SERIES CRTIQUE / OPINION – Will Mike Flanagan continue his flawless performance on Netflix with his new series, “Midnight Sermons”? The director and screenwriter pulls us out of his hat a surprising creation on religion.
Midnight sermons : Mike Flanagan’s new Netflix series
Much of the confirmation of Mike Flanagan’s immense talent happened on Netflix. With the film Jessie then especially with the two seasons of his anthology The Haunting. After ghost stories that marked the platform’s subscribers, he returns with an intriguing new creation: Midnight sermons (Midnight mass, in original version). It takes place on the small island of Crockett Island and chronicles the return of Riley Flinn, a man who has served a prison sentence. At the same time, a mysterious priest also appears in the small community. His presence will be at the origin of miraculous events but, also, of more worrying facts.
Midnight sermons starts with a traffic accident. Riley Flinn, alcoholic, has just killed a young woman. Found guilty of the acts with which he is accused, he ends up behind bars. Very quickly, he will be assaulted by the ghost of the victim. A horrific motif presented quickly, which is actually a decoy. Mike Flanagan doesn’t serve us a new ghost story to the The Haunting. On the contrary, Midnight sermons turns out to be a different proposition. On the other hand, he has not lost the intentions that make the beauty of his work. While the series naturally fits into the horror / fantasy section, it is less about spooking and more about getting us to adhere to a gallery of characters and exciting topics.
A writing and a rhythm that can destabilize
There is enough to be hungry for, at first, with verbose episodes, which apply to define who are the figures that animate the small community of Crockett Island. The scenario develops emotional issues, sub-plots and presents connections between the different protagonists. Which makes it possible to realize that Mike Flanagan is still so much a wonderful screenwriter knowing how to invent dense characters. The excellence he demonstrates is not surprising, but it should continue to be highlighted as the person concerned is of admirable regularity in this domain.
Midnight sermons may be confusing, despite everything, with its extended dialogue ranges. Especially since the first episodes put the brakes on the fantastic elements, leaving us in great uncertainty as to the direction taken by the series. That said, things take on a truly satisfying scale when everything falls into place and horror makes its interest clear. It is obviously necessary to know as little as possible about the main elements because the surprises are numerous and often very surprising.
Religion at the center of the series
Just like what happened with The Haunting of Hill House and Bly manor, gender is not the primary argument. He puts himself at the service of strong themes and emotion. Even if the series allows itself a few jump scares easy, the horror settles in an insidious way, slowly, by the tangle of small signals which challenge us. As if we were witnessing a religious enlistment. Because Midnight sermons talks a lot about it, in essence. Sectarian excesses and religion when it is misused.
Midnight sermons also knows how to draw unstoppable scenes of tension and generous bloodshed. She just doesn’t do it for nothing, and this is what constitutes one of its strengths. The diagram is devilishly well thought out since all the work done around the characters during the first part comes in osmosis with the horrific side, and the magic operates during the second.
Midnight sermons is touched by grace on several occasions – the end of episode 5 is perhaps the most overwhelming we’ve seen on the small screen this year. The cast plays a major role in this. Zach Gilford, Kate Siegel, and Rahul Kohli are all excellent in their own ways, but it’s the deliciously insufferable Samantha Sloyan and the inhabited Hamish Linklater who deserve a gig of praise. The second, in particular, unleashes an XXL performance as a priest who spreads the word of God.
Faith is the central hub of the series. It is as much a question of that of the characters as of that of the viewers. We sometimes think of The Leftovers, in the way Midnight sermons tests our limits and asks us to believe in them, even when things seem convoluted to us. At the end of the tunnel, fortunately, the finality …