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Netflix’s Midnight Mass: Season 1 Review

This is an advanced spoiler-free review of Midnight Mass. The miniseries will make its global debut on Netflix on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.

Acclaimed Doctor Sleep and Haunting of Hill House writer/director Mike Flanagan takes a break from adapting popular horror novels to create his own terrifying work of art in Netflix’s seven-part limited series, Midnight Mass. Released from the creative shackles of adapting other people’s stories, Flanagan has crafted his most profound, personal, and haunting work yet. With some episodes running more than 65 minutes, there are times when Midnight Mass can feel a bit long in the tooth; however, Flanagan justifies his creative indulgence with a wonderfully bonkers final three episodes that left me breathless.

Set in the isolated community of Crockett Island, Midnight Mass immediately gives off a sinister vibe as the decaying town appears to be slowly rotting away from the inside. Here, we meet the colorful inhabitants. Flanagan is a master at developing memorable characters, and that remains true in Midnight Mass.

Our protagonist is Riley Flynn (portrayed by Good Girls’ Zach Gilford), who returns to his childhood home on Crockett Island after a long absence due to a tragic accident. Gilford gives a reserved but powerful performance as his character wrestles with constant self-doubt and a fear of letting people in… even his own family. When his father (Haunting of Hill House alum Henry Thomas) convinces Riley to go to church, we’re introduced to the town’s new priest, Father Paul (Hamish Linklater).

Riley and Father Paul form a dynamic relationship as the clergyman begins to help Crockett Island’s wayward son cope with his past traumas during their weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Their one-on-one interactions are thought-provoking, as Riley challenges Father Paul to explain some of the most prevailing theological questions, like why does God let bad things happen to good people? These are some of the show’s most poignant character-building moments, but it’s also where the story can dawdle at times. While the subject matter and performances throughout these religion-centric conversations are captivating, it feels like Flanagan is trying to hammer his point across after the nail has already been set in place.

Hamish Linklater is fantastic as Father Paul.


With that being said, Linklater (Legion, Fargo) is fantastic as Father Paul, showcasing the actor’s impressive range throughout by imbuing his character with plenty of charisma, empathy, and even some creepiness when the need arises. After miraculous events that defy explanation begin to unfold at the church under Father Paul’s tutelage, a religious revival envelops the community, causing a rift between the believers and skeptics.

Flanagan smartly plays with various forms of horror in Midnight Mass, from the supernatural to those born of human nature: zealotry, corruption, and jealously. While the supernatural terrors and jump scares aren’t as prevalent as they are in The Haunting of Hill House, there’s still plenty to be creeped out by during your binge.

Flanagan continues to prove that he’s not only a gifted writer, but also a capable director. His use of long tracking shots during conversations creates a sense of scale and realism, as his characters wander across Crockett Island’s rotting landscape. The music also adds to the eeriness of it all, with everything from somber folk songs to instrumental hymns being played in the background. There’s one particular piece of music, titled “Were You There,” that’s reminiscent of the “Rains of Castamere” number from Game of Thrones, signifying something ominous, sad, or even joyful.

Flanagan’s use of long tracking shots creates a sense of scale and realism.


Midnight Mass is chock full of excellent character actors, including Kate Siegel (Hush), Annabeth Gish (The X-Files), and Michael Trucco (Battlestar Galactica), among others. Flanagan’s scripts wisely allow everyone to have their moment to shine so that by the time you get to the insane final three episodes, there’s a profound sense of connection to the ensemble.

Among this talented cast, Rahul Kohli (Haunting of Bly Manor) is a standout as the town’s sheriff. His relationship with his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) is endearing, as the youngster struggles with his Muslim upbringing in a predominately Christian community. And then there’s Samantha Sloyan’s overly pious Beverly “Bev” Keane. She’s one of those characters you instantly love to hate, and Sloyan chews on every line to perfection.

Netflix’s Midnight Mass: First Images from Mike Flanagan’s New Horror Series

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