September 29, 2022

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Midnight Mass “Book V: Gospel”

Episode Five

OK, that was unexpected in a totally expected sort of way.

So, after the first four episodes seemed to be focusing the story’s attention on Riley Flynn and his crisis of faith, this episode comes along and, well, takes him out of the equation in the most final way possible.  This is not Riley’s story.  Even though the mini-series opened with the sight of Riley’s watching in horror at how he had killed a young girl in a drunk driving accident, even though much of what followed was about Riley’s recovery, and even though it would be safe to assume a story like this is about Riley’s perhaps finding his faith again, a genuine faith and not the manipulative stuff that the Bev Keanes of the world use to their own advantage while believing themselves pious, instead, well, Riley’s dead.

Twice yet because he wakes up as a vampire.

To the credit of all involved, Riley’s character arc did end.  He found some way to be at peace with the things he did, and the last thing he sees in this episode is the girl he killed, whole in body for the first time, offering her hand to take him on to whatever comes next.  Granted, the last thing anyone else sees of Riley is Erin’s watching in horror as the rising sun causes him to burst into flames and disintegrate into a pile of ash.  But really, the fact that the story set Riley up as a possible hero only to yank that away with two episodes left is a really unexpected move, and a well-done one as well.

Much of this episode does focus more on explaining a few things.  How Father Paul sees the world, how he thinks it’s a blessing from the Angel, and how he and Bev were pulling a lot more Bible verses out to justify everything that was happening.  Turns out there are a lot more than I thought.  I could quibble and point out Catholics, while they hold the Bible in high regard, put more faith in the apostolic traditions and tend not to be Biblical literalists, but I am watching a show where no one knows what a vampire is and just assume the gargoyle-looking thing is an angel of some kind despite the fact it, well, doesn’t really look or act like any angel I have ever heard of, even the warrior angels that might be scarier than a lot of demons from hell in some stories.  Father Paul legitimately thinks he is making the world a more Christian place, even as he more or less acknowledges to Riley that he did indeed in a moment of hunger and weakness kill Joe Collie.

That’s actually the meat of the episode.  Riley is missing, but when he returns that night, he takes Erin out on a rowboat to tell her what happens until the sun comes up to prove his story.  He talks about how Father Paul gave him the rundown that the conversion to a creature of the night was all (allegedly) God’s plan, much to the general jealousy of Bev, until Father Paul lets Riley go before going off to celebrate midnight mass, now the only mass in town.  Father Paul believes (incorrectly) that Riley has seen the light (so to speak) and nothing will go wrong letting him go.  Control freak Bev disagrees, but not enough to stop Father Paul from letting Riley out that night.

Special mention to Father Paul’s sermon in the mass scene where he says the rules are changing because God wants them to, enough to make the more mentally with-in Mildred Gunning to declare he’d changed and forbidding her (adult) daughter Sarah from going back to the church.  Mildred was told Paul was Pruitt before, but she can see a change in this man that she doesn’t like.  Seeing as how Father Paul is basically advocating re-writing the morality of the church to make whatever is coming more acceptable, I can believe that.

But the episode does put its main focus on Paul’s efforts to convince Riley to just be a good undead Christian and see how being a vampire is so much better than a mere mortal.  And except when the hunger hits, that is more or less true unless you actually prefer going out during the day and a few other little things too.  At this point, it does seem no one in this world knows what a vampire is, but the rules have been set down.  Drink the blood and die, come back as one, drink more blood when the hunger hits, stay out of the sun, and have a Bible handy to justify everything you do that you probably know is wrong but end up doing anyway.

Anyway, at least one person with strong doubts about some aspects of life on the island knows what’s up, and that is bound to lead somewhere.  Blind faith got this island into this mess.  Maybe a little healthy skepticism will lead them out.

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