If the mark of a good TV drama is that you carry on talking about it long after it's finished, then the BBC's Passion was a good TV drama. Several other people have reviewed the final episode, broadcast on Sunday evening, here are a few thoughts:
The initial thought was of the weirdness of it. Mary, and then the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus (interestingly shown as bottling it and making up a good story for why they're running away), meet with a strange man with a beard. He doesn't look any more like Jesus than any of the other disicples, but talks and acts like him. Suddenly, as he passes round the bread, he's turned into Joseph Mawle, and it is Jesus. It's a clever way of doing the 'disciples didn't recognise him' thing, but also incredibly confusing. We never see the wounds of Jesus, and with the different actors you're initially led to think that the programme is going to bottle out of a geniunely resurrected Christ. But then there he is. It takes you through some of the confusion and bewilderment the disciples must have felt, which is quite clever. Or weird. Or both.
Other pluses were the rounding out of Joseph of Arimethea, who comes into his own in this episode, and the sense of life carrying on as normal even as the amazing things were happening just outside Jerusalem. I don't know if the soldiers popping off for their breakfast butties and missing the resurrection was an intentional comic touch, but it just made me think of Chris and Ray in Ashes to Ashes.... The disciples remained believable, bickering and slowly starting to melt away, with a very different Peter to the bluff loudmouth he's usually made out to be.
Slightly less satisfactory was the shoehorning of various resurrection appearances into strange places. Peter at the pool of Bethesda has the encounter that the Gospels say happened with Thomas, and then the words spoken to him by Jesus on the beach at Galilee at the end of Johns gospel. Words and phrases keep happening in places where they didn't happen. If you don't know the gospel stories, it probably all makes perfect sense, but if you do know them then there's a lot of mental sorting out to do! I also wondered why the programme needed to do that, and why we couldn't have, for example, the encounter with Thomas as the gospels tell it.
The other thing it lacks, as the first episode did, is power. The disciples aren't sad anymore, but there's no explosion of dynamism or excitement at having Jesus back. The fact that Jesus himself is pretty chilled about the whole business probably affects this, but you're still left wondering how this random rabble turned into the powerhouse that was the early church.
One or two other things didn't sit right: the crucifixion of Jesus in the middle of nowhere, rather than on a main road (the gospels talk about passers by, and a bit of a crowd at the site rather than a small detail of soldiers and 2 women), and why Mary would have thought Jesus was the gardener if the burial site was in the side of a desert cliff, as it was shown here.
The comments bit of the BBC site is very positive about the whole thing, a lot of people saying their faith has been encouraged and strengthened by it. Brilliant, I think on the whole it's been a good telling of the story. Provocative without being predicatable, and yes there are plenty of bones to pick, but you can't argue with the core of what was broadcast, and the fact we get a resurrected Jesus at the end of it.