What do you do when you produce a smash hit miniseries? Create a sequel, of course.
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey struck a chord with the heartland of America with 2013's The Bible Miniseries. A.D. The Bible Continues is a logical follow-up, focusing on the early Church in the wake of the death and resurrection of Christ. While entirely recast from the original, the new actors (mostly) walk into the roles with an intimate familiarity that engrosses the audience from the first moment.
Opening with Peter's denial of Christ, A.D. wastes no time throwing the viewer into the action. The show spends much time exploring the politics of crucifying Jesus. Pilate and Caiaphas get much time to lecture on why Jesus had to be killed. It's definitely not enough to really win over "sympathy" per se, but there does seem to be a more well-rounded picture to the motives of these men than the caricatures that we may often associate with them.
The scenery is lush and vibrant, capturing the feel of the era without seeming like it's forcing it on us. There's an interesting effect to the city shots of Jerusalem done in a similar way to how shots of New York are used on many modern crime procedurals. It does help the production feel like a serial as opposed to a one-off event.
The characters of the apostles aren't developed too deeply in the pilot beyond Peter and, to a lesser extent, John. But on the topic of Peter, Adam Levy is effective in conveying the complexity of Peter in the wake of the crucifixion. Greta Scacchi as Mother Mary is another standout. Balancing the grief of watching her son die with the hope of His resurrection perfectly, she definitely strikes an intimate balance that feels authentically human and yet honest and reverent to the mother of Jesus.
Others like Mary Magdalene and most of the other apostles feel like they are just there, like they had to be included because they were Biblically present, but their relevance to the plot of this current series wasn't really apparent in the pilot. Hopefully subsequent episodes will remedy that. But for now, at least from a narrative standpoint, they just ate up screen time I was wishing they would let us spend with better-developed characters such as Peter.
The first hour was appropriately engrossing but perhaps a bit incomplete. I felt we spent a little too much time with Pilate, and perhaps the political perspective is being focused on a little too much for a first episode. Maybe it was just too tall an order to drop us into the middle of the crucifixion and still introduce us to these takes on well-known figures in the New Testament. On this front, while what's here is good, it doesn't quite resonate to the level that it should given the caliber of the production.
Still, there's always something deeply amazing about seeing Biblical events unfold on-screen. A.D. at least earned the chance to keep me tuning in, even if it didn't quite reach the level of "mind-blowing." Hopefully it will raise that bar by the time the first season ends.
Television could use a good Biblical drama to counter the trash, and while A.D. is not perfect, it also was strong enough to go toe-to-toe with many top network programs in terms of quality. Time will tell if it will stand as one of the more memorable Biblical adaptations or fade away as a rushed attempt to ride the success of "The Bible." Stay tuned!
J.J. Francesco is an aspiring fiction writer who enjoys Christian rock, good movies and TV, good food, and good company.