Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for the Netflix series The Midnight Club.
Death at Brightcliffe Hospice Center on Netflix is certain The Midnight Clubfrom the creator of Haunted Hill House Mike Flanagan and based on the books by Christopher Pike. Under the direction of Dr. Georgina Stanton (Heide Langenkamp) Brightcliffe has hosted dozens (if not hundreds) of terminally ill teenagers to give them a chance to be on their own and regain some agency over their lives before the end. And secretly the members of the exclusive Midnight Club – currently consisting of Kevin (Igby Rigney), Spencer (William Chris Sumpter), Sandra (Annara Cymone), Natsuki (Aya Furukawa), Anya (Ruth Codd), Cheri (Adia) and Amesh (Sauryan Sapkota) – meet in the fire-lit library at witching hour to share stories, usually roughly based in some way on their lives, that offer them some comfort during their brief stay.
As Ilonka (Iman Benson) arrives in Brightcliffe, she wants to solve the mystery surrounding former patient Julia Jayne (Larsen Thompson), who miraculously survived the same incurable diagnosis of thyroid cancer that Ilonka received after she went missing from the grounds for a week. However, her investigation gets off to a rocky start when she discovers that Dr. Stanton is unwilling to discuss Julia and there is not much information to be found on the former patient. Through her persistence and some advice from the mysterious Shasta (Samantha Slojan) that Ilonka keeps coming across on her forays into the woods around Brightcliffe, Ilonka picks up the same thread that Julia had found decades before.
What is the ritual?
This thread leads them to the discovery of a diary of Athena, daughter of Regina (Katie Parker), leader of the notorious Paragon cult who had inhabited Brightcliffe before the hospice center came into being. In her journal, Athena describes her mother’s misgivings and misconduct in the name of worshiping the five daughters of Asclepius: Panacea, Hygieia, Aglaea, Iaso, and Aseco, the name Regina later claimed. This worship of the goddesses involved a ritual said to not only cure disease but also attain immortality, something Paragon cult members felt guilty about after science and medicine had failed them. Before the Paragon cult was officially shut down and Regina was locked up in a mental hospital for several years, it all ended when Regina switched the ritual to blood sacrifice. This was ultimately why Athena rounded up the other children involved in the cult and ran off. Regina sacrificed all of the other members of the Paragon to gain her longer life.
Given what she’s learned so far, in the sixth episode, Ilonka puts the ritual to the test to try to save a dying Anya – without the blood sacrifice and other cult-like elements. They call the Five Sisters in Brightcliffe’s hidden basement and follow the steps to cure their friend. While the seventh episode fools us a bit as we watch Anya years after her healing at Brightcliffe, Anya doesn’t survive, meaning the ritual doesn’t work. However, Ilonka later confides in her new friend Shasta about this failure and her desperation to survive, and the two later devise a plan to perform the ritual correct Away with some of the women from Shasta’s life to form her own Five Sisters.
A new, modern ritual
Shasta and Ilonka begin the ritual to heal Ilonka, but things don’t quite go as planned. First, Shasta reveals the truth that she’s actually Julia Jayne, all grown up. Through flashbacks, we learn that Julia had the same desperation to survive as Ilonka did when she discovered the diary and tracked Regina down to learn more about the Paragon cult’s secrets. The story of Julia’s disappearance from the compound was actually made up by Julia and Regina, who had spent this week talking about the five sisters together. Julia then returned to Brightcliffe and performed her version of the ritual, which she wholeheartedly believes worked. Therefore, in the present, she tries to get Ilonka to help her perform the ritual to save herself again.
Luckily, Dr. Stanton intervenes and prevents Julia’s plan by stopping Ilonka from drinking the poison that Shasta’s friends consumed. It remains to be seen whether the ritual will actually work until the end of the season. That it doesn’t work is apparently confirmed when Dr. Stanton also confided in Ilonka that Julia’s miraculous recovery was merely the result of a rare misdiagnosis, but Julia could not process it other than that she had been saved by the ritual. However, the final moments of the final episode challenge everything we’ve learned before, leading this author to believe that the ritual does Work… just maybe not in the way everyone thinks.
But what about dr. stanton?
In the end we are with Dr. Stanton getting ready for bed while the teens are all at their usual meeting in the library. Stanton removes her wig, revealing the infamous hourglass figure, particularly associated with the Paragon cult, tattooed on the back of her neck. This leaves viewers with a ton of questions, including what Stanton may or may not have lied about throughout the season. As Julia revealed, Stanton did everything he could to keep her away from Brightcliffe after she healed. Is it because Stanton saved all that mystical power for himself to extend her own life? Given the number of people who die at Brightcliffe each year, it seems a morally ambiguous way to meet the blood sacrifice requirements that Regina and Julia both felt were necessary to achieve the Five Sisters’ healing. Obviously the ritual didn’t work for Anya, but is that just because Ilonka and the others didn’t perform it properly? They didn’t dare cross the line of sacrifice like their predecessors had, and they kept every aspect of the ritual relatively PG so it wouldn’t become too iconic down in the basement.
Personally, it seems that the ritual does work until the end of the season. Julia’s insistence that the ritual saved her seems more believable than Stanton’s misdiagnosis babble, plus Regina appeared to be doing just fine when Julia tracked her down decades after the Paragon cult fiasco. Combine all of that with Stanton’s own mysterious connections to everything that’s going on, and it seems incredibly likely that something much deeper is going on at Brightcliffe.
The Midnight Club now streaming on Netflix.
https://collider.com/midnight-club-ritual-does-it-work-paragon-cult/ Does The Cult Ritual in The Midnight Club Actually Work?