Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for the Netflix series The Midnight Club.
Netflix The Midnight Club — based on the books of Christopher Pike and adapted for the screen by Haunted Hill House Creator Mike Flanagan — follows Ilonka (Iman Benson) when she is diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer and spends the rest of her days at the mysterious and seductive Brightcliffe Hospice Center. Under the care of Dr. Georgina Stanton (Heide Langenkamp), a woman who personally witnessed the devastating death of cancer, Ilonka meets the rest of the patients who make up the current, always exclusive, Midnight Club: Kevin (Igby Rigney), Anya (Ruth Codd), Natsuki (Aya Furukawa), Sandra (Annara Cymone), Cheri (Adia), A net (Sauryan Sapkota) and Spencer (Chris Sumpter). Thus begins the final chapter in the lives of these young adults as they tell fantastical stories at midnight, reminiscent of their own struggles by the fireplace in the darkened library.
However, one patient has other plans to ensure Brightcliffe is not the final resting place of her short life. Ilonka’s only reason for going to Brightcliffe isn’t to accept the inevitable. As we learn early on, Ilonka is going back to a story she told decades earlier on the internet about a girl named Julia Jayne (Larsen Thompson), who was diagnosed with the same type of cancer as Ilonka and who survived despite the same final diagnosis. In short, the message of Jayne’s survival is that Brightcliffe saved her life, which is why Ilonka decides to stay there.
A quest for survival
When Ilonka arrives at Brightcliffe, she is surprised to find Dr. Stanton isn’t ready to talk about Julia Jayne, so she’s forced to scour the property and private records for the answers she seeks. Along the way, she meets a strange woman, Shasta (Samantha Slojan), out in the woods on Brightcliffe’s vast grounds, which patients seldom explore in their weakened state. Shasta is a local and well-known business owner who prides herself on natural ingredients and has a clear love of nature. Shasta and Ilonka hit it off right away, especially since Shasta (who owns the neighboring property) knows quite a bit about the Brightcliffe estate, which satisfies a curious Ilonka and makes her hungry for more answers. Throughout the season, Ilonka and Shasta continue to meet and share information. Shasta tells Ilonka more about her business and her naturopathic way of life, while also sharing details about her strained relationship with Dr. Stanton reveals. Both women do Not get along, and Dr. Stanton has done some things to distance everything about Brightcliffe from Shasta.
It’s not until the end of the season that we finally understand who Shasta really is (although the signs are there early on, so it’s not hard to assume from the start). The elusive Shasta is actually Julia Jayne, the girl who inexplicably survived and beat her cancer diagnosis decades earlier, all grown up. Shasta aka Julia has spent her adult life staying close to Brightcliffe, eager to learn more of the mysteries and wonders it holds. But the most intriguing part of the reveal is learning how Shasta beat her cancer, which dates back to the infamous Paragon cult that resided on the property before it was converted into a hospice center.
Connections to the Paragon cult
Through flashbacks and Shasta’s confession to Ilonka, we discover that Julia was also desperate for a means of survival when she arrived in Brightcliffe, furthering the similarities between her and Ilonka. Julia stumbled upon a diary during her time at Brightcliffe, the Diary of Athena (Emma Tremblay), daughter of the Paragon sect leader Aseco. This journal explained her mother’s horrific acts, including but not limited to ritual sacrifices that eventually led Julia down a rabbit hole. Julia tracked down Aseco, who lived an average life, to learn more about the Paragon cult and their rituals to try to save herself. Over a week with Aseco, they devise a plan for how Julia can perform the ritual in Brightcliffe’s basement and still cover her tracks. That includes writing a story about what happened to her that will make her an urban legend, completely hiding her visit to Aseco, and telling everyone she’s been lost on the premises all week. With this new knowledge, Julia performed the ritual. she is healed, and the tests prove it. Shortly thereafter, Julia formed the Midnight Club and in her absence left subtle clues as to what had really become of her, such as stowing Athena’s journal in the library and leaving numbers on drawings for a brilliant mind to stumble upon.
The truth comes out
When Shasta reveals her truth to Ilonka, the two devise a plan to perform the ritual again to heal Ilonka with the help of some of the women in Shasta’s life. Ilonka helps them sneak into Brightcliffe and they head down to the basement where they immediately begin the ritual. However, this is where things start to go wrong. As the women all take their places in the basement, Ilonka prepares to be in the middle, to be the center of the healing energy they will receive. However, Shasta takes that place in the formation, leaving Ilonka out. Ilonka and the others are told to drink as the ritual requires, but Dr. Stanton interrupts the ritual before Ilonka can drink. Luckily, too, because the drink was laced with poison, leaving Shasta the sole survivor of this dark encounter. Then Shasta escapes.
After the ritual, everything becomes clear when Ilonka finally meets Dr. Stanton talks about Juliet. Shasta aka Julia used Ilonka’s curiosity to take advantage of her, providing Shasta with an opportunity to perform the ritual again and heal herself of whatever ailments she suffers from later in life. She would have killed anyone, including Ilonka, which is why Dr. Stanton Shasta has been keeping a close eye and has ensured she stays away from Brightcliffe since her miraculous recovery. What does Dr. Stanton, was not due to the ritual but was an anomaly, a misdiagnosis that rarely occurs, and Julia traced it back to the ritual. This destroys Ilonka’s hope of survival, but eventually puts her on the path to acceptance.
In short, Julia Jayne spent her post-cancer life obsessed with Brightcliffe and the wonders she thought she had discovered there. She was inspired by Aseco, the leader of the Paragon cult, and followed in their footsteps – to an extent, of course. She changed her name to Shasta so she could live separate from the Julia Jayne storyline. When she fell ill again, she decided to use Ilonka to enact a plan to heal herself that she otherwise could not have accomplished. But the ritual was interrupted and subsequently failed.
However, the question of whether the ritual actually healed Julia remains up in the air with the reveal at the end of the season. In the final moments, Dr. Stanton takes off a wig, revealing the infamous hourglass tattooed on the back of her neck. That’s what Dr. Stanton’s claim of misdiagnosis incredibly suspicious. Would the ritual have succeeded in healing Julia again? What exactly did Dr. Stanton before? Whatever the case, Julia’s beliefs and miraculous recovery seem a little less far-fetched when the truth emerges.
The Midnight Club now streaming on Netflix.
https://collider.com/the-midnight-club-who-is-shasta/ Who Is Shasta and What Does She Want?