Sunday, September 26, 2021

REVIEW: 'Midnight Mass' - Riley Returns Home Without Purpose Until a Major Storm Strikes Crockett Island in 'Book I: Genesis'

Netflix's Midnight Mass - Episode 1.01 "Book I: Genesis"

Riley Flynn returns home to family dysfunction, familiar faces and a new priest at St. Patrick's. Elsewhere on the island, a dark storm is brewing.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Netflix's Midnight Mass.

"Book I: Genesis" was written by Mike Flanagan and directed by Mike Flanagan

Mike Flanagan is certainly capable of creating evocative and eerie series for Netflix. Sure, the viewer can ultimately debate just how meaningful any individual product actually turns out to be. And yet, they are each propulsive thrillers with a distinct sense of identity. The mystery elements of this series creep along the edges of the story in this premiere. Warren and his friends establish that cats have essentially overwhelmed a nearby island. He then details how the local tides ultimately wash everything ashore right outside his house. And so, it's sensible when that final image comes to pass. It's creepy and unsettling. Dozens of cat corpses are lined up on the beach following a storm. Everyone in the local community of Crockett Island was preparing for this powerful force of weather. It's a part of their lives in this place. They know the routine of how to behave when severe storms form and threaten their livelihoods. It all takes place one night. Uncertainty abounds. And yet, the mysteries can be unearthed the following morning. It's just a slight tease of what's to come. The storytelling distinctly points out how Father Paul is a stranger in this community as well. The action notes that Monsignor Pruitt has taken a trip. In what was suppose to be his grand return, a new face is seen walking down the aisle of the church. His face is purposefully concealed from the audience before that moment. He is seen living in the home meant for the local priest. He carries out the preparations alongside the altar boys beforehand. But his presence is experienced for the first time when he stands tall behind the altar. It's startling for the community. It's not what they were expecting. He tries his best to temper expectations. This is only a temporary replacement. He is simply providing this service while Pruitt seeks medical care on the mainland. No one should be worried or concerned. Of course, the audience should be conditioned into being curious and skeptical about every single detail. This premiere solely aspires to establish this community. It provides peace with a place and meaning. And yet, this is a fading community. It's a place that isn't as prosperous as it once was. It is cut off from society. Access to it is only available twice a day. The locals know the ferry schedule. Their way of life has been disrupted though by big business and those far removed from this environment. These people are left to deal with the consequences of reckless actions by grand organizations. An oil spill has destroyed the ecosystem. And so, that provides much less opportunity for people to make a living in this place. Ed continues to fish. He has to pursue every opportunity he can to go out on the ocean and reach his limit. The burden is still acutely placed on his family. That was true long before the action revealed the depths of this community. The first sequence depicts Riley in the aftermath of a drunk driving accident. He killed a teenager. He is sentenced to four years in prison. His life changed in an instant. And now, he is wandering around his hometown without any sense of purpose. This life is familiar to him. He knows how to survive in a confined world. He has done that for a long time. He is called to act during the storm. He runs after what he believes to be Monsignor Pruitt. That too exists solely as a mystery. What did Riley see out there at night? Can he find his way back to faith in a higher power? Or is he simply conditioned as part of the system? He must act in accordance to his parole. That includes the demands of the state as well as his family. He can only truly express himself when catching up with Erin. She too thought she would escape this community. But now, she's back and she's starting a family. She bucks the trend of this place. She is offering something new. Father Paul falls into that same function. Religion provides a lot of comfort and stability to this community. It's part of the structure of their lives. It no longer provides clarity to Riley. As such, he is untethered not knowing what to believe. The narrative is likely to activate something more within each of these characters. That's simply how Flanagan enjoys depicting his stories. This is an effective start that gets the audience to feel enveloped by this locale before truly going all in on the grand mysteries meant to change everything in a dramatic way.