Comic Book Curious

Midnight Mass: Religious Horror

October 14, 2021

“We are the cosmos dreaming of itself.” – Erin

I’m not going to lie. When I first put this show on and heard the praise and worship music, I immediately wondered what I had gotten myself into. This show is way more churchy than I thought it was going to be. Like, REALLY churchy. I guess I should’ve figured that out from the title, Midnight Mass. I thought midnight massacre, and I guess that isn’t far off, but Mass in the title refers to a Catholic Mass. Something holy and spiritual. But believe me when I tell you, you won't get that here.

The show starts with a traffic collision featuring one of the show's protagonists, Riley. He was driving under the influence and killed someone. Her death haunts him the whole show and sets the tone for his somber return to the island. The island of Crockett, where the show takes place, has a little over 100 residents. It’s the kind of island where gossip circulates and everyone knows everyone else’s business. Another protagonist, Erin, has also recently returned to the island, alone and pregnant. Her and Riley provide ample gossip for the townsfolk as well as a scapegoat for judgement.

Erin and Riley walk through the town of Midnight Mass

Credit: Netflix

After the show has eased you into the lives of the people living in this quiet town, you start to get into the drama. The people living in such an isolated place, with so few residents, know each other almost too well. From the single pregnant woman to the town drunk who shot the mayor's daughter in a hunting accident, their lives rub against one another making everyone uncomfortable.

Beverly, the town gossip and queen holier-than-thou, acts like she is so loving and understanding. But her brand of churchiness is off-putting and detrimental to a community. She creates drama and problems where there are none while at the same time acting as though she stands above and apart from the community. Her benevolence is skin deep and for show. The first episode might make you think that that is the only evil the show deals with, but you’d be wrong.

Beverly staring in judgement at something in the distance

Credit: Netflix

In fact, the whole first episode is tame. The evil is the evil of the self-righteous, the disputes of humankind between human neighbors. The supernatural creeps into the show slowly, just how the poison that is put into the community is spread slowly. Those things gain traction in the last couple of episodes. At first, with the addition of Father Paul, the town and by extension the audience see what is happening as miracles – the paraplegic can walk again, the aches and pains of the people disappear, those who wore glasses no longer need them. Miracles, right?

…Right…?

Do you want spoilers? I mean I don’t know how to write this without them, so here it goes:

*SPOILERS for Midnight Mass below*

Father Paul, who was replacing Monsignor Pruitt…IS MONSIGNOR PRUITT. While on holy pilgrimage he finds an…angel…who restores him to his “best” form, about 40 years younger than he was when he left. With the aid of the angel, Father Paul begins trying to bestow the miracles to those within his parish.

Father Paul in his purple cassock

Credit: Netflix

He doesn’t know quite what he is getting into when he starts. He finds out soon enough. The pros: immortality, youth, healing; the cons: drinking blood, immolating in the sunlight. Are they vampires or miracles? A little bit of both, maybe. What they end up being is blood hungry fiends who tear through a town in a night.

Bev, wanting desperately to believe in God and wanting to think that she was better than others and more beloved to the Lord, figures out early on that something is off. But because of her desires she covers up what has happened with Father Paul turning his idiosyncrasies into signs of his favor with God. She cherry picks lines from the bible to back up her wants. Due to her desire to decide who lives and dies, Bev literally digs her own grave when every piece of shelter on the island is burned to the ground and those who have faith (and angel blood) have nowhere to go to get out of the sun’s destructive rays.

The angel from Midnight Mass with his eyes glowing and wings unfurled

Credit: Netflix

The horror of Midnight Mass is its insidiousness. The monster isn’t really what is terrifying, although he does provide some jump scares. The real problem, the real evil, is how the townspeople treat each other. You shouldn’t judge others; you shouldn’t always think yourself better than them. You should, however, try and help others. Father Paul/Monsignor Pruitt realizes his error in the end, and in realizing the horror of what he has done, he does what he can to make things right. Many of the townspeople realize their errors and walk into the sunlight (metaphor for revealing?) and allow themselves to be consumed in flames.

The ending, and the last line, are really fitting. Those who are no longer themselves immolate in the sun. Two children who have made it out of town live. And with the last line of the show, the audience knows that the threat is over and that the “angel” is gone.

For more angels and demons, check out Kinsey's "Starter Guide: Supernatural".

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