‘Midnight Mass’: Why the Credits in Episode 5 Are Different Than the Rest
Director Mike Flanagan has been knocking it out of the park lately. He has a deal with Netflix that locks him into several TV series specifically for the streaming platform. So far, all have performed well. The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor are two complementary series with a different take on famous haunted house stories, but Midnight Mass is entirely different.
There’s one episode within the series that’s credits are different than the rest. Let’s dig into the reasoning behind the choice.
[This article contains spoilers for ‘Midnight Mass’]
What’s the premise of Mike Flanagan’s ‘Midnight Mass?’
Midnight Mass is a much more personal project to Flanagan. A lot of it is based on his childhood spent growing up in Catholic Church. The story follows the residents of Crockett Island when a new priest shows up, and miracles begin to take place on the island. However, along with those miracles are alarming mysteries that have some people wondering if there’s something more sinister at work.
Riley Flynn, played by Zach Gilford, and Erin Greene, played by Fanagan’s real-life wife Kate Siegel, are two characters who return to the island after moving away. After his drunk driving killed a teenage girl, Riley is just released from prison. Erin returns home after finding out she’s pregnant. Both play critical roles in the series as they grapple with their decisions to return to Crockett Island that seems to offer nothing for either of them.
Riley’s story comes to an end here as he tries to save Erin and his family
Riley is the first to become suspicious of the new Father Paul (Hamish Linklater.) When he goes to confront him after Riley discovers Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet), the town drunk, missing. Father Paul lies to him about Joe’s whereabouts, and Riley goes to face him. Unfortunately, in a case of the worst timing ever, Riley stumbles upon the Father as he’s allowing the vampire he brought back from Jerusalem to refill the Communion decanter with its blood.
At this point, the priest is still blinded by his faith and believes the vampire is actually an angel. When the monster attacks and turns Riley into a vampire, Father Paul tries to explain that he’s now the recipient of a gift from God — immortality. Riley listens to the Father’s spiel about how lucky he is and spends the day with him, avoiding the sunlight outside that will kill him.
When the sun sets, Riley goes to Erin and asks her to come out on a boat far away from the shore with him. He explains to her what happened the night before. Riley knows she won’t believe him if he simply tells her the story. However, he wants to save her and his family from the oncoming destruction he knows the vampire will bring. He tells Erin he loves her, and as the sun rises above the horizon, he bursts into flames. Erin watches, horrified.
What’s different about the credits in episode 5, ‘Book V: Gospel?’
In all of the other episodes of Midnight Mass, music plays as the credits roll, but not in episode 5. As Riley burns up before Erin’s eyes, her bloodcurdling screams continue to ring out even after the screen fades to black. There’s no music playing as she screams. At that moment, the audiences get a small taste of the terrifying situation she’s going through.
Siegel talked to Collider recently about that particular scene and why Flanagan chose to go that route with the credits. “Mike and I talked a lot about how long it would take somebody to burn alive, and what that would smell like and what that would look like. The real authentic moment to moment of what was gonna happen in front of Erin, which is why they run that scream over the credits, to give it a sense of time, how long it takes.”
Riley was right when he said that Erin was strong enough to save the people of Crockett Island. Even though his decision to show her his death was traumatic, he knew it was the only way she would believe. Flanagan’s decision to continue those screams after the credits began to run was effective. He knew Erin’s anguish would stick with the viewer long after the episode ended.
All episodes of Midnight Mass are currently streaming on Netflix.