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'A.D. The Bible Continues' does not disappoint
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Juan Pablo di Pace, standing, plays Jesus and Jhannes Haukur Jhannesson is Thomas in "A.D. The Bible Continues." - photo by Jeff Peterson
With 2013s The Bible, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett proved there was an audience for Christian programming. Just in time for Easter Sunday, A.D. The Bible Continues picks up where that series left off.

The cast is entirely different and its on a different network, but if the first two episodes are any indication, A.D. will not disappoint. The 12-part miniseries is an ambitious, epic-scale dramatization of the events following Christs death. And it does a lot of things right.

First of all, "A.D." works fine as just a straight adaptation of the New Testament account, although it might feel a tad redundant at the beginning. The first episode starts in media res as Jesus (Juan Pablo Di Pace, this time around) is sentenced to crucifixion. What plays out is a truncated version of the events audiences have seen dramatized countless times now in The Passion of the Christ, Nat Geos recent Killing Jesus and, of course, Downey and Burnetts The Bible and Son of God.

But unlike those productions, it doesnt cut to the credits after the third day. Instead, we stay with the major characters and watch the aftermath of Christs Resurrection among several groups Pontius Pilate and his wife, Claudia; the members of the Sanhedrin; and Jesus disciples.

Where A.D. really stands out, though, is in the way it fills in the gaps of the biblical account, adding depth to things hinted at in the source material and extrapolating based on historical details.

What begins to take shape is a picture of a city on the verge of chaos with various ideological factions, including the anti-Roman Zealots a group of knife-wielding assassins fighting for a free Jewish state threatening the stability of Roman rule while the Jewish leaders watch with concern as Isaiahs prophecies are seemingly fulfilled one after another.

This kind of emphasis on the periods political and cultural backdrop was also one of the main selling points of Killing Jesus. A.D., however, benefits from the fact that, as a series, it has a lot more room to grow and, therefore, a lot more space to develop its characters.

In particular, Caiaphas and Pilate Richard Coyle (Crossbones) and Vincent Regan (Snow White and the Huntsman), respectively are fleshed out as men trying to minimize the fallout after Jesus crucifixion and the disappearance of his body from the tomb. Their actions are not always sympathetic, but it is interesting to watch how the circumstances change them.

While it takes a realistic, history-based approach to many events, A.D. is definitely not afraid to embrace the miraculous/supernatural, and to good effect. There is something undeniably thrilling about seeing the heavens opened to reveal a host of angels with Hollywood-caliber CGI.

This unapologetic approach to the religious subject matter might put off a non-Christian audience. But for fans of The Bible, A.D. will be a satisfying continuation of the former series that doesnt compromise its spiritual themes.

Perhaps the best compliment that can be paid to A.D., though, is that it does not feel like an overly reverent, by-the-numbers adaptation of the Bible so much as a high-quality dramatic series that happens to be about biblical events. It helps that the subject matter Christs crucifixion, its aftermath and the early history of the church is particularly rife with dramatic potential. The high production values and talented cast just make it all the more watchable.

"A.D. The Bible Continues" is rated TV-14 and features blood and violence. Some elements, including the crucifixion scene in the first episode and some murders/executions in the second episode, may be too intense for children.