A matter of hours. That’s how long the dominion of the vampires reigns over Crockett Island, from their orgy of death in St. Patrick’s Church to their demise in the morning sun in this, the seventh and final episode of Midnight Mass. This is not to say that Crockett Island survives the night, anymore than they do. By the time they all (well, almost all—more on this later) accept their fate and greet the dawn, they’ve killed and partially devoured everyone else on the island, converting many of them into killers in turn—a grim tide of slaughter we watch slowly overtake the island, dragging people screaming from their houses, falling upon them in the streets as they flee. They’ve burned every building on the island, with the exception of the church, burned by their erstwhile leader, and the rec center, burned by one of their own. The boats on which they were counting to spread their religious contagion to the mainland have been burned by their enemies. They are all dead. Their enemies—Erin Greene, Sheriff Hassan, Dr. Gunning—are all dead. The island is dead. There are two survivors.
The biggest revelation, no pun intended, of this episode may well be Beverly Keane. I’ve struggled with this one-note character all season, particularly when contrasted with the captivatingly nuanced portrayal of Father Paul/Monsignor John by Hamish Linklater. But here, as a fully formed vampire, she suddenly clicks. You don’t need nuance when you’re the self-appointed ringleader of an undead religious crusade, or when you’re overthrowing the reign of the priest you yourself held up like unto a God until he balked at your barbarism, or when you’re rooting around your rotten old brain for epithets to sling at unbelievers. The way she taunts a man who never went to church but was converted by her minion Sturge nonetheless—cruelly telling him he could have saved the wife and children he’d just murdered, then banishing him from her safehouse—is so monstrous that the Monsignor pronounces it so, in so many words. It took until she was literally monstrous for her monstrousness to work for the story.
And in the end, it’s Bev’s overreach in service of the cause, more than the Monsignor’s defection from it, that causes the vampires’ undoing. So certain was she that the rec center she built with money skimmed from the town’s pockets would serve as their safe haven that she had her followers burn the whole island to the ground that she’s caught completely flat-footed when young Ali Hassan, himself a vampire but still one possessing a conscience, torches the place on behalf of his father the sheriff and Erin Greene, both of whom are attacked and mortally wounded—him by Bev, her by the original batlike vampire—before they can burn it themselves.
Abandoned by the Monsignor, shown that Bev’s grand plans are castles made of sand, shamed by those among them who are themselves ashamed of what they’ve done that night, and realizing they have nowhere to hide from the coming dawn, the vampires begin wandering away. Many of them gather around the reunited Flynns, Annie and Ed, who lead them in a(n improbably tuneful, but whatever) singalong of “Nearer, My God to Thee”—according to legend, Hollywood, and Harry Chapin, the last song to be played by the band on the Titanic. They don’t get to finish it, though: The sun rises, and the gathered townsfolk add to the flames consuming their island, cutting the hymn off for good.
And where is Bev, the zealot? Alone on the beach. Well, not quite alone: She’s just a few yards away from Ali and the Sheriff, who’ve come there to pray together, and then to die together, the father of his gunshot wounds, the son from the sun itself. Bev’s final moments are of panic over the certainty of her own death; whatever she thought she believed about heaven and God’s reward for his faithful, she tries to avoid it to the last, frantically digging in the sand to bury herself, then screaming in terror as her face burns away. It’s the character’s best moment; ironically, it’s the first time she’s seemed human.
Humanizing moments abound, in fact, though thankfully writer-director Mike Flanagan pulls short of getting too sentimental on us. Reunited with his rejuvenated lover Millie Gunning, Monsignor John Pruitt realizes the error of his ways, is finally able to see the horror of what he’s brought to the island—brought to it, he says, out of a misguided desire to save Millie’s life. Hamish Linklater’s already remarkable performance reveals even more layers here, as his voice hitches and gets high-pitched and choked with sobs as he comes to grips with everything that he’s done, in life and death. Together he and Millie shepherd the dead, non-revived body of their daughter Sarah, who in her final minutes learns the truth of her parentage, to the bridge she used to play on as a child. It’s there they greet the sun.
Even comparatively minor characters get their moment in the sun (no pun intended, I swear). When Bev’s plan goes up in smoke, Sturge—until this point her most loyal follower—turns to Ooker, the racist altar boy, and together they attempt to come to grips with what they’ve done that night.
“I think I…I dunno, but I think I killed my mom,” Ooker says.
“Yeah,” Sturge replies. “I, uh, I done some stuff to night that I feel, uh…I done some stuff.” Then, almost childlike, he asks Ooker of all people, “Will you forgive me, kid?”
“I’ll forgive you,” Ooker replies. And together with the man—now a vampire—whom Bev humiliated, they wander off together.
The episode’s biggest swing for the fences is a monologue delivered by Erin, in her mind, to her dead love Riley Flynn. Striking a balance between his atheistic appraisal of death as a matter of neurons going off like fireworks and her own previously articulated belief in heaven, she charts a middle ground in which the energy firing in those neurons is heaven, in a sense—a representation of the oneness of matter and energy throughout the cosmos, all stemming from the same source, our consciousness of it simply an issue of the universe dreaming of itself. That’s what the biblical God’s declaration “I am that I am” ultimately means, she thinks as she lies dying, quietly slicing the wings of the bat-thing to ribbons as it feeds on her so it won’t be able to fly away and escape the dawn.
Its flight is witnessed by the two survivors mentioned earlier, Leeza Scarborough and Warren Flynn. They’ve rowed out into the bay, not to make landfall elsewhere—it’s too far a journey—but simply to escape predation. They watch from the water as the island burns, as the original vampire clumsily attempts to fly away, as the sun rises. They don’t know if the few humans they left behind succeeded in their quest to stop the vampires, though they’re quite correct in believing they died in the attempt. They don’t know if the bat-thing will escape, but they doubt it. And based on what we know about how the vampire contagion was spread and how it operates on the bodies of those who’ve been dosed with it, the final line of the episode, the final line of this compelling and unsparing show, gives good reason to believe that they’re right to doubt.
“I can’t feel my legs,” Leeza says, in a voice tinged—just slightly—with triumph.