I watched the first episode of the The Passion over lunch today (on BBC iPlayer) and overall I was really quite impressed.
I thought it was a bit hesitant to begin with, took a while to find its feet. But once it had, it had a lot going for it.
I think the characterisations of Pilate and Caiaphas are excellent - rounded, believable people you can feel real sympathy for even if you don't like them. The street scenes are suitably sweaty and noisy. Jerusalem feels edgy and likely to blow up any time.
Jesus comes into this with a rag-tag of followers and hangers-on and quietly makes his presence felt. Joseph Mawle brings a sly humour to the role that feels entirely appropriate. The scene of him 'teaching' in the temple while he walked around that includes the parable of the wicked tenants was particularly effective.
Effective too is that as the episode unfolded, it was Jesus, the one with no power, who was driving the drama; those with political power were having to play catch-up and react to his agenda. This means that there is real tension in the narrative - even though we all know what's going to happen.
Less good, I feel, is his diffidence about what he stands for. The triumphal entry was good with all the right references to Zechariah but Jesus doesn't seem to be certain why he's come. And, annoyingly, he twice told people that 'the Kingdom of God is inside you' (a minor saying from Luke's Gospel that would be better rendered 'the Kingdom of God is among you'). And the scene with his mother was slightly odd but I can't put my finger on why.
And the 'healing' of the lame and blind in the temple was insipid and didn't really tell us anything about Jesus other than he welcomed everyone. Far more effective in that regard was his encounter with the prostitute who decides to follow him. That scene was charged with real chemistry and charisma.
Overall I thought it was excellent start. I look forward top how the series unfolds over this week.