‘Midnight Mass’ Producers Break Down Biblical References to Father Paul’s Heavenly Secret

·6-min read

(Warning: This post contains spoilers through the finale of Netflix’s “Midnight Mass.”)

“Midnight Mass” poses many a giant theological, philosophical and logical questions to its viewers. And while we don’t have the answer to most of those, we do have one for a pretty simple, but immediately obvious, question: How does Father Paul go out in the daytime? 

So as those of us who have watched “The Haunting of Hill House” creator Mike Flanagan’s new seven-episode limited series now know, Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is actually Crockett Pot’s elderly Monsignor Pruitt, who had his health and youth restored by The Angel (played by Quinton Boisclair) that sucked his blood and fed him some of his own, when Pruitt stumbled upon him in a cave desert on a trip to the Holy Land. Father Paul/Monsignor Pruitt brings The Angel that turned him into a vampire back to Crockett Island with him, and hides both the creature and the miracle of youth that The Angel has given him, and pretends to be a young, new priest. 

But before we find out all of this in Episode 3, Father Paul spends some time out in the daylight with his new parishioners, most notably at the Crock Pot Lunch that is held on Ash Wednesday in Episode 2. And once you’ve gotten to the part where you find out about the whole vampire thing, you might be wondering how he could do this without bursting into flames, as we see is a very real problem for him later on in the series.

Well there’s a good answer, and it actually relates to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”

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“So Father Paul hasn’t died yet,” “Midnight Mass” creator Flanagan tells TheWrap. “Father Paul dies at the end of Episode 3. But just like everybody else in the church who was going out during the day prior to Episode 6, and Sarah says it, and then he says it later, that the blood of The Angel is in your veins, but until your earthly body dies, the transformation hasn’t been complete. And that we took from Stoker. So that’s [‘Dracula’ characters] Lucy and Mina, why Mina could be brought back, because she hadn’t actually died, but why Lucy had gone full vampire, because she had.” 

Flanagan continued: “When The Angel first finds Father Paul, it doesn’t kill him. It just gives him enough blood to get younger and to feel vital, because it needs him to get it out of there. He has to travel during the day. And then finally, he’s taken in too much of the blood, it hits that critical mass that Sarah talks about, and he dies. And then there’s no going back. And he is susceptible to sunlight. But that’s also the reason why Leeza Scarborough (Annarah Cymone) is able to sit in the sunlight, even though she’s been drinking communion, is that she never died.”

“That’s why the, ‘I can’t feel my legs’ at the end, is because she’s starting to heal,” Flanagan’s producing partner Trevor Macy added.

Read more from TheWrap’s Q&A with Flanagan and Macy about “Midnight Mass” below.

TheWrap: So The Angel is a vampire, which seems weird at first, until the characters slowly begin to point out similarities between the creature and what it is turning people into, and what is actually written about angels and miracles in the Bible. Because we generally assume angels to be light and good, what does it say about the “Midnight Mass” characters like Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) and Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan), and other people who accept The Angel as “good” despite its vampire qualities, and what it’s doing to the people of Crockett Island? And what message were you trying to convey about our own preconceived notions of what an angel would be like?

Mike Flanagan: It’s a great question because there’s something that happens with a lot of religion where, you know, the Bible is read to you in small pieces and it’s explained to you in certain ways. And if you really step back and think about it and you think about an angel, you think about God sends a creature to kill the firstborn children of the Egyptians — that’s an angel, and the murder of all those children is good. In that context of Exodus, that is a good thing. And that, to me, even as a kid in Bible study, was just like, “What?” What is an angel in the Bible? It’s an inhuman creature that is described as striking terror into the hearts of everyone who encounters it and is dispatched to do these horrible things. There’s a line in a great movie called “The Prophecy” with Christopher Walken from the 90s, which is a movie I adore.

Trevor Macy: It’s a great movie. Gregory Widen wrote it. 

MF: Yeah! And they say, “Whenever God needs to do something really awful, he sends an angel. Would you ever really want to meet one?” And so, yes, there was very fertile ground in the biblical text to kind of create, or at least justify, a lot of the things the story is doing through actual biblical descriptions of angelic properties and actions. And it was wonderful and fascinating to me that we didn’t have to look very long and very hard for passages in the Bible that explain why a vampire would burst into flames in the sunlight or to justify murder. You know, it’s all there. And that’s one of the fascinating things about the Bible, there’s a lot of horror in it. And as a kid who always responded to horror, those are the elements of the book that jumped out and grabbed me as a young person and the ones I had the most questions about in Sunday school and a lot of those questions are in this show. 

TM: Until they told you to stop asking.

MF: Yes, until they told me to stop asking (laughs). And to stop saying things like, “If we’re drinking the blood of Jesus to gain eternal life, isn’t that kinda vampiric?” And they’d say, “No! Stop saying that.” But these are ideas I found interesting and that they coexisted with beautiful ideas of forgiveness and of love for our neighbor. That the God of the Bible would be capable of such incredible beauty and love, depending on which book you’re reading, and then such horrific things, especially in the Old Testament, is something that I find fascinating about Christianity, about religion in general. But yeah, The Angel, it was not much of a stretch.

TM: Be not afraid.

Read more from our interview with Flanagan and Macy here and here, and our chat with Linklater here, and check back with TheWrap for additional “Midnight Mass” coverage.

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