scarred Shin Bet agent who has a testy relationship with his baby mother and their daughter. He’s forced to let his little girl down again when he’s called to work on his day off in order to interview Al-Masih, who says he is here to deliver a message from his father, whose identity will only be revealed in time. Al-Masih knows things of Avrim’s past, which he references — a boy, the moment he stopped believing. Avrim, visibly panicked, deletes the video footage of the interview and orders Al-Masih to be put in the hole.
Avrim later has drinks with a friend, asking if he ever told anyone about Moggido. That night he has a nightmare about Al-Masih. When he returns to see him in solitary, he finds his cell empty.