I will keep this review as spoiler free as possible because it is best to go into this show with as little knowledge as possible. Midnight Mass starts off with our main character, Riley (Zach Gilford), returning to his home after some time in prison. His family lives on a remote island town that has been hit by hard times as of late. Oil spills have tainted their fishing industry, prompting a bulk of the town to leave for better jobs. The town was in the hundreds; now it barely sits at over 100 people.
Riley starts acclimating back into his old life now living at home again. He runs into old flames, deals with his family drama, and wrestles with going back to church. The rest of the town is made up of a colorful characters. You have Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Hohli), Erin Greene (Kate Siegel), Dr. Gunning (Annabeth Gish); there is an impressive cast here. The seemingly innocuous town gets turned on it's head when a new priest shows up, filling in for their old monsignor who has fallen ill. Following his arrival weird and miraculous events start happening all over the island.
The standouts in this huge cast is the aforementioned Father Paul, played brilliantly by Hamish Linklater (giving possibly the best performance of the year), and the cold and devoted nun of the island Bev Keane, played by Samantha Sloyan. The two of them steal just about every scene they are in. The true testament of their performances can be seen in their lengthy monologues. These characters in particular can start going on for what can seem like 10 minutes of an uninterrupted monologue, but they never feel boring.
This kind of heavy dialogue writing is seen throughout the entire show, not just with the men and women of the church. Many scenes are just two characters talking for minutes on end and miraculously it never becomes a slog. The show has a very sermon-like feel throughout the 7 episodes. A lot of these conversation seem grandiose or weighty for sure, but that is the point; the show is almost one big homily. Think heavy use of dialogue will undoubtedly be a struggle for some to get through, but Flannigan keeps these conversations exciting by pitting characters with different beliefs against one another,
This is where one of Midnight Mass's greatest strengths come in. The show sidesteps one of the biggest problems with talking about religion: it doesn't demonize anyone. The entire cast has varying degrees of faith and religious devotion and all of their motivations are given equal time under the sun. The show both praises religion as well as condemning it and it's that balance that makes the show so engaging. No over zealous preacher trying to condemn everyone for their sins and no brash and cartoonish atheist trying to attack only religious people. Everyone feels like a real character and very few are fully good or bad.
It isn't just these kind of insightful conversations, however; Midnight Mass supplies its fair share of mystery and creepiness. I won't spoil any of it here, but the circumstances around the new Father's arrival and what his goals for the town are is nothing short of riveting. The show eases on the gas at first, but once it gets going it doesn't let up. It is definitely a slow burn, Flannigan does an expert job of peppering in enough creepy imagery to keep the audience hooked. When the training wheels come of, man is it something special. Those looking for an outright horror show may be a little disappointed, however; as Midnight Mass more so plays like a drama more than anything.
There really isn't much to complain about with this show; I was hooked from the opening scene to the closing credits. Midnight Mass is truly a masterpiece and, just like Flannigan's earlier Netflix shows, will be considered a horror classic for years to come.
- Emotionally resonant
- Acting is stellar across the board
- Doesn't belittle the beliefs of any of the characters
- Can be overly verbose for some