Netflix’s Midnight Mass
“Book V: Gospels”
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Written by Mike & James Flanagan
* For a recap & review of “Book IV: Lamentations,” click here.
* For a recap & review of “Book VI: Act of the Apostles,” click here.
Annie and Ed are left wondering where Riley’s been all night. They assume he’s shacked up with Ms. Greene. But Erin never saw Riley the night prior when he said he’d come over. At home, Dr. Gunning’s surprised to see her mother looking better; younger and more energetic. At the station, Sheriff Hassan’s dealing with Joanie, worried her son Bowl’s missing.
Meanwhile the town finds out Mass will be held at night. A bunch of people also see Mildred with Dr. Gunning, shocked to see her looking younger and doing well. Everyone on Crockett Island’s starting to think that miracles are, indeed, quite real. The faith keeps growing stronger. Yet the mysteries continue to grow, as well. Erin goes everywhere looking for Riley, eventually ending up at the docks, asking Warren, who’s starting to get concerned about his brother. Ed’s just worried his oldest son is fucking up.
Sheriff Hassan can’t find Joe anywhere, either. Then he gets a visit from Erin, worried about Riley and wanting to “report a missing person.” They do the usual as the sheriff asks a few pertinent questions, like what Erin and Riley talked about together, so on. He tries to get any kind of clue about where Riley might’ve ended up. Erin mentions their conversation about death, which is why she’s so worried in the first place. She thinks Riley was the one who brought it all up, that it could indicate he was suicidal.
At evening Mass, Father Paul’s ready for a “special night.” Everything gets rolling with a near full house in attendance. The priest talks of passion and its incontrollable nature. He then speaks about suffering and gospels. He further speaks about how “God has no country,” essentially speaking against American exceptionalism and U.S. military force, too. He goes on to semi reference Full Metal Jacket, talking about “casualties” in the war as God’s soldiers. He’s actually talking from his new perspective as a vampire-angel-demon thing with a shifting moral compass. A big sermon, basically, on moral relativism. “Welcome to God‘s army,” says the priest. After Mass, Mildred’s horrified and tells her daughter that this is not the church, or the man, she once knew. She knows Monsignor Pruitt’s changed fundamentally, yet Dr. Gunning doesn’t even know Pruitt is Father Paul.
At home in the middle of the night, Erin gets a knock on the door. She finds Riley there, talking about their past and asking her to go for a midnight ride out in canoe. They row out a ways before Riley stops and the two of them sit underneath the stars together, like his dream. And then he has a story to tell her. We go back to the night before, when Riley was lying on the floor with bloody holes in his neck at the rec centre. Father Paul realigned his broken neck, then told him a story, too. He had a sister named Alice who died of Polio, it’s what brought her into the fold as a Man of God. He then said there’s no more death for them. Riley was pieced back together again, though frightened by everything that happened.
Father Paul wanted to start their AA meeting all over. Riley then figured out he couldn’t go out in the sunlight, getting burned a bit before rushing back inside with the priest. Father Paul told a story about a mouse that was a story only Riley would know, because it was an event that occurred between the boy and Monsignor Pruitt. It, of course, shocked Riley. After that they confronted the truth about Joe, as well. That really didn’t sit well with Riley, no matter how much the priest rambled about God. They were soon interrupted by Bev, who was nonchalant about the bloodstain on the floor. The priest took the time to use Bev as a temptation to illustrate to Riley the effects of their new condition. Afterwards he explained his own resurrection not long ago.
The whole angel-vampire thing, and Father Paul/Pruitt’s (I’ll just keep calling him Father Paul) reconciliation of his need to murder, is an interesting metaphor for addiction, personally speaking as a recovering addict/alcoholic of over 10 years; this idea that we find ways to make ourselves feel better about how we hurt people because of our addiction, it’s very real, very honest. Also dig how Mike Flanagan has portrayed the angels as demonic, vampiric-type creatures, because, as Father Paul said, it’s how they’re portrayed subtly in the Bible, when angels tell people not to be afraid (etc). Great way for Bev and Father Paul to keep convincing themselves all this horror’s actually part of God’s plans, as well. “They told us from the start that it wouldn‘t be pretty,” Bev said re: the Second Coming. What an absolute nutter. The entire relation of angelic vampirism to Christianity, here Catholicism specifically, is a wonderful literary parallel courtesy of Flanagan & Co. Love it! Midnight Mass has really touched on my own Catholic upbringing and how I rejected Catholicism, though how it lingers with me regardless, which I’m sure many viewers are experiencing.
And so Riley went off after the rec centre, watching the world with new eyes in the dark of the evening while his angelic vampire priest friend went to perform Mass for the Crockett Island congregation. We know Riley went on, out to the water with Erin. But what about the hunger in his gut? Did he satisfy it?
Out on the water, Riley finishes telling the whole story to Erin. She’s wondering if she might be in trouble. But she doesn’t want to believe it, and refuses to be scared by a man anymore. What exactly is Riley intending to do? He wants Erin to run away from Crockett Island, and he’s prepared to do whatever’s necessary to make her do that. He says he loves her. Then the sun begins to rise. Riley sees the girl he killed, taking her hand, as Erin watches him burn to pieces in front of her.
Is he gone for good? Or can he still, somehow, resurrect?