TV Review: Midnight Mass!
Netflix decided to get into the Spooky Season early this year with Midnight Mass, the latest from Haunting of Hill House and Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan. Unlike those previous works though, Midnight Mass is a fully original creation from Flanagan, and even then, it still feels like a lost work by the master himself, Stephen King. But even with that, Midnight Mass stands as a truly original and deeply personal work from the director, and is one of the best pieces of media I’ve consumed this year.
Set on the small remote island of Crockett Island off the Pacific Northwest, Midnight Mass follows the residents of the small town as they deal with the arrival of new Priest (Hamish Linklater), as well as the arrival of Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), fresh from a stint in prison. Strange goings on happen as the two arrive, and it may be linked to this new, enigmatic priest. But is it the work of God, or something much darker?
To say anything more would ruin the reveals of the seven part series, but make no mistake, Midnight Mass delivers the goods. Writer/director Mike Flanagan leaves almost everything out on the table, covering themes of faith, redemption, organized religion, and sobriety throuhout the series, and while at times it can seem like a “kitchen sink” approach, it still remains the focus needed to keep you engaged, especially once you get to the main supernatural reveal, which was very much within my realm of interest when it comes to the horror genre.
In addition to the excellent script and directing, Flanagan’s cast is stacked wth stellar performers. There’s not a weak link in the cast, combining mainstays from previous Flanagan projects like Haunting of Bly Manor with new cast members like Friday Night Lights’ Zach Gilford. Gilford is a great lead character in this, effectively depicting the struggles of someone who is coming to grips with his faith and his sobriety, as well as the regrets that he holds for his past misdeeds. Hamish Linklater, as the young priest, absolutely commands the screen when he’s at the pulpit, but is also extremely affable in the less bombastic scenes where he’s interacting with his parishoners one on one.
To be honest though, the main standouts for me were Kate Siegel and Rahul Kohli as Erin Greene and Sheriff Hassan, respectively. Seigel is a veteran of Flanagan’s work (she is married to him, after all), and does a fantastic job as a the woman who got away from the island but eventually returned for her own reasons. Kohli delivers a career-best performance as the town sheriff who also happens to be a practicing Muslim, which naturally puts him at odds with the rest of Catholic-leaning town.
It’s extremely hard to go into the reasons why Midnight Mass resonanted with me so much without diving into major spoilers, but I will say that as someone with a very complicated relationship with the idea of religion (specifically organized religion), Flanagan’s latest project worked extremely well for me. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something, move or TV, that conveyed my thoughts on the ideas of Faith, Redemption, and Religion as accurately as Midnight Mass did. While it does venture into monologue territory at times with the dialogue, the entire show is so well done that I can easily overlook it. Midnight Mass stands for me as the best show I’ve seen this year. Hell, I’d argue it’s the best piece of media I’ve seen this year. My only complaint is that I can’t watch it again for the first time.