Ben’s Breakdown | “Midnight Mass” – Three Episode Thoughts

A highly successful businessman, having consumed more alcohol than he should, accidentally kills a girl while driving. He’s paroled after serving his jail sentence and returns home to Crockett, a small fishing island community. A doctor is taking care of her mother who suffers from dementia. A young girl has become a paraplegic after being accidentally shot in the back by another island resident, who has now become the town villain. A charismatic priest has moved into this same community temporarily replacing their ailing Monsignor for their parish. All of these seemingly unconnected threads make up the Netflix series Midnight Mass.

Book III: Proverbs (2021)
Hamish Linklater in Midnight Mass (2021)
Photo by COURTESY OF NETFLIX/COURTESY OF NETFLIX – © 2021 Netflix, Inc.

This seven-episode series starts slowly but instead strives to create an almost depressing atmosphere. This is a town and community that has given up hope. The formerly successful businessman, whom some had pegged to be the most likely to succeed, has had to return to the island with his tail tucked between his legs. He is in disgrace and has been forced to move back home to live with his parents and younger brother. It isn’t until he starts to have strange dreams of the young girl he killed that the viewer begins to realize that things aren’t normal here. However, once the young priest arrives things become quite different in this tiny town. A seemingly divine miracle takes place that changes the lives of everyone living there. Ailments are cured and the villain of Crockett is finding forgiveness and redemption as he chooses the path of sobriety. Then there are the mysteries that are starting to plague the island. Cats are dying all over the island and no one seems to know as to why. The only connection is the new priest Father Paul, but he has quickly become beloved by the parish for his warm personality and genuine kindness.

For having watched only three episodes so far this series does pick up speed rather quickly. The first episode was all about creating a depressing and hopeless mood that changes once the priest arrives. However, the mysteries that are presented early on seem quite compelling given that they don’t appear to have any connection whatsoever, especially that of what failed businessman Riley Flynn is experiencing. His torment began while in a big city and that is what he brought with him as he tries to create a new life. Despite the power of the miracles that seem to be happening, Riley is the town’s “Doubting Thomas.” He cannot believe in a deity that spares some people, but not others. This only compounds his emotional dilemma as he goes through the mandatory AA program as part of his parole. Then there is the town’s Sherriff Hassan, a Muslim who is a widower and father, and recently arrived in the town. His problem is trying to work with this community that is largely Catholic, which is made even more difficult by the parish’s assistant Beverly Keane (similar to the role of the Verger in the Anglican Church) to Father Paul. She is horribly self-righteous at times and continually reminds people, especially Sherriff Hassan, that her way is the best. Everything feels disconnected until the mysteries begin to pile up, and the only connection seems to be Father Paul, despite his genuine warmth and caring nature for all the people of this community. It isn’t until the third episode that the truth comes out that we begin to realize where the evil may truly lie.

Zach Gilford in Midnight Mass (2021)
Photo by COURTESY OF NETFLIX/COURTESY OF NETFLIX – © 2021 Netflix, Inc.

The cast for this series is beautifully balanced and strong, starting with Zach Gilford as Riley Flynn. He carries the tortured soul so well as he tries to rebuild some semblance of a life. His only friend is to be a woman named Erin Siegel a single soon to be mother played warmly by Kate Siegel. The few scenes they have had together are charming to watch as their characters provide a form of emotional healing that they can’t find anywhere else.

Book II: Psalms (2021)
Henry Thomas and Kristin Lehman in Midnight Mass (2021)
Photo by EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX/EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX – © 2021 Netflix, Inc.

One of the big surprises is the inclusion of Henry Thomas as Ed Flynn, Riley’s father. He was completely unrecognizable in the role through the wonderful makeup he was under, but the way he blends in with the rest of the cast is amazing. There is Samantha Sloyan as the parish assistant Bev Keane, who plays her role with a smugness that makes her immediately disliked by all who find themselves in her presence. She never overplays the part, continually striking the perfect chord that makes her both unlikable and believable.

Samantha Sloyan in Midnight Mass (2021)
Photo by EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX/EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX – © 2021 Netflix, Inc.

 Lastly, the amazing part of Father Paul is played perfectly by Hamish Linklater. As wonderful as this entire cast is, the series so far would either succeed or fail on his performance as the mysterious priest.

Midnight Mass is created by Mike Flanagan, who has already given us amazing horror stories with The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor for Netflix, and it has been a delight to watch with its amazing writing. There are many ideas presented here that were met with enthusiastic approval from me. The approach to AA was very strong and gentle at the same time. I also liked the philosophical conversations about God, religion, and what happens to us when we die. Numerous points of view were expressed, but none were given at the expense of any other. I also loved the use of music as part of each episode’s storytelling technique. Through the combined use of familiar hymns and pop songs, the narrative was allowed to be established in very powerful ways that would have otherwise required extensive exposition. My only qualm has been the pacing in terms of series ideas being revealed. For a show that has only 7 episodes, I was surprised when a huge reveal took place towards the end of the third episode. Something of this nature would normally happen anywhere from the latter two to three episodes of the series. To have it just as it approaches the halfway mark was an unusual move by the showrunners of this otherwise brilliant series. Only time will tell if this was a good move or not.

Midnight Mass has been out on Netflix for some time so I am admittedly a bit late to the game as far as watching it, but what I have seen so far has been highly engaging and has done a wonderful job at keeping me emotionally invested with the show. I can only hope that the remaining episodes of the series will hold up to the same level of storytelling quality that the first three episodes have delivered.

Official Website: Midnight Mass | Netflix Official Site
Twitter: @midnightmass
Instagram: @midnightmassnetflix

 

Midnight Mass

Genre: Drama/Fantasy/Horror

The tale of a small, isolated island community whose existing divisions are amplified by the return of a disgraced young man and the arrival of a charismatic priest. When Father Paul’s appearance on Crockett Island coincides with unexplained and seemingly miraculous events, a renewed religious fervor takes hold of the community – but do these miracles come at a price?
Created by Mike Flanagan (THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR) and starring Kate Siegel (HUSH, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE), Zach Gilford (THE PURGE: ANARCHY), Samantha Sloyan (THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, GREY’S ANATOMY), Rahul Kohli (THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR), and Hamish Linklater (TELL ME YOUR SECRETS, LEGION), MIDNIGHT MASS premiered September 24, 2021, on Netflix.

ONE-LINER: An isolated island community experiences miraculous events – and frightening omens – after the arrival of a charismatic, mysterious young priest.


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