Monday, September 27, 2021

REVIEW: 'Midnight Mass' - A Miraculous Display From Father Paul Stuns the Community During Sunday Service in 'Book II: Psalms'

Netflix's Midnight Mass - Episode 1.02 "Book II: Psalms"

An unsettling omen washes ashore in the wake of the storm. Later, when the locals gather for a potluck, tragedy strikes - and a miracle occurs.

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 next episode of Netflix's Midnight Mass.

"Book II: Psalms" was written by Mike Flanagan, James Flanagan & Elan Gale and directed by Mike Flanagan

This series serves as a fascinating and meditative dichotomy between an examination of identity and a supernatural monster thriller. Strange things are happening on Crockett Island. The entire community essentially arrives on the beach to witness the cats that have washed ashore following the massive storm. Sheriff Hassan wants to protect the community the best he can. He doesn't know what caused these animals to die. He can't say exactly where they all came from either. He doesn't have the tools to dig much deeper into this phenomena. It's simply safer to collect them all up and burn the bodies. The mystery will simply have to linger. That's nothing new to this community. The Mayor can state numerous times in the past when mysterious things have come ashore with no explanation whatsoever. With the giant oil spill, that had clarity. The company provided reparations to the damage done to the island as well. Of course, it wasn't all that the citizens were rightfully entitled to. Their lives are still torn apart because of that ecological disaster. Meanwhile, the money has all basically dried up. A lot of it went to the church. Riley uses that as part of his argument for why organized religion no longer offers him any clarity. In the program, he is asked to seek comfort in a higher power. He explained how he looked far and wide for such guidance. He never found it. Instead, he has had to hold himself accountable. Personal responsibility is necessary as well. It wasn't some other person who took over his body and then killed a girl while driving drunk. Riley is responsible for that action. He has to admit that to himself and to others. It's awkward at first when it's just him and Father Paul alone in the new recreational center. It's a building that stands as a symbol for Riley's own skepticism. He is here only because it's convenient. Father Paul will sign off on the requirement for Riley to attend meetings. That's the purpose of these conversations. Of course, it also speaks to the comfort that can often be found in religion. It helps provide guidance to so many who feel lost in this world. Riley was a devout believer until the accident. That changed his entire world. And now, he continues to struggle in finding purpose. He helps his dad and brother on the fishing boat. He is of service to his family. He feels reluctant about taking the same blessings they do though. He doesn't feel like he deserves them. He doesn't feel right accepting them given what his beliefs have become. And yet, Father Paul spreads the ashes on the foreheads of many people. It's more than the traditional attendance at church. That space has frequently been seen as the great unifier of this island. The community always comes together through this religious service. It's alienating to be on this island and not worship in this way. Plenty of people do exactly that though. They are judged. Catholicism is meant to be centered around love and acceptance. In practice, Bev seeks to destroy any notion that things can change or be done in a different way on this island. She adheres closely to the practices. They have meaning. They are the only way to be committed to religion. Sheriff Hassan comes from a different faith. He believes. He prays. He is of service. He is still treated as an outsider. He isn't welcomed here even though he is tasked with protecting this community. He wants to protect its people. He does so with clarity as to who they are. Bev is certainly capable of poisoning a dog. In fact, so many people have scorn for Joe because he is responsible for Leeza being paralyzed. And then, the miraculous occurs. Father Paul commands Leeza to get out of her chair and she does. That's a stunning reveal at the close of this episode. It truly does suggest that powerful forces are at work on this island. Before that moment, the mystery elements were all teased as a threat that was creeping in on these people. Erin sees eyes staring back at her when she looks out the window. Mildred claims to have seen something just as terrifying when she awakens one night. The local drug dealer is attacked by the same figure that at one point is even seen roaming the skies. The mysteries are shrouded in darkness. The audience can't make out every detail at this point. But Father Paul serves as the intersection for all that's happening in this community. Everything comes to a point at the church and its residents. This faith means so much to the people who practice it. And now, hearts and minds might change as a result of what happens with Leeza. That's a powerful image. But again, those beliefs can be corrosive for those who don't manage them responsibly. This community has been manipulated before because of the devout need to trust this church. Some can see that clearly. Some are desperate to escape as a result. They are kept in this locale though. They are here and may not make it elsewhere as a result of whatever lurks in the shadows. That's potent while still offering just enough of a philosophical bent with these characters to inform the choices they make every step of the way.