“Trial” puts the fate of Al-Masih in the balance, as his presence draws more people to him and a last-minute swerve results in the best episode yet.
This recap of Messiah Season 1, Episode 4, “Trial”, contains spoilers.
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Messiah Episode 4 opens ominously, with the results of a CAT scan being dispassionately typed up, including menacing words like “metastasized”. Eva (Michaelle Monaghan) wakes up in the hospital, where, thanks to some interrogation by a nurse, we learn more about her. She has miscarried — her fourth. She’s on a fertility program, having banked her husband’s sperm before his chemo treatments. Her husband is dead.
There are morbid backstories, and then there’s this morbid backstory.
The “Trial” of the title is that of Al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi), who is in custody yet again, though this time he is being defended by a power lawyer — paid for by Felix (John Ortiz) — who is sure she’ll win his case. In the aftermath of Al-Masih’s presence in Dilley, the small Texas town is attracting outside attention for having hosted the messiah.
While he’s in custody, Eva goes to meet with Al-Masih, and he does the whole enigmatic “God’s work” routine. Poking at his compassion — or apparent lack of it — she presses him about how he feels having left women and children at the Israeli border to go sightseeing in America. He describes them both as catchers in the rye, trying to stop the children from falling. He also says that everyone worships — it’s only what they choose to worship that varies. For some it’s money, for others it’s power or intellect. Eva, he says, is an acolyte of the CIA, devoted to an ideal, but her pursuit of that ideal has only caused her pain and made her more isolated. Doing his usual party trick, he reveals information about her mother and her husband that he couldn’t possibly be privy to, and she leaves, freaked out.
It’s subsequently revealed that Will (Wil Traval) recorded the meeting with a phone under the table, which will become important later.
While Avrim (Tomer Sisley) continues to drink himself stupid, Eva talks to Katherine (Barbara Eve Harris) about her latest theory, which is that Al-Masih is a foreign intelligence agent. It makes sense. He knows stuff he shouldn’t, he gets first-class transport all around the world. However, he’s also going to be extradited, which will derail her attempts to investigate him further. Messiah Episode 4 reinforces the idea that she’s stressed and contemplative by having Eva check her dead husband’s Facebook page and call her father, who doesn’t even berate her for interrupting his jigsaw. And she isn’t even that nice when she calls.
The judge presiding over Al-Masih’s trial is a hardline conservative known for a strong stance on immigration — true to form, he expedites the hearing, preventing the defense from gathering evidence and witnesses. Eva goes to see Al-Masih’s lawyer in an effort to get her to drop the case, but she won’t; the CIA agent theorizes that she’s using Al-Masih as a sacrificial lamb in order to make a point.
Avrim sobers up just long enough to continue being grilled for erasing the interrogation tape, and he’s eventually suspended. What I like about this is his righteousness about being dirty and bending the rules to get the job done; his only defense for his behavior is that he always acts this way and isn’t usually penalized for it, which is hilarious, but also probably rings very true. The global attention Al-Masih is generating, though, means that everything has to be by the book, and Avrim doesn’t do by the book unless I suppose the book happens to be in the passenger seat of his car.
Jibril (Sayyid El Alami), by the way, is still badly hurt, deliriously roaming the desert. More on him in the next episode.
Anyway, Felix feels drawn to Al-Masih, and wants to leave Dilley to be close to him. He rationalizes this by explaining that he thought he had lost his faith and was even going to burn his church down, but Al-Masih arrived in the nick of time, therefore he must be a sign from the Almighty. I mean, if you say so.
The trial begins in Messiah Episode 4. The courthouse steps are packed with people carrying placards — opinion remains split — and Felix is there, as are Eva and Will. Al-Masih’s lawyer gives a statement about how he is a refugee, and that if he’s sent back to Syria, he will be killed for his beliefs. But Al-Masih, unable to resist the pulpit, undermines his own defense by giving a speech about the random dice-roll of one’s birth, how division springs from arbitrary lines of faith and geography, and the nature of fate — and what is fate but the hand of God? The prosecution plays footage of him sitting still in his cell while in custody, and during that time he never prays to Mecca. How, then, is he a Muslim, and how can he be persecuted for being one? When asked his religion outright, Al-Masih replies that he “walks with all men.”
In the aftermath of this revelation, Felix is interviewed outside the courthouse, and Garcia, Al-Masih’s lawyer, berates him for speaking — he tells her this is bigger than she can imagine. Collier, the President’s right-hand-man, calls the judge and makes a not-so-subtle suggestion that having Al-Masih deported could do wonders for his career.
But, as is revealed in Messiah Season 1, Episode 4, Judge Pleva isn’t much concerned with his career. While passing his verdict he points out that the court is “immune to all influence”, and decides to grant Al-Masih asylum. In a final touch, we see the CAT scan from the top of the episode in one of his desk drawers. He’s dying and wants to do so in peace, having done the right thing. He knew he wouldn’t be alive to face any repercussions, or for his career trajectory to matter. Felix drives away with Al-Masih.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.