Midnight Mass

midnight mass tv show

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Kristin Smith

TV Series Review

Riley Flynn wasn’t the sort of man that was supposed to grow up, give his life over to alcohol and then kill a teen girl in a drunk-driving accident. But he did. 

Now, four years later, he’s out of prison and back home on Crockett Island, a small fishing island 30 miles off the U.S coast. Back to a place with a population of 127 souls, a place he swore he’d never return. But life’s funny that way. Isn’t it? We say and do the very things we never thought we would. Like attempting to avoid Mass.

Riley used to be an altar boy, just like his younger brother is now, seemingly immersed in faith. But that was a long time ago and now he’s a declared atheist, something that isn’t sitting well with his devoutly religious parents. So, to appease his folks, he tags along for service. 

But when the Flynn family and the rest of the island arrive at St. Patrick’s, their beloved, elderly leader, Father Pruitt, is gone. In his place stands a young, kind and charismatic replacement named Father Paul. According to Father Paul, Father Pruitt fell ill while on pilgrimage and is now regaining his strength on the mainland. 

Not to worry. They’re all in good hands, they’re told. Besides, the island could use a new face. After three years of financial hardship, a horrific accident and a pervasive sense of hopelessness on the island, it might be nice for its residents to get a spiritual fresh start. Maybe even witness something out of the ordinary.

Yet, Riley’s not much interested in any of it. He doesn’t believe in God and he certainly doesn’t believe he has a purpose. But things suddenly start to shift after a miraculous healing. And as some begin to witness the impossible, others are overcome with a deep sense that this new priest is just as mysterious as the deaths, unseen violent creatures and pervasive darkness that has found its way ashore. 

Mass Anew

In time for Halloween, Netflix has released its latest original horror story from the same folks behind The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor: Midnight Mass. Like the name might suggest, this TV-MA series is both a mixture of drama and horror with a plethora of backstory, a dollop of religion and plenty of plotlines to intrigue viewers. 

While the series begins with Riley’s sentence and his return to Crockett Island, many other characters find their way to the front of the screen. Riley’s former girlfriend, Erin, known as the prodigal daughter, has also returned to the island, pregnant, to live in her childhood home filled with memories of an alcoholic mother and abuse. Dr. Sarah Gunning is the town’s only physician, taking care of her elderly, senile mother while trying to make sense of her own life. Warren Flynn, Riley’s younger brother, is known for causing trouble as he crushes on the sweet, innocent Leeza. Bev Keane is a devout, sinister sidekick to any religious leader and, finally, Father Paul as the mysterious, young new priest. 

In just the first episode, it’s clear that each of these characters is wrestling with the weight of past decisions, painful memories, difficult present predicaments and even personal demons. And these are the launching pad for this series. Religion, faith, Scripture and the miraculous are all seen and heard on screen, and at first the faith seems to be a positive. People are healed, minds are put to rest and hope is renewed. But at the very same time, a deep, evil presence begins to seep into the homes of every island resident. 

Don’t be surprised when Scripture is twisted. Don’t be surprised when violence, blood and mysterious deaths take place. And know that heavy language, sexual content and drug use are all here, too. Are they the focus? Yes and no. But it’s likely that many families won’t stick around to see this series to its end. 

Episode Reviews

Sept. 24, 2021: “Book I: Genesis”

Riley Flynn returns home to Crockett Island to the joy of his mother and the disdain of others; local teacher, Erin Greene, looks forward to her due date; a new priest arrives to the island and with him come mysterious happenings and omens. 

Father Paul (the priest) prays for his parish, offers communion and tells stories from scripture. A father and his son are Muslim and perform ritual, islamic prayers. Songs about the Trinity are heard in the background in multiple scenes. Riley learns his mother would say a rosary for him each day he was in prison. Riley tells Erin he read the Quran, the Bible and every other piece of literature about God but is now an atheist. 

Jesus’ name is abused once. The f-word is heard about 10 times and the s-word is used five times. “A–” is heard once. We hear multiple references to alcohol, alcoholics and the damaging effects of alcoholism. A teen refuses alcohol but smokes marijuana with friends.

Each night when Riley goes to bed he sees the dead, bloodied body of the young teen girl he killed while driving drunk. Teen boys joke about dead bodies washing ashore from a different island. In a terrifying flash forward, we see blood covering the walls of a church. Mutilated, dead cats lie scattered along the beach.  

A teen boy makes a joke about his brother having sex with an unattractive girl.

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Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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