Streaming giant Netflix has announced that it will not be renewing controversial drama Messiah for a second season.
The news was confirmed by one of the show's stars, Will Traval, on Instagram. "It’s a very sad day today,” he wrote. “I have just received news from Netflix that there will be no season 2 of #messiah I wanted to say to all the fans thank you for your support and love. I wish things were different.”
While Netflix insisted that the reason for the cancellation was due to the show being filmed in locations across the globe -- something that is almost impossible to do during the current coronavirus pandemic -- others have suggested that the drama's controversial subject matter made it untenable.
Messiah follows a CIA agent tasked with investigating a divine-like figure, who claims to have been sent by a higher being. The agent attempts to find out whether he truly is a God-like figure, or simply a deceptive con artist. Criticisms have emerged about the series being "anti-Islamic".
Indeed, Jordan -- which permitted the filming of some episode outlines -- later requested that the show not be broadcast in its country.
Jordan's Royal Film Commission (RFC), said: "The story is purely fictional and so are the characters, yet the RFC deems that the content of the series could be largely perceived or interpreted as infringing on the sanctity of religion."
"While still standing firmly by its principles, notably the respect of creative freedom, the RFC – as a public and responsible institution – cannot condone or ignore messages that infringe on the Kingdom’s basic laws."
A Change.org petition set up in protest against the series lambasted the show as “evil and anti-Islamic propaganda”.
One of key criticisms seems to be around the name of the central messianic character: Al-Masih ad Dajja.
According to Islamic eschatology, Al-Masih ad-Dajjal refers to an evil figure comparable to the Antichrist, and whose name translates to “the false messiah, liar, the deceiver."
Messiah was created by Michael Petroni and produced by well-known Christian couple, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. The pair have been responsible for titles such as The Bible, Ben-Hur and Son of God. Burnett also produced US reality TV shows Survivor and The Apprentice.