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A Writer’s POV on Midnight Mass

An angel comes to a small island village.

This is the premise of the Netflix miniseries Midnight Mass, the third installment in the Haunted anthology by Mike Flanagan. It’s the story of a small, isolated town that experiences supernatural events after the arrival of a mysterious priest.

Flanagan’s stories are always very character-focussed, which is something I gravitate toward. I can appreciate a well-written plot with lots of twists and turns, but it’s the characters that make a story memorable. Think of Gone Girl – do you remember anything in particular about the two main characters? Not really. You remember the twists and turns of the plot, but you don’t remember Amy & Nick in the same way that you remember Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom.

Father Hill Arrives

While most of the characters in Midnight Mass were fleshed out and real, the character that stood out most for me was Father Paul Hill. Father Hill arrives on Crockett Island, a temporary replacement for their aging priest Monsignor Pruitt, who is off-island recovering from an unnamed illness. Hill is very charismatic, loving, and very, very well versed in the history and lives of the island’s inhabitants, which is the first indication that something is off about this guy.  But even so, he endears himself to us in the way he throws himself into his work, helping and guiding the citizens of the island like a priest ought to: with humility, love, and selflessness. But of course, because this is a Mike Flanagan miniseries, you start questioning immediately how Hill knows all of this stuff.

Weird Stuff Starts Happening

My first thought was that he had Pruitt locked up somewhere, drawing information out of the poor guy through nefarious means. The problem with this is that Hill, thanks to the masterful acting of Hamish Linklater, never comes across as creepy. Instead, he’s portrayed as a very, very kind and generous man who truly wants to to fulfill his role as priest, caregiver, and confidant to this isolated community.

Midnight Mass a writer's perspective

When miracles start happening–a wheelchair bound girl walks, an elderly lady recovers from dementia–you see only his goodness. He gives credit to God, from whom he believes all things are possible. Even when it’s revealed that Hill is actually Pruitt, returned to his youth thanks to the blood of an angel-like creature, Pruitt stays true to his nature.  He believes it’s all God’s work, that he is doing God’s work, and more importantly, that it’s for the good of all mankind.  When he becomes a full-fledged vampire (although it’s never called that), he’s appalled at his actions when he kills someone and drinks their blood.

A Character Falls Short

The one deviation from his Christ-like characterization is when he delivers a sermon on Good Friday, urging his congregation to prepare for war. I didn’t like this part because it felt too far outside of Pruitt’s character. Yes, he believes he’s doing God’s work, and together his congregation (filled up on angel blood) will help the world. But one place his plan (and thus his character arc) falls short is how turning into vampires will help the world. I get the Christ-like overtones, the dying and rebirth…but I didn’t catch how that correlates to doing God’s work.  The angel (vampire) blood heals, it’s true, but then Pruitt decides to turn his entire congregation into vampires themselves. To what end?

Then again, perhaps that was the point. Father Pruitt missteps. Rather than staying on course and simply healing his congregation, he wants them to have eternal life…something humans are not meant to have. And by so doing, he unleashes vampires onto the world. Too late, Pruitt realizes the error of his ways and confesses that his true motive for bringing the angel to Crockett Island was to heal the love of his life–Mildred, the woman he saved from dementia. Pruitt wanted a second chance at the most human of things: love.

A Very Human Flaw

Pruitt is a very real, very human character in that while he was selfless and caring and generous, his ultimate goal still originated out of selfishness, to the detriment of the people he loved. If he had stuck with truly selfless actions–healing the people of Crockett Island–things may have turned out okay. Instead, he went a step farther and acted in a way to get what he wanted most–a second chance to be with the woman he loved. And it was this selfish (yet very human) act that led to the destruction of the entire community.

Did you watch Midnight Mass? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!

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