Netflix’s Midnight Mass
“Book II: Psalms”
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Written by Mike Flanagan, James Flanagan, & Elan Gale
* For a recap & review of “Book I: Genesis,” click here.
* For a recap & review of “Book III: Proverbs,” click here.
Dead cats from the Uppards line the shore of Crockett Island. Sheriff Hassan’s trying to have a look while the mayor rambles on about birds falling out of the sky years back, and dolphins turning up dead once. No signs of oil on any of the cats, so it probably didn’t have to do with the big spill a while back. The sheriff sees the necks of the cats are broken, torn up; whatever happened to them happened while they were alive. The mayor takes this time to try inviting Sheriff Hassan to mass some Sunday, not to convert but to show solidarity with the community. Funny, he’s not talking about any of them taking a day trip to go to mosque on a Friday! Riley is trying to convince himself he probably didn’t see Monsignor Pruitt on the beach last night, even if he definitely did see someone, or some… thing.
We see Riley on the mainland attending an AA meeting, its own church, perfectly paralleled with a sobriety coin held up like the sacrament at Communion, which we see as Father Paul conducts a service for the few parishioners present during the day. After church, Father Paul talks with Leeza (Annarah Cymone), avoiding questions about where he was before, talking cryptically about “where we‘re going” being more important than where we’ve been. They come across Joe briefly but he turns away back down the road. Something strange between Joe and Leeza? Is there history?
At school, Erin has a weird conversation about a bottle of Windex with Bev. We’re getting a sense of her relationship with her dead mother; obviously not a great one. Bev’s also concerned about “some kind of predator” after the cats washing up. What a creepy lady.
Across town, Father Paul goes to see Mildred and help her celebrate mass, since the old woman can’t really attend church these days. He’s brought all the gear. He takes everything out and prepares, kneeling next to Mildred to cover her up and keep her warm before he begins, as Dr. Sarah does some work in the office.
The obvious history between Erin and Riley continues to come out. They were once together, in their younger days. All part of the many memories Riley holds of Crockett Island. Surely they’re not all good, though. Back home, he’s in that old room of his, kind of like being in a prison cell all over again; the camerawork takes us back to Riley’s prison cell visually, as it did in Episode 1, tilting to the side until he sees the dead girl again, and he dreams of himself alone in a boat on the water again, too.
Father Paul has lots of folks in church for Ash Wednesday. He wonders why there aren’t more people in church every Sunday. He talks more about “a smudge of death, of ash, of sin for repentance” and the importance of things rising again, of rebirth. Quite the rousing religious and socially-minded speech that most in the congregation find very compelling. Father Paul has much faith in Crockett Island and its future. He urges the people of the town to continue having faith in themselves. Then they go on with Ash Wednesday, finishing off the service with a blessing.
Later everyone’s gathered together, enjoying games and food and locally grown vegetables and more at the Crock Pot Luck. Bev explains it all to Sheriff Hassan while they pick up some grub to eat. A nice little surprise shows Dr. Gunning with her significant other, relating how Monsignor Pruitt used to stare at her as if he somehow knew she was lesbian innately. At the same time, Father Paul sits with Riley, chatting about the pot luck and briefly about Pruitt. Riley mentions seeing the Monsignor on the beach before the storm, but the priest says Pruitt’s definitely on the mainland and he’s “not going anywhere anytime soon.” Father Paul offers to start an AA chapter on the island so Riley doesn’t have to go to the mainland. This is when we also find out Joe’s drunkenness was the cause of Leeza’s paralysis. Lots of dark things sitting beneath the surface of Crockett Island! In the middle of the pot luck Joe’s dog Pike gets violently sick, coughing up blood before dying in the grass. Did someone poison the dog? Probably Bev, and Erin certainly suspects it right away, too.
At the school, Sheriff Hassan corners Bev in the supply closet. They confirmed the dog was poisoned. The sheriff heard her talking about the stuff she was using for the rats. Bev acts like it could’ve been an accident, that she’d be terribly sorry if that’s what happened. A lot of bullshit, and the sheriff’s definitely smelling it. Bev has an answer for everything during their conversation. Very convenient. A bit later Sheriff Hassan goes to chat with Joe at the man’s trailer. Joe knows it was Bev, he’s known her since they were young. And the sheriff knows Joe isn’t wrong about her, too.
Father Paul and Riley begin their new AA chapter with only the two of them. Somewhat awkward, but a start! They actually start by talking about Bev and her convincing Monsignor Pruitt to take money from an oil company, which funded the recreation centre where they’re now sitting. It reveals Riley’s feelings about organised religion. Yet it’s just the tip of a massive, dark iceberg in his past. The two men talk further about Riley’s recovery and his inner saboteur when he was busy drinking. Essentially what Riley starts to rage against is “that suffering can be a gift from God,” a truly “monstrous idea” that allows so much bad to happen.
A little personal note here: I appreciate that Flanagan and Co. have incorporated alcoholism in the way they have, especially with Riley bringing up Rational Recovery, as opposed to the whole Higher Power thing Alcoholics Anonymous has going on; I was never into AA because of the Higher Power focus, so I did my recover my own way because we all have our own ways that work best for us, and I think it’s important to show this stuff through fiction the way Midnight Mass is doing.
At night, Erin sees something unidentifiable outside. She looks closer but it’s gone. She can’t stop looking, even when she goes to the bathroom. She’s sure something is out there. Then she notices she’s bleeding a bit, so she rushes to see Dr. Gunning. The doc says it’s only spotting, nothing serious, and she doesn’t care to be bothered at any time to give the pregnant mother-to-be help. Before Sarah gets back to bed her mother wakes up screaming, saying she thought she saw her husband, who’s been dead a long time. Yet the old woman recognised a face.
We see drug dealing fisherman Bowl approach an old, dark house. He hears something, so he calls out. And a voice repeats his words, sounding just like him. Bowl talks again and the identical voice speaks back. He thinks it’s probably Ooker or one of the young dudes messing around. Except he’s very wrong. Some dark figure attacks him, and that looks like it’s all she wrote for ole Bowl.
Back in church, Father Paul’s focused on Leeza. He offers her the “Body of Christ” during Communion, but stands back at the altar, urging her to get up and walk to him. Everyone’s stunned, seeing it as a cruel joke. Then Leeza surprises everybody, including herself, stepping out of her wheelchair. She walks slowly towards Father Paul and accepts the sacrament.
Whoa! Sold on Midnight Mass now. Officially, fully intrigued.