Love Conquers Most on the Season 1 Finale of ‘Midnight, Texas’
“I hate to break it to you, but you’re just not that evil,” Olivia (Arielle Kebbel) tells vampire Lemuel (Peter Mensah) as they speed to an uncertain future as the first season of “Midnight, Texas” comes to its predetermined end. The very human assassin is not wrong. The freaks, ghouls and residents of Midnight aren’t much different from mundane humans from any small town. They are cliquey. They have physical and psychical quirks. Many are a little long in the tooth. Some of them have a little too dark a side to them that only comes out once in a full moon, but they aren’t evil. One of them is an angel, for Christ’s sake. They have a core set of values, are fiercely loyal, and actively seek out malicious malevolence for eradication. None of them set out to be the aggressors, unless they feel a bit peckish.
Over the course of the season, each has committed acts they can’t quite justify. The angel Joe Strong (Jason Lewis), brought down an entire avenging force by taking the wrong, albeit right, life. But in general these are monsters with hearts of, if not gold, then a similar alchemical element. Even the weekly baddies are burdened with redeemable qualities. In the episode “Sexy Beast,” the villain was a Succubus, with some of the best dental work on the whole series. But she could only prey on men who had caused someone pain.
Which bring us to Manfred Bernardo (François Arnaud), the star and featured attraction in a town filled with near-side-show attractions, but he’s not appetizing to the succubus. This is a guy who skipped a town he’d been fleecing with his cold reading skills, and yet, he still doesn’t register on the “hurt someone scales.” The monsters are good, no matter how bad they are. This is the trouble with network TV.
Charlaine Harris, who is best known for “Southern Vampire Mysteries” novels featuring Sookie Stackhouse that was turned into HBO’s vampire drama series “True Blood,” is unafraid to bare darker sides that are impossible to redeem. Niels Arden Oplev, the showrunner, who set the tone as pilot director of the paranoid fantasia “Mr. Robot,” upstaged all tenets of morality and ethics there. But on NBC, and networks in general, evil characters can’t be rewarded unless they somehow redeem themselves.
Of course, not everyone can be Mr. Snuggly, and dark beauty is only skin deep. The makeup and special effects have been quite consistently spooky all season. The atmosphere is also effectively creepy. “Midnight, Texas,” manages to capture the dusty small town vibe of vampires in the sun during daylight hours, and the oppressive abandon that comes over the monsters when the freaks come out at night. The series captures the juxtaposition of the opposing forces, but only touches on the subversive possibilities. It is refreshing to see mysterious masked specters in the light of day, so the series may explore this in its sophomore season. The most satisfying special effect of this one is watching decayed lumps of former selves burst into ash and then reconvenes molecularly into something less than flesh. Spirit manifestations can take any shape they want, and apparently they are not too interested in trendy fashions.
This leads to the season finale, “The Virgin Sacrifice,” where their mission is to “save Fiji, kill a demon, close a portal to hell,” and die. That is a plan worthy of a spaghetti western, and Manfred leads his posse – Lemuel, Olivia, Bobo Winthrop (Dylan Bruce), Rev. Emilio Sheehan (Yul Vazquez) and Creek (Sarah Ramos) – back to the town they love, although that may be too strong a commitment. The relationship between the town of Midnight, Texas, and its residents is love-hate at best, and beastly when better. The guy with the vision who can bridge the living and the dead is a reluctant but reliable hero.
The local shaman in Midnight collects curios of all kinds, but was never able to tell what was evil, another indication the residents are too good for this line of work. Manfred gets a pain in his membrane that feels like an ice pick when he gets too near malevolent knicknacks.
Love conquers all, and the audience is left to wonder, whenever a demon, devil or fallen angel wants to sacrifice a virgin, why fucking is always the last option anyone ever considers. “Family is not about blood,” Rev. Sheehan says towards the end of the episode. “Family is about who accepts you for who you are.” He gets it half right. On a show with a charismatic vampire towards the center, family is mostly about who will accept your blood. On the next season, the rogue’s gallery will take on the true menace: tourists.
The season one finale of “Midnight, Texas” aired Sept. 18 on NBC.