Christianity and moral obligation take center stage in the new Netflix series Midnight Mass.
The story centers on the desolate and remote Crockett Island. Population: 129. Actual signs of life? Wait.
The main Crockett Island social circles, composed mostly of fishermen and their families, revolve around the local church, which is ailing with very little participation.
Even the sheriff’s station is behind the general store. The only semi-indignation in town? That the new sheriff (Rahul Kohli) is a Muslim – although he usually stays to himself.
It is hardly the place to try and rebuild your life. But sadly, Riley Finn (Zach Gilford) ends up right there when he returns to his parents’ house after a tragedy.
At the same time the congregation welcomes a new priest in Father Paul (Hamish Linklater). He was imprisoned after the previous, ailing old monsignor fell ill on a trip.
Endeavoring to revive the island, Father Paul turns to the skeptical Riley, whose past behavior and trauma lead him to question his past beliefs. But soon the couple finds themselves at the center of a series of miracles. Miracles that happen with no apparent explanation. And with that, the city comes alive with a religious revival.
This raises numerous questions about the teachings of the Bible and their meanings. At Father Paul’s side is Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan), a woman so certain that she is right, even if her moral compass is far from pointing north. It’s annoying, but it has power over residents and it’s a terrifying concept.
Total power totally corrupts. This is no longer present in the oh-so-easy-to-hate Bev, who is seemingly withdrawn, holding most of the cards on the show.
It’s also incredibly isolating. With the tiny island, everyone has their own burdens or struggles that they can deal with on their own. Aside from Riley and Father Paul, for the local teacher it is her pregnancy. Only she can take care of the doctor, her sick mother. And in the sheriff’s case, it’s his own relationship with his religion when his son begins to question his beliefs while being carried away by a revived Catholicism.
As the series progresses, frustration gives way to pure horror and terror. The truths come to light, and in episode four, she takes you to a place you don’t see coming. It paves the way for a showdown that you really don’t know where it’s going to end.
It also raises questions about the Bible and its teachings in a non-preaching or judgmental way. How about the word would you allow yourself to leave? How easy is it to buy into a cult life? How do you tell the difference between good and bad?
The subject of religion is always a sensitive one, and in this case with kid gloves. Is it cynical in the context of Christianity? Yes sir. But it is also more sympathetic to those who turn to God for peace of mind and be a good person.
Mike Flanagan – who previously created Haunting Of Hill House and Bly Manor – calls this his favorite project so far. You can say. His attention to detail with the moral subtleties of each character makes it a lot easier to invest in what he sells. And you buy hooks, line, and plumb bob.
Some writers only dream of creating breakthrough television, especially when it comes to the horror genre. Flanagan has done it three times and is getting stronger and stronger.
Is it worth the watch?
In short: hell yes. Midnight Mass deserves to be the next big Netflix smash hit, and we have a feeling it will be.
It’s partly a religious piece of mind, partly pure horror at its best. It’s also a rare case that the hour-long episode run time sometimes feels a little too long, but ultimately pays off in a sensational way.
Mike Flanagan’s ability to convey understandable motivation to every single inhabitant of this tiny island remains unsurpassed in the limited series format.
Hamish Linklater’s father Paul is the show’s standout star, with his confrontation with his own beliefs and his composure when things fall from the deep end.
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Similarly, as the evangelist Bev, Samantha Sloyan is so angry in her self-righteousness that she makes you love you in spite of her.
Midnight Mass is a slow burner but utterly addicting. The last three episodes in particular will knock your socks off.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Midnight Mass launches on Netflix on September 24th.
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