Midnight Mass Review
If you’re familiar with Mike Flanagan’s previous work, then you probably think you know what to expect from his newest show. After all, his earlier Haunting miniseries…es had two big things in common. They were both scary, yes, but they were also tear-jerkers. I’ve actually mentioned this before, in my review of Doctor Sleep, because that’s kind of Flanagan’s thing. But will the new show leave you just as emotionally devascared? Let’s review Midnight Mass and find out.
After Midnight: We’re Going to Let It All…You Know the Pun I’m Going For
As I’m kind of the de facto Senior Mike Flanagan Correspondent here, I’ve already told y’all that he was working on an adaptation of Stephen King’s Revival. I’ve also had to tell y’all that unfortunately, those plans fell through. However, despite Flanagan’s own reveal that Midnight Mass predates his Revival plans, you can’t help but see similarities. And not just because we see a Mass character reading Revival.
After all, both follow what happens when men of faith come to town. (Spoiler: It ain’t great.) In Midnight Mass, it’s a new priest, Father Paul Hill (Hamish Linklater). And the town is actually an island, Crockett Island, home to a population of about 130. The local religious leader had been a Monsignor Pruitt, but Father Hill comes to the congregation with bad news. After his recent pilgrimage to the holy land, Pruitt became ill. He’s now convalescing on the mainland. While he recovers, Hill will lead Pruitt’s flock.
Gilford and Siegel, image via Netflix
Whether or not he’s a good shepherd will be answered quickly, through a series of events that will force the little community into a reckoning. At the same time Hill comes to town, Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford) returns there. So does Erin Greene (Kate Siegel), once Riley’s high school sweetheart. They have different reasons for their return, but Flanagan isn’t too self-conscious to have them refer to each other as prodigal.
Take Heart! I Have Overcome the World
I say that, because religion and religious devotion are at the beating heart of all of this. The folks of Crockett Island are varying degrees of devoted. You have your regular church-goers, for example, like Riley’s parents, Annie (Kristin Lehman) and Ed (Henry Thomas). There’s also Mildred Gunning (Alex Essoe), as well as the Scarboroughs: Mayor Wade (Michael Trucco), his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint), and their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone).
Cymone and Linklater, image via Netflix
Then you have the folks who don’t attend church, like the newish Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi). They don’t attend because they’re Muslim, although Ali is tending toward Christian-curious when we meet him. And of course, there are people who just don’t care either way.
Then at the very opposite of the spectrum is a Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan), a person who cares entirely too much. Some people are just prime for radicalization, and fascism, for that matter. You can usually tell them by their marked adherence to rules. Is it any wonder, after all, that a classic German proverb is Ordnung muß sein (“there must be order”)? (I’m part-German; I can say that.)
Anyway, that’s Bev. You can tell she’s going to be trouble when she condescendingly checks Father Hill regarding his choice to wear a gold chasuble for an ordinary church service. There are also hints that she’s comfortable with violence if she believes it serves a purpose. And there’s no purpose greater to her than glorification in the name of the Lord.
Midnight Mass Review
First of all, if you’re looking for quick thrills, then this ain’t it. Midnight Mass is perhaps the slowest burn of a slow-burn writer-director. That sometimes works to the show’s detriment, as several scenes depend on characters talking at each other at length. Gore junkies may zone out before the blood begins to pool.
Further, these scenes play more like something from the stage than from a TV show, or even real life. There’s an artifice to them that reminds me of The Haunting of Bly Manor, how I kept wondering why the wedding guests would sit and listen to Carla Gugino’s character’s long story. Gugino is here, too, by the way, in an unseen cameo.
Kohli and Longstreet, image via Netflix
Because if there’s one thing Flanagan loves as much as sad terror, it’s reusing his dependable and growing stable of actors, who excel at bringing his work to life. There’s Thomas, Sloyan, Essoe, and Kohli, of course, along with Annabeth Gish and Robert Longstreet. And unsurprisingly, there’s Kate Siegel. If I were married to Siegel, then I’d try to write her a part in everything I made, too.
It’s Siegel as Erin who delivers the central thesis of this work. And this is where this story really departs from Revival. The latter ended with a revelation that was, as Flanagan himself described it, “bleak and mean.” Midnight Mass, on the other hand, does not.
There’s a lot of suffering and torrents of blood, but the series ultimately ends in a kind of hopeful melancholy. Things seem dark in America and in the world, but we have choices. We can choose to work for the light. We can hold on to hope, because there’s more coming. Death is not the end, and we can overcome the world.
Midnight Mass is now available on Netflix.
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featured image via Netflix
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at email@example.com.