This is an effective opener as Mike Flanagan masterfully sets the scene and lays the foundations for what looks likely to be a memorably scary show. There are plenty of jump scares in “The Final Chapter,” an enticing premise and a likable lead to root for in this promising teen horror.
This recap of the Netflix series The Midnight Club season 1, episode 1, “The Final Chapter,” contains spoilers.
It wouldn’t quite be Halloween without a new horror series release from the horror maestro himself Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass). Netflix has once again blessed us with a spooky new show from the writer/director, this time an adaptation of the nineties novel, The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike. As with all of Flanagan’s TV series, expect plenty of frights, a healthy dose of empathy, and many recurring cast members from his previous projects.
The Midnight Club season 1, episode 1 recap
The Midnight Club opens with “The Final Chapter”, introducing viewers to A-Grade student Ilonka as she prepares her high-school graduation speech, practicing in the mirror after freshly dyeing her hair. Her speech talks of being the author of your own story and forging your own destiny. But Ilonka’s (Iman Benson) is cruelly stolen from her. She is diagnosed with thyroid cancer and rapidly realizes that her meticulously planned-out future isn’t going to go according to schedule.
Foster parent Tim tries to make hospital life as ordinary as possible for Ilonka and we fast forward to her eighteenth birthday. She’s lost all her hair to chemo and most of her fight, listening to best friend Lauren gush about college life on the phone. Tim is informed privately that Ilonka is now considered a terminally ill patient and the teen overhears this devastating news. Attempting to claw back some control, she researches her survival rate online and comes across the miraculously cured Julia Jayne and the historic Brightcliffe Hospice.
Ilonka is quickly dispatched to this hospice for terminally teens and settles right at home. Something has drawn her to this place and even in the safety of daylight she has creepy premonitions of a terrifying future. One of her visions comes true almost instantaneously, she spies a boy called Kevin (Igby Rigney), sat on a bench, staring off into the distance. Ilonka and Kevin are introduced, with the teens ceremoniously announcing their deadly diseases to one another, almost like a name tag itself.
The star student is then introduced to the other patients and the staff members at Brightcliffe. There’s nurse practitioner Mark (Zach Gilford) and Dr. Georgina Stanton (Heather Langenkamp), as well as six more teenagers living on the site. Spencer (Chris Sumpter) gives Ilonka a tour of the house, casually warning her to stay away from the basement or from using the ‘possessed’ elevator that has a mind of its own. Flanagan masterfully sets the scene, planting the scares early on. There are plenty of jump scares in this opening episode that will get your heart racing and leave you with an uneasy feeling in your gut as you await the next one.
Ilonka unpacks and then meets roommate Anya (Ruth Codd), who is wheelchair bound. Anya is quite the bitter and sarcastic individual, happy to speak of the macabre. Her last roommate, Rachel, had a penchant for the supernatural and drew a summoning circle under her bed. Anya scares Ilonka with the tale of Rachel’s death, stating that only days before she had spoken of being haunted and stalked by a shadowy figure. Flanagan is at it again, laying the foundations for his creepy narrative.
That first night, Ilonka wakes to see Anya leaving her room and breaking curfew. They have been warned not to leave their rooms at night, but Ilonka curiously follows. It would appear that the teens meet during the witching hour in the library to tell one another spooky stories. It’s Natsuki’s (Aya Furukawa) turn tonight and as she delves into her ghost story, the audience are taken along for the ride. Natsuki’s story unleashes a tirade of jump scares as a teen is haunted by a schoolgirl on an empty street.
This effective story scares Ilonka and she accidentally makes her presence known. The kids explain the Midnight Club to the newbie and set out the ground rules. She must partake in their wine and tell her own story to become a genuine member. Ilonka takes the story of Julia Jayne and twists it slightly. Once again we are thrown into the story and watch as the teen falls in love and is then diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Julia is sent to the hospice, but disappears one day. On her return, her cancer fades away, but she is left with the power to accurately predict the dates of people’s deaths.
Ilonka holds off on finishing her tale and asks what the final rule is. Anya explains their pact, the first person in the group to die must contact the others from the afterlife. Ilonka accepts their terms and the teens disperse for the night. Kevin walks back with Ilonka and they discuss her story. Kevin admits that he’s memorized all the previous guests’ names and points out Julia’s photograph on the walls. She was a real person, but Ilonka exaggerated the story somewhat, for dramatic effect.
The episode ends with Ilonka imploring her need to live. She believes that Julia was a miracle case, but the hospice saved her, why can’t it help other people too? This building has history and is a sacred place to Ilonka. She wants to explore the grounds and uncover its many secrets, to find the cure. This yearning to live is a great hook that instantly makes you connect with our leading lady. As she wanders the corridors that first night, a shadowy figure follows her back to her room.
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