Season 1 Episode 1
Book 1: Genesis
Riley Flynn returns home to family dysfunction, familiar faces and a new priest at St Patrick’s. Elsewhere on the island, a dark storm is brewing.
One of the best things about a Mike Flanagan production is that the man does a brilliant job of creating a mood and this first episode is no exception. The imagery in the first few minutes of the episode are haunting and that imagery continues throughout. The first few minutes are a beautifully shot montage of Riley’s (Zach Gilford) mistakes and how they haunt him more than any supernatural thing can. That becomes evident when his first night in jail is plagued by the staring, mangled face of his victim.
When the scene changes to the island, you get your first look at the setting where the show will take place and it is beautifully bleak. The houses are sparse and simple as they litter the landscape and the setting is both small in scale yet huge in scope. There are times you feel like you could walk the entire length while there are areas that feel dense and hidden. There is great atmosphere throughout the locations. When Bev (Samantha Sloyan) comes to the ferry dock looking for the returning Monseigneur, you get your first look at the mysterious Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) and his sly way of moving almost unseen throughout the small island is well done.
What makes the moment even better is the top down view of the humble house the Father takes residence in before giving the viewer the first indication that something strange is about to happen. Riley is released from prison and you can tell there is tension throughout the family about it, except for his mother Annie (Kristin Lehman) who seems to act as if noting is wrong. Henry Thomas is great as Riley’s father Ed and plays the character with a simmering darkness steeped in shame at what his son has done. The tension between the two is great.
Everything seems to be leading to a storm coming in and how the town is preparing for it. All of Riley’s interactions center around his ex Erin (Katie Siegel) who also returned to town after a failed marriage and has become the school teacher. The storm brings some interesting visions as well as more great, dark atmosphere before the next morning reveals something even more interesting to behold.
The first episode of Midnight Mass is all about atmosphere. The pace is a little slow, but what makes up for it is the environment and tension between all the characters. The episode feels like the calm before a storm and the metaphor comes to life brilliantly in the story.