Alissa’s Note:A.D. The Bible Continuesbegan airing on Easter Sunday, and during its run, Peter Chattaway recaps episodes as they air. Recaps involve spoilers, especially if you’re not familiar with the Bible story. You can read last week's recap here.
Episode 2: "The Body Is Gone"
The resurrection of Jesus is good news for his followers, but bad, bad news for the soldiers who were guarding his tomb, in this second episode of A.D. The Bible Continues.
One of the advantages of this series, which is based primarily on the book of Acts, is supposed to be that it has more time to develop the stories that were squished down to a single episode at the end of The Bible miniseries two years ago. The empty tomb, the resurrection appearances and the ascension of Jesus got only seven minutes combined in the earlier series, but this week they got an entire episode to themselves.
And yet they still feel rather rushed—partly because so much of the extra time is taken up with the sort of gratuitous violence that was a recurring characteristic of The Bible.
The first episode of A.D. ended with an angel brandishing a sword before he rolled the stone away from Jesus' tomb. Perhaps the angel was trying to intimidate the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb, but frankly, the soldiers were so stunned by everything else that was going on that they wouldn't have blocked the angel's path anyway.
Now, however, the threat of violence against those soldiers is very real, as Pilate and his men track the soldiers down, beat them, and then ultimately kill them in Caiaphas's presence. And Pilate doesn't just "discipline" his own soldiers this way: he even sends Cornelius himself to murder the Jewish guards who also witnessed the angel.
Meanwhile, Reuben, the head of the temple guard, hires a guy to murder a man and give the body the same wounds that Jesus had, so that the priests can pass it off as the body of Jesus. Caiaphas, who is shocked when he sees the murdered man's corpse, nixes this idea right away, saying they can only defeat the apostles by finding the actual body of Jesus. But either way, the post-resurrection body count continues to mount.
The disciples themselves, meanwhile, turn to the Zealots for help to get out of Jerusalem, which is under "lockdown" while the Romans go looking for the body of Jesus.
There is some mandatory dialogue between Peter and Boaz, his Zealot friend, to clarify that Peter does not believe in violence and that Boaz takes life only as a last resort (or so he says, at least). But in the end, the disciples get out of Jerusalem and make their way back to Galilee because the Zealots create a diversion, throwing rocks and the first-century equivalent of Molotov cocktails at the Romans who are guarding the city gate.
Somewhere in all this, the episode does find time for some of the resurrection appearances. The book of Acts tells us that Jesus appeared to the disciples multiple times over a 40-day period, but here it feels like only a few days have passed by the time Jesus ascends to heaven (surrounded by dozens of "warrior angels", a detail that is not found in the Bible but was apparently added by the producers to foreshadow the Second Coming).
Still, as shoehorned as they might be into the narrative, some of the resurrection scenes do play very well; I especially like the joy on Peter's face when he sees Jesus by the Sea of Galilee. (The music, by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe, definitely helps.)
Moments like these make you wish that the series would "breathe" a little more, instead of trying to fill as many moments as possible with scenes of peril, cruelty, and violence. There'll be more than enough of that to wade through in the chapters of Acts to come.
Note for Canadian readers: You can watch the episodes here.
Peter T. Chattaway writes about films in general, and Bible films in particular, at FilmChat.
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