This post is FULL of spoilers so stop and go watch Midnight Mass for yourself and come back… or just read on. Either way, I hope you find this review entertaining and worth the read.
I love the perfect symbolism of Vampires. Of all the monsters out there, they are us at our worst. Vanity, greed, gluttony, avarice, jealousy, murder, usually hedonistic, and hate accountability (sunlight) or being told no. Every human character weakness, they personify.
Heavy Use of Symbolism
Midnight Mass stays true to gory vampire mythology, but that isn’t the center of the story. The center is the theme of corrupted religion is co-opted and leads to true horror. It’s also a BIG blaring warning sign to spiritual leaders to be careful when feeling vulnerable. The vision they may find to reinvigorate their faith may lead to nothing but a nightmare.
Around the web I see a few Catholics upset that they weren’t portrayed accurately. Former believers say they were “erased” because it painted some aspects of Christianity with sympathy. Then, of course, there are the conspiracy theorists saying that it is another Hollywood/Netflix propaganda film in some war on Christianity and blah blah blah. The truth is, if you have a bias, there is plenty of room to act as the true monster of the series, Bev, and confirm whatever you want to believe, whether it is accurate or not) in the most strained of ways. It is interesting that those who feel attacked are the ones who most closely resemble Bev. More on her in a bit.
The truth is, Midnight Mass does not attack conservative Christians or the progressive wing of the body of Christ. However, both (and more) can note that when the gospel is corrupted, it goes 3D; dangerous, destructive, and deadly.
It’s a lesson in how spiritual leaders who can see their ministries ending (because of age, sickness, etc.) and everything they once delighted in (love, growth, new vision, etc.) fading can be very vulnerable. If this leads to a dark night of the soul where the leader has no support, they may get lost and unable to see their way forward. In this wandering desperation, that’s when an outside agenda may come along to feed off the despair and infuse a false vision. This toxic infusion then distorts the true sense of self and community. It can then find its way to fold the unholy into the Gospel.
Father Paul (Monsignor) & Bev
When the Monsignor, Father Paul, was converted (yes, I used that word on purpose) into his idealized self, instead of who he indeed was, he ignored the horror and trauma of the conversion. Instead of realizing the violence and that he was a victim, he lost any sense of self and force-fit it all into a “God works in mysterious ways with his frightening angels” kind of way. He started listening to the agenda (the vampire could speak to him nonverbally) instead of God. His message became increasingly more demanding and war-like. He was a new covenant to lead the people to a more profound revelation; Bev helped along with the inference that he was the second coming of Christ.
“Conscience. In the army of God, conscience is standard issue. There are many like it, but this one is mine. You may think that that’s a line from a war movie, but it isn’t. That’s actually the Rifleman’s Creed. And a creed is, by definition, not just a belief, but it is a religious one. So, it is a war, and there will be casualties. And we must be soldiers. That is what Good Friday is about” –Father Paul
“God has no country. There is one God for the world. And the lines we draw, and the treaties we draft, and the borders we close mean nothing to Him. No, don’t fight for a country. You fight for God’s kingdom. A kingdom which Jesus tells us has no flags or borders. God’s army”–Father Paul
Horrifying, and unfortunately, I have heard way too many on the religious right say almost the same sentiment and messaging. Warlike messaging isn’t anything close to what Jesus taught and exemplified.
Remember Bev, the murderous psychopath self-appointed “chosen” of God? What a great actress! I detested her character. We all know a Bev, maybe several, or a church full of Bevs in real life. I genuinely despised that character and her ninja-like mastery of confirmation bias. She could twist every single moment into some extraneous scripture to justify her bullying, murder, hidden agenda, and greed. She was the human form of all the character defects the vampire personified.
The Monsignor didn’t have a chance to change his mind until after it was too late. But, he did believe that what he was doing was what was best for everyone. He was a true believer until the church walls were covered in the blood of the innocent.
His mixing of the vampire’s blood into the Communion wine was maybe the most potent symbol in the series to me. The Atonement of Christ wasn’t enough for him anymore if it didn’t have the power to produce the miracles of healing, youth, and seeing the world through the eyes of an apex predator feeling it can change the world as a whole. His false gospel, his now embraced sin, cost people their blood and lives instead of trusting Christ to wash that all away in the finished work of the Cross; the Atonement.
The Blood of Christ represents the cleansing of sin and victory over evil. His sacrifice is a gift and at no cost of that sin to the believer. Unfortunately, when blinded and fallen leaders mix in their agenda, their congregation may not be aware. Instead of providing oversight and accountability, they idolize the leader and roll with it until they too have become monsters preying on the innocent.
I can’t tell you how many jump scares made me nearly pee my pants. AND, the man I thought was going to be the hero didn’t even make it past the fourth episode! Plus the Monsignor’s secret family, and the way his daughter died RIGHT after finding out… I needed a cigarette and a shot of Jack to get over all of that.
Now, if some raccoon (we have plenty) shows up and has those glowing eyes from the porch light, expect a lot of screaming from our backyard. I like excellent plot twists, and this series has plenty that you do not see coming. Well, unless you read this before watching. 🙂
“More galaxies in the universe than grains of sand on the beach. And that’s what we’re talking about when we say God. The one. The cosmos and its infinite dream.” Erin Greene
Many Christians did not like that the authentic Believer, Erin, and Atheist, Riley, in the series got along so well as to almost become a couple. Their monologues are some of the best writing I have ever seen on TV. Simply gorgeous, poignant, and beautiful. They don’t become a couple only because Riley was attacked and converted by the ground-zero vampire. However, he shows that he can see that the false agenda does not have to master what he knows to be good and true. Riley chooses to share the truth in the most heartbreaking way to the real Believer in the series. He decided to sacrifice himself, at a great and painful cost, instead of murdering any others.
His example leads others to choose the same self-sacrifice once everything goes to hell.
When he dies, the young woman he murdered earlier in life in a DUI is there to welcome him into the afterlife. When the true Believer dies, he’s there to help her pass.
Personal Note and Conclusion
Many of my former friends have publicly and privately denounced me for no longer being a true believer because I have rejected organized religion and the culture wars it has infused into its mission. I love Jesus. I do believe He is my Good Shepherd, Savior, and Lord. He has brought me to see the complicated truth that the more universal beliefs are correct. It’s not “selling out,” as some have accused; it’s more difficult to embrace this “path.” The road becomes narrow in this path of not having all the answers. It’s much more difficult to resist the false light of a very broad trend of the Know-it-all Gospel. It’s in not having all the answers where we have to lean on faith instead of our own culturally conditioned responses.
I believe we have many ways (religions, agnosticism, and even atheists) to get to the afterlife, but we all get there, and it is a good and natural progression given to every soul to lead us back to the source we come from. I am the energy that animates this body, not the other way around.
I loved every minute of the Midnight Mass series. Even the almost-made-me-pee-scares. LOTS to think about and digest. This post is already too long, but there are SO many quotes one could make, analyze. This is what authentic story-telling should look like. Kudos to every person involved in this project. I highly recommend watching it. However, I do not recommend binging it. Let each episode sink in.
I said episode, not fangs. 🙂