Come now, weary traveler, and rest your feet, for we have finally arrived on Crockett Island.
The first episode of Mike Flanagan’s limited series Midnight Mass, “Book I: Genesis,” is an introductory affair, taking audiences through the island’s meager population and wares and planting seeds for strange and ominous mysteries that will likely unravel in due time. So what are the major takeaways from the premiere?
Riley Flynn and the accident
First and foremost, we’re introduced to Riley Flynn by way of a terribly tragic accident of his doing. Four years prior to when the show is set, Riley was driving under the influence when he ended up in an accident with another vehicle. The young woman who was driving did not survive. He served four years in prison, and the show’s current timeline begins when he returns to live with his family on Crockett Island (though he had been living in Chicago prior to the accident).
The Flynns are a religious family, and it seems that Riley was at one point as well. However, to his mother’s disappointment, his time spent searching for God in every religion while in prison only led to him becoming an atheist. Riley is still haunted by the woman that he killed, and at this point he feels as if he’s serving no purpose in life. He’s just existing, nothing more.
Crockett Island, lovingly referred to by the townsfolk as the Crock Pot, currently hosts a population of just 127 residents. As per Riley’s mother, there used to be hundreds of people living on the island. And when people end up leaving, they don’t even bother trying to sell their homes anymore. Getting to the island requires prior planning, because there are only two ferries running at the moment — the Breeze and the Belle.
The island itself is quiet and run down, decorated with small, unassuming shack-like homes. And unfortunately for its residents, who seem to depend on their fishermen, there was an oil spill three years ago. Fishing has become difficult because their catches are strictly limited.
It’s worth noting that there’s a part of the island — the Uppards — where people no longer reside. Now, the area is overrun with stray cats galore. When the boys head to the Uppards to have some fun, they discuss how people who lived on that part of the island used to bury their dead in their yards. And oh … that’s nice, there’s a disturbing, humanlike creature lurking in the bushes, which is likely what is seen killing the cats later in the episode.
The curious case of Monsignor Pruitt and Father Paul Hill
When Riley’s ferry arrives, Miss Beverly Keane is confused to see that Monsignor Pruitt — the island’s 80-year-old priest — has not yet returned from his pilgrimage, despite the fact that they had discussed when he would return. We learn from the Flynns that Pruitt has been quite mentally scattered as of late.
When Beverly sees smoke coming from the rectory’s chimney, she enters expecting to see Monsignor Pruitt. Instead, she meets Father Paul Hill. He tells the town the next day that he was sent by the diocese to fill in for Pruitt for a few weeks. The older man he fell ill on his trip and he’s recovering in a hospital on the mainland.
This is all fine and dandy, besides the fact that earlier in the episode, Father Paul is seen dragging a large chest into the rectory. When he knocks on it, something inside of it knocks back … twice. Later, when the storm arrives, he’s settled on the couch reading a book, and the chest is open behind him with nothing but some sort of ash/dirt inside of it.
To make things even more suspicious, Riley swears that he sees Monsignor Pruitt wandering the beach during the storm in his telltale hat and coat. Although his family doesn’t see him, Riley still rushes outside, and he ends up chasing Pruitt down the beach. Pruitt disappears. There’s no sign of him the next morning … but the beach is covered in dead cats that have washed up from the Uppards, probably courtesy of the disturbing looking thing that was in the bushes.
Erin Greene is 20 weeks pregnant, and she ran away from Crockett Island years ago. When her mother passed, she finally moved back and took over her job as a teacher. She has a history of sorts with Riley, though the layers on that mystery haven’t been peeled back yet. If nothing else, it’s worth noting that when Riley’s mother sent him family photos while he was in prison, she also included a photo of him with Erin.
Questions that remain
- What’s lurking in the Uppards and killing the cats?
- What’s the history between Riley and Erin?
- Did Riley really see Pruitt on the beach during the storm?
- Is Father Paul being truthful?
- What (or who) was in the chest that Father Paul drug into the rectory?