Spoiler alert – this article reveals some plot lines
WHEN I saw the seven-part series Midnight Mass pop up amongst the otherwise semi-Satanic array of programmes offered by Netflix, I was interested. The thumbnail promised miracles and hinted at the sublime.
It deals with the return of formerly slick start-up man Riley Flynn to the fishing community of Crockett Island after some years in prison for killing a young girl in a drink-driving accident. Flynn’s family are devout Roman Catholics, and his pain-won atheistic worldview clashes with their piety.
The predominantly Catholic islanders are awaiting the return of their revered octogenarian priest from pilgrimage in the Holy Land but are surprised to find in his stead the charismatic, youngish Fr Paul Hill (whose lofty frame and jet-black hair reminded me of Christopher Lee in his prime).
I was amazed by this character, at least initially. Unlike most depictions of Christian clergymen in modern drama, he belongs to none of the following categories: a) paedophile/rapist/sexual deviant b) hypocrite c) chinless, knee-jerk liberal with no agency or backbone or d) appallingly cliched, fire ‘n’ damnation pastiche of a ‘conservative’ or e) an amalgam of the above. Fr Paul appears to be a true Christian. He is a man of compassion and deep forgiveness, and unwavering in confessing Christ’s Blessed Passion and Triumphal Resurrection. It was encouraging to think that his preaching was some of the only truly Christian preaching many of those watching the show would ever have encountered.
Flynn’s return from prison and the new priest’s arrival bring with them bizarre and inexplicable events, some ugly and some miraculous. Dead cats wash up on shore and a young girl who had been paralysed by a stray gunshot is healed by a Eucharistic miracle. Father Paul beckons her from her wheelchair rather than taking the Sacrament to her, and after some initial horror from the congregation at the cruelty of the new cleric, the child walks to make her communion.
For a moment I thought Netflix might actually have been airing a programme which propagated a belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Sadly, my doubts that this was the case were not ill-founded, and the series degenerates into a formulaic vampire horror.
There is so much to commend this series and I encourage you to watch it, but it saddened me that it came so very close to a Christian redemption, but fell short, like the tightrope walker who loses focus at the final yard. Permeated with Christian themes but never liturgically living this out, the show is ever Lent and never Easter, and it condemns its universe to remain in the grave without knowing the joys of the Risen God.