“Book V: Gospel” builds to a killer conclusion as a wider plot begins to take shape.
This recap of Midnight Mass season 1, episode 5, “Book V: Gospel”, contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.
There are two missing persons in “Book V: Gospel”. One of them is, obviously, Riley, who hasn’t been seen since Monsignor Pruitt’s pet angel feasted on him in the rec centre in the cliff-hanger ending of the previous episode. But the other is someone I’d honestly forgotten about — Bowl, whose mother, Joanie, complains to Hassan about the lack of urgency surrounding his disappearance. You can’t trust a drug dealer, after all, but Bowl, whose real name is Bill, was a good kid at heart. Either way, the missing are beginning to pile up. And everyone else, in the meantime, seems to be getting suspiciously younger.
Midnight Mass season 1, episode 5 recap
Given Father Paul’s newfound aversion to light, Mass is now to take place at midnight. Bev, Wade, and Sturge continue to cover for the holy man, even after Mildred, who is becoming younger and hotter at an alarming rate, shakes things up by trying to attend morning Mass in person. All the while, Erin continues to look for Riley — she reports him as missing to Hassan, taking the fact that their last conversation was about death as a bit of a worrying sign. Hassan is also still looking for Joe.
With it being Good Friday, Father Paul gets his chance to shine, and with the decanter, the blood of Christ, filled up with the sacrament he’s so partial to, we’re beginning to get a picture of what’s going on here. One suspects that Mass is being used to feed the townsfolk the angel’s blood and that by consuming it they’re enjoying freedom from ailments and old age. This, by the way, would explain Erin’s phantom pregnancy. If her body is regressing, returning to a more youthful time, it stands to reason that she would never have been pregnant. It’s an efficient way to spread poison, preying on people’s faith and fondness for ritual.
Eventually, Riley returns to see Erin and asks her to go for a ride with him, taking her out on a rowboat like in his dream. From here, “Book V: Gospel” veers back and forth through recent time, from the immediate aftermath of Riley being feasted on by the angel, back to the boat, and there and back again. It’s an effective structural device since it allows Paul to explain to Riley — and thus the audience — what’s happening to him; his thirst for blood, the way he sees and hears the stuff pumping through someone’s neck, the painful hunger. In some ways, the conversation Father Paul has with Riley, which occurs in the rec center, is a perverse reframing of their AA meetings. Paul equates his killing of Joe to Riley’s hit-and-run, with one crucial difference — he feels no guilt, whereas Riley is crippled by it. It’s a tremendously well-acted scene, this, if a little long. Of course, Bev has convenient justifications for all this from scripture. Sturge has now become a human blood bank to keep Father Paul satiated. In something of an initiation ritual, they offer this blood to Riley, the blood of Christ, and he eagerly slurps it. He can’t resist.
But the other upside of this structure is that it builds to one hell of a climax. As we cut back to the rowboat after seeing Riley give in to his hunger, seeing him walk alone at night, stare at his sleeping parents with his glowing eyes and listen to their heartbeats, we begin to wonder the same thing Erin is — why has he brought her out here and told her all this? He says he wants her to row to the mainland and never look back. He says she would never have believed him unless she saw for herself. He says he loves her, and always has, one way or another. She returns the sentiment. As the sun comes up he sees Erin as Tara-Beth, one last time, though this time she isn’t ruined, but pretty and smiling once again. He takes her hand. As he does so, Erin screams as Riley bursts into flames before her eyes.