Netflix’s Messiah finale, “The Wages of Sin,” has a lot to accomplish. After nine episodes of mystery, the streaming thriller should spend its final 40 minutes explaining whether the supposed prophet at its centre, Al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi), aka Payam Golshiri, is actually the messiah he claims to be. Payam has willingly left America behind and joined Israeli cop Aviram Dahan (Tomer Sisley) for a trip back to the Middle East. Aviram treats Payam as a prisoner who will be detained indefinitely in Israel. Payam, however, seems a little too calm for such horror to be the inevitable outcome.
At first glance, “Wages” ends by confirming Payam is the Second Coming. But when you really look at the evidence, the truth about Messiah's messiah is far more complicated.
The closing scene of the Messiah finale offers the best case for believing Payam is genuinely a prophet. At the midpoint of the episode, one of the engines on Avi and Payam’s plane to Israel explodes as if by divine intervention. When we check back in on the men, Avi is passed out on the ground amid the crash wreckage. A fly crawls around his mouth. When Avi wakes, Payam is standing above him, bathed in the light of the desert sun (it is suggested they landed in Algeria). As the camera takes in the scene, you realize Avi’s head is covered in blood, which has also soaked into his jacket. Many of the other men who had been on Avi’s flight are dead around him.
“You were dead,” a shepherd boy named Malik (Amine Zarak) — the only witness of the crash’s aftermath — tells a confused Avi. “[Payam] raised you … Your skin was gray. You had flies crawling in your mouth. And then he touched you and you came back.”
If Payam really did raise raise Avi from the dead as Malik claims, he is a prophet at minimum. The other supposedly dead man whom Payam saves immediately believes in Payam’s connection to God. Messiah closes out its season by showing us the other man rising, kneeling to Payam, and kissing his hand in adoration. Then the camera zooms in on Payam’s face for its last shot. He stares into the distance with a look of determination. Some may believe this is the official beginning of Payam’s life as an indisputable messiah.
Yet the last few episodes of Messiah season 1 poke multiple holes in the validity of Payam’s claim to holy greatness. “Wages” itself is a big part of that dubiousness. We meet Malik earlier in the episode as his duties as a child sheep herder make him late for school. When Malik gets to class he claims he had to fight off a lion. His classmates laugh and explain the boy is known for telling tall tales; he supposedly saw a spaceship the week prior.
It is possible the story of Payam raising Avi from the dead is a similar exaggeration After all, we don’t see Avi as “gray” as Malik said, or Payam’s approach towards Avi’s body. Instead, Messiah only shows us a fly buzzing around Avi and then the cop waking up. Although flies are known to swarm corpses, they also land on living things. The fact that Avi survived a plane crash seems impossible, but it is wholly unclear if Payam himself is the cause for such a miracle.
Then there are the many suspicion-raising details Messiah gives viewers about Payam’s backstory. In ninth episode “God is Greater,” CIA agent Eva Geller (Michelle Monaghan) unearths Payam’s medical records. A psychological evaluation reveals that Payam was hospitalized in a mental health facility for seven months in 2006. During Payam's stay, he was diagnosed with delusional disorder and a Messiah Complex. The documents add that Payam is “very intelligent” and able to articulately defend his delusions. These are qualities that would make him more convincing.
Oscar Wallace (Christopher Heyerdahl), a terrorist and former academic who defected to Russia, confirms the pull of Payam later in the episode. Eva calls Oscar believing he is the one pulling Payam's strings (Payam was a student at Oscar’s university and quoted him during an interrogation). Oscar counters that Payam is the dangerous one in charge. The words in Oscar’s controversial book belong to Payam. That means Payam quoted himself at the top of Messiah. It is possible Oscar’s decision to hack Wall Street in 2009, which happened a few years after he met Payam, was also ordered by the so-called messiah. Considering Oscar's ties to terrorism, he could have easily had someone blow the engine on Payam's plane to Israel.
The Golshiri family history could certainly explain why Payam would put in so much elaborate work against American interests. Towards the end of “It Came to Pass as It Was Spoken,” Payam’s brother Adar Golshiri (Naby Dakhli) reveals that Payam is an Iranian national who was born in Iraq. Payam’s parents died as they fled the American “liberation” of Iraq. Payam and Adar were then raised by their abusive uncle Yusuf, a career scammer and magician who taught his nephews all of his tricks. All together, Payam is a victim of the American military with a lifelong Messiah Complex and decades of illusion training.
So Payam Golshiri may be the messiah. But before you go pledging your allegiance, remember it is just as likely he is the greatest trickster of all time — season-ending “resurrections” or not.