The Midnight Club Deepens Mike Flanagan’s Exploration of Death

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Midnight Club.The Midnight Club it’s all about death. By following a group of terminal patients spending the final months of their lives in a hospice, the creators of the series Mike Flanagan and Leah Fong explore the existential dread of contemplating the forgetting that awaits us at the grave. No wonder the characters of The Midnight Club hold on to any kind of hope, sometimes with dire consequences for all. Through magical rituals and alternative healing methods, Brightcliffe’s young adults fight as best they can against the horrifying end that awaits them. At the same time, they vow to check in from the other side after their time to tell their friends that death is not the end and there is no need to be afraid. The Midnight Club is a beautiful exploration of how faith and hope make the weight of death bearable, and what could have been a depressing observation ends up becoming a celebration of life, enjoying the present moment with all our energy.


While The Midnight Club is a brilliant study of human mortality, this isn’t the first time Flanagan has explored death on Netflix. Death is also the focus of all three of Flanagan’s previous series: The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manorand midnight fair. While every show Flanagan works on has its own unique goal and setting, they all reflect the same concerns and all end with an upbeat message about accepting mortality.

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In 2018, Flanagan became one of Netflix’s biggest stars by asking what a ghost is. The Haunting of Hill House is a gripping story where family trauma and addiction haunt the characters and the guise of otherworldly apparitions. As the series builds and underscores how the ghosts we carry throughout our lives could be manifestations of wounds that refuse to heal, the payoff shows that most of the time a ghost is what we want to see. A ghost in Flanagan’s recent work is an intangible force that scares us at night – but once we dare to face it, we realize that ghosts have a surprisingly positive side. After all, when ghosts exist, our loved ones are never truly lost, and life is more than a cold and lonely hole in the ground.

Flanagan took this one step further with this light-hearted perspective on ghosts The Haunting of Bly Manor, where a ghost story equals a love story. The sequel to hill house muted the horror but delivered a masterfully crafted romance steeped in the supernatural. And as the credits rolled we couldn’t stop crying and thinking that a ghost is a memory, a mystery and a wish never to let go of the people who make life worth living. The Haunting series is full of scary moments, but if they stand the test of time it’s because they talk about our universal fear when the subject is death. The Midnight Club saves this motif by leading his group of terminal patients on an eternal ghost hunt, and when death is so near, every sign is interpreted as proof that there is still hope and love after the body has crumbled to dust.

Although midnight fair has no ghosts, the series is also based on discussions of mortality. midnight fair imagines a priest (Hamish Linklater), who becomes a vampire and contemplates eternal life. It also follows a convicted atheist (Zach Gilford) seeks to make peace with life’s shortcomings without the support of faith. The series could have turned into a cynical defense of rational thinking. Instead, it tries to look for what unites us all, believers or not, emphasizing that both faith and earthly dependencies are usually crutches we pick up along the way to deal with the fact that death is frightening is. Actually frightening. And without a safety net to hold us, we would collapse in despair. Once again, midnight fair ends on a high note as it challenges people to embrace life and accept that death is just a natural threshold that we will all cross one day. And that fact doesn’t make life any less meaningful.

The Midnight Club is another excellent addition to Flanagan’s flawless work. But if the series can be so successful at tackling complex themes like suicide and substance abuse, it’s because Flanagan has honed his exploration of death over the years. While the new show stands on its own and can be thoroughly enjoyed by people who haven’t seen Flanagan’s previous series, it’s worth noting how The Midnight Club reflects the filmmaker’s optimistic and complex perspective on death.

The Midnight Club is available now on Netflix. The Midnight Club Deepens Mike Flanagan’s Exploration of Death

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