Midnight Mass season 1, episode 1 recap – “Book I: Genesis”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: September 24, 2021
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Midnight Mass season 1, episode 1 recap - "Book I: Genesis"


“Book I: Genesis” is purely setup, but it paints an effective portrait of a pious small town — and begins teasing the evil that might be lurking within it.

This recap of Midnight Mass season 1, episode 1, “Book I: Genesis”, contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.

Tara-Beth died for nothing. Who was she? A pretty girl, young, with her whole life ahead of her. Riley Flynn snuffed her potential out in an instant because he was too drunk to remain conscious behind the wheel of his car. Four years in prison hardly seems like enough, not in exchange for a life. Riley serves his time with nothing and nobody for company but a Bible gifted to him by his pious mother, Annie, with a handwritten quote from the Book of Genesis inside. At night, when he tries to sleep, a wide-eyed Riley sees Tara-Beth in his cell, the red and blue of the first responders’ lights blaring in her injuries.

Midnight Mass season 1, episode 1 recap

Riley is from Crockett Island, an isolated fisherfolk community with a population of 127 and falling. This is where he returns after his time in prison, now faithless, in recovery, and wracked by self-loathing. His father, Ed, can’t stand to look at him. His younger brother, Warren, without the role model of an older brother or the guardianship of their ailing, deeply wounded father, is heading down a dark path, scoring drugs with his friends Ooker and Ali, the latter the son of the town’s sheriff, Hassan, and smoking them in a rickety part of town known as the Uppards, which are supposedly haunted, and where cats eyes wink yellow in the darkness. Some of the eyes in those bushes might not belong to just cats, either.

“Book I: Genesis” gradually introduces more of the Crock Pot’s citizens. Bev Keane, the town busybody, greets the latest ferry looking for Monsignor John Pruitt, the town’s infirm priest who was last seen departing on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Erin, who is pregnant, looks wistfully at Riley as he arrives. Her doctor, Sarah, lives in and practices medicine out of the home she shares with her mother, Mildred, whom dementia is taking more and more of a hold of.

Through Hassan, we’re introduced to the town’s local boorish drunk, Joe Collie, and his dog Pike. Both are outsiders; Hassan because he’s a brown-skinned Muslim, and Joe because his alcoholism, like Riley’s, has caused indescribable trauma. Through various characters, we learn of an oil spill on the island three years prior which has decimated the fishing industry. There are limits to what one catches now, and people are upping and leaving at a record rate. Annie laments that Crockett Island is no longer a community, just the ghost of one, and you can see what she means.

The town’s luck isn’t improving. A major storm is incoming that could affect their fuel supply, so Hassan and the local mayor, Wade Scarborough, meet with the townsfolk about it. In times of calamity, the townsfolk know to shelter in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, though Hassan, at least according to Bev, might be better getting a ferry to the mainland and the nearest mosque. She’s awful. But she’s protective of the town’s church and deeply Catholic streak the same way everyone else seems to be. Ed is appalled by Riley’s jokes about altar boys but is adamant that he attends church anyway, even if, out of respect, he shouldn’t take the sacrament. This conversation is a painfully awkward attempt at father-son bonding between a father who is openly resentful of his son and a son who has little respect for his father — or at least his father’s beliefs, which, at least on Crockett Island, are more or less the same thing.

There’s an assumption, especially when it’s revealed that Riley continues to see Tara-Beth and imagine himself alone in a tiny rowing boat in the middle of an endless expanse of water, that he has brought evil with him to Crockett Island. But it quickly becomes apparent that it has arrived from other shores, or perhaps was there all along. A ginger cat getting eaten alive in the Uppards is just the beginning. Pretty soon, that talked-about storm hits, and as well as Riley believing he saw the still-missing Pruitt in the rain, the inclement weather leaves behind a beach full of dead cats, the gulls hungrily feasting on their corpses.

This comes shortly after the arrival of the town’s new preacher, Father Paul Hill, and a giant wooden box with mysterious, unrevealed contents. Father Paul claims to have been sent by the diocese to fill in for Pruitt, who apparently fell ill but is recovering on the mainland. That makes Riley’s potential sighting of the Monsignor worrying. Either Paul is lying about his current whereabouts, or something much more sinister is afoot on Crockett Island. If you’re guessing the latter, well — you’d be right.

You can stream Midnight Mass season 1, episode 1 exclusively on Netflix.

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