Midnight, Texas S01E01 “Pilot” REVIEW

Midnight, Texas S01E01 “Pilot” REVIEW

0 comments 📅28 July 2017, 16:47

Airing on SyFy UK, Thursday at 9pm
Writer: Monica Owusu-Breen
Director: Niels Arden Oplev

Essential Plots Points:

  • We see a man with a healed bullet wound in his back getting ready for his day. He greets a client and explains that his fee has gone up. She’s fine with this. He’s a psychic and his client wants to talk to her dead husband. He’s… genuine. And sweet.
  • Until she admits she’s seeing someone.
  • The room goes cold. A mirror breaks and an apparition forms in the room. It’s malevolent, huge and… possesses the psychic. He attacks his client and only just manages to exorcise the spirit before it kills her.

  • Later, shotgunning some painkillers and a mini-bar or two, the psychic gets a phone call. A client wants money.
  • The psychic bails.
  • All the way to Midnight, Texas. With his dead grandma for company. She’s pretty cool too, funny and relaxed. She reassures him he’ll be safe in the town.
  • He visits the local pawn shop, where Bobo, his new landlord lives. He gets a psychic impression off everything. It turns out that Bobo’s fiance, Aubrey, is missing. He wants help finding her but Manfred (we get his name earlier but it goes by so fast this is the first time it registers) admits he’s fake.
  • Later, at the local diner, Manfred is introduced to Creek, a waitress and Lemuel and Olivia. Lemuel, clearly not entirely human, is a very large man with great dress sense. Olivia is… guarded. Cautious. Lemuel sees Creek being hassled by another patron, apologises and drains Manfred of energy. He explains that he’s a vampire who leeches energy and wanted to make sure Creek was okay.
  • Manfred? He’s just happy to not be the weirdest person in the room for once.
  • The next day at the town barbecue, Manfred and Creek show up just as a dog starts barking…
  • There’s a body in the creek. It’s Aubrey Hamilton. Bobo’s fiance.
  • And as the corpse turns to look at Manfred, we get the title card.
  • That’s a hell of a cold open.
  • The cops arrive and question both Bobo and Manfred. Bobo admits she left two weeks ago after an argument. He’s looking like a good fit for the perpetrator, at least in their eyes.
  • That night Manfred wakes up freezing. His sheets are soaked, he’s surrounded by flies and… Aubrey is next to him. She tries to tell him something and finally writes something on the window.

  • HELP
  • Manfred, with no option, agrees. But they’re going to do this his way.
  • His way involves breaking into Midnight’s church to get some holy water. The church is surprisingly scary; small, intense, dark and filled with very old art. It gets even more intimidating when the Rev arrives. Looking like a Johnny Cash video, the Rev fills his flask for him and tells Manfred when Sunday service is.
  • The Sherriff visits Bobo and gives him some bad news. Aubrey was married to a member of the Sons of Lucifer, a white supremacist group. The Sheriff warns Bobo not to do things the Midnight way; taking matters into their own hands. He agrees. And clearly doesn’t mean it.
  • At home, Manfred sets up a ouija board and the holy water. He summons Aubrey. He walks Aubrey through the board, and she spells out a word; PECADOS.
  • At which point a screaming spirit turns up.
  • And then a man shooting himself in the corner of the room.
  • And hellfire beneath his feet.
  • And a floating spectre.
  • And a slave who was hung.
  • One of the spirits attacks him and Manfred dives out of the room, tying the door shut with an amulet.
  • The Sheriff questions the locals and finds out that Aubrey was well liked even though she lied to them about her previous life.
  • When they arrive at Manfred’s place, he persuades them to not look in the big room of ghosts by passing the message along. PECADOS. It’s a location further up the river. And the murder weapon was dumped there.
  • Manfred is told to cancel his consultations and not leave town. So, he does what anyone would do; talks to his grandma. She tells him things are different in Midnight. At which point Olivia arrives, knocks Manfred out and ties him up.
  • Manfred wakes up tied to a chair. He’s interrogated by Olivia and Lemuel and he admits his grandma told him to come. Lemuel has met her. Manfred admits that his grandma ran scams and got caught. The people chasing him were after her but now she’s dead, he’ll do just as well.
  • Lemuel lays it out for Manfred; Midnight is a haven for ‘unusual’ individuals. Olivia and Bobo are human but ‘open minded’. He carefully does not mention any of the others.
  • Of course, a town full of monsters becoming a crime scene? Not good news. Especially as the veil between the living and the dead is dangerously thin…
  • The white supremacists show up at Bobo’s place. They want weapons and money, they want to know where Bobo hid them. They threaten his life. He does not care.

  • At which point Lemuel kills one and Olivia pins another one to the wall with a bow and arrow. They tell Bobo to go home and Lemuel interrogates – and then feeds on – the survivor.
  • The next morning Manfred chats to Creek at the Gas and Go. Her dad is very protective. Intimidatingly so.
  • On the way out, Manfred sees a pickup parked by the church. One with a covered up, bleeding body in the back…
  • At home he’s setting up his usual trawl sites when Hightower, the man hunting him, rings. They know he was in Dallas. They’re getting closer.
  • Creek comes to see him. She apologises for her dad and explains that he changed when her mom died. She explains that she knows what Lemuel is and he isn’t the only one. Joe in the tattoo parlour watches over everyone in town and as she says this we see him sprout wings and fly out over the countryside. Bobo, she says, is sweet and honest and kind. The Rev is far stronger than he seems but she hasn’t figured him out. And Fiji, well…
  • We see Fiji burning a sample of Aubrey’s hair in a ceremony. While her cat complains, in English, about how much good it will do…
  • Oh and Olivia, it turns out, has a closet full of a genuinely astounding variety of weapons and is a contract killer. She’s also really angry, having had to turn down a job because she can’t leave town. Lemuel offers to take some of that anger from her and she smiles, murmurs ‘I was wondering when you’d ask’ and takes him to bed…
  • And then Creek gets to Manfred. He explains he’s from a long line of fortune tellers. Sometimes it’s real, sometimes it isn’t. She asks him to read her and he does. She’s going to see the world. She’s going to meet her soulmate. She may already have. Creek thinks he’s making it up. Manfred is a very bad liar. She suggests they kiss and just as they’re about to, police lights go past.
  • The police arrest Bobo for the murder of Aubrey. The entire town watches as he’s taking away, pleading his innocence.
  • The Midnighters block the road in front of the car. The Sheriff yells at them to clear the road and Fiji concentrates, her eyes going a very dark red.

  • The car begins to collapse. The car begins to levitate. And as the Rev, Olivia and Manfred all agree to help, Fiji reluctantly lets the cops go. The car drops. The damage fixes itself. The car drives away.
  • And when Manfred walks home he sees hellfire seething under the floor of his house and shadows on the walls…


This is so much fun – if you liked True Blood before it became a continuity slog, you’ll love this. If you liked Nightbreed, this will seem pleasingly familiar. If you like urban fantasy (light on the urban) or horror? This is absolutely for you.

The pilot does a great job of setting up Francois Arnaud’s amiable scruffy Manfred and gives him some really interesting backstory. The dusty ghosts are a lovely visual and Grandma Zelda is great fun. Plus it’s oddly sweet having a main character travel and (sort of) live with his extremely dead but still talkative grandma. It also neatly undercuts what you expect, something the show does with every character. Manfred isn’t just a likable con artist, he’s the last member of a long line of psychics. Lemuel isn’t angst ridden about feeding from humans, he’ll happily do it on occasion, but usually chooses not to. Midnight looks like a standard small town until you spend any time there. It’s a clever, subtle piece of three card monte and the show does it in every single scene. This isn’t the town Manfred expects but it’s the one he needs. And, turns out, we do too.

Oplev’s smartly handled direction is helped by both Owusu-Breen’s clever script and a phenomenal cast. They’re all great but Peter Mensah’s Lemuel is the one that will stay with you. The town vampire he’s the de factor big brother/leader and exactly nothing like any other vampire you’ve seen. Oh sure he’s got the whole ‘doesn’t choose to kill’ thing and centuries of experience but Lemuel is also…very calm He’s a relaxed presence in a field normally laden down with vampiric chaps in byronic shirts beating their breasts and decrying their cruel fate. We cannot tell you just how refreshing it is to not have to sit through that yet again. Plus he’s funny, direct and dynamic in a way these characters so often aren’t.

The show looks good too, the dust-covered, grotesque ghosts and Manfred’s very hands on visions give the show a nicely lived in texture and approach. Plus the location feels right. It’s on a backlot sure but it feels… quiet… remote. A place things can hide for the right reasons and, perhaps, the wrong ones. The end result plays a little like Northern Exposure and a little like My Name Is Earl and that skewed, quietly eccentric approach fits the story like a glove.

Fast paced but considered, this is an immensely confident and entertaining hour of genre TV. Much, much more of this please.

The Good:

  • The tone of the show is delightful. If you remember Northern Exposure, it plays a lot like that crossed with a way more coherent True Blood.
  • The premise. ‘Town full of misfits who live under sufferance of not causing any trouble’ is a great way to simultaneously subvert the small town ideal and embrace it. It’s basically small town Nightbreed and we didn’t know how badly we needed that, or how much fun it was, until we saw this.
  • Lemuel and Olivia threshing the white supremacists while basically in their underwear is adorable.
  • The cast. There’s not a weak link in there but the stand out is Peter Mensah as Lemuel. He’s great. Charming, urbane, completely missing all the massively tedious usual vampire angst and still not even a little human.
  • ‘You’ll be safe in Midnight.’
    ‘That’d mean a whole lot more coming from someone who isn’t dead.’
  • ‘Eat meat?’
    ‘I wouldn’t have moved to Texas if I didn’t.’

The Bad:

  • It’s weirdly easy to miss Manfred’s name for the first 20 minutes. That’s it.

And The Random:

  • Francois Arnaud, who plays Manfred, has previously appeared in Blindspot as Oscar, The Borgias as Cesare Borgia and several other shows and movies.

  • Dylan Bruce, as amiable town sort of lunkhead, Bobo has previously appeared in CSI: NY, NCIS and as Paul Dierden in Orphan Black. He’s also known for James Dearing in Heroes Reborn and Adam Donner in Arrow.

  • Parisa Fitz-Henley is best known in geek circles as Reva Connors, one of the most interesting supporting characters in the Marvel Netflix shows. She’s also appeared in movies like Bluebird and The Sorceror’s Apprentice.

  • Arielle Kebbel is great as the cheerfully angry Olivia. She’s previously appeared in everything from The Vampire Diaries to Hawaii Five-O. She’s also got movies like The Grudge 2, John Tucker Must Die and Be Cool on her resume.

  • Jason Lewis’s Joe the tattoo artist is one of the show’s most intriguing characters. He’s previously appeared in TV show like How I Met Your Mother as Movie Tony and movies like under-rated sort-of time travel story The Jacket.

  • Sarah Ramos plays Creek on the show. She’s previously appeared on shows like Without a Trace and Lie to Me and was a main cast member on the first three seasons of Parenthood.

  • Peter Mensah is a familiar face to genre fans everywhere. As well as being famously kicked into a pit by Gerard Butler on 300, he’s appeared in Avatar, The Incredible Hulk, Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles and of course Spartacus.

  • Yul Vazquez’s quiet, intense Rev is already one of our favourite characters. He’s previously appeared in movies like Captain Phillips and The A-Team and TV shows like Person of Interest and Fringe.

  • Sean Bridgers, who plays the Sherriff, is best known for his work as Johnny Burns in Deadwood. He’s also a True Blood alumni and has credits a mile long on most major US shows.
  • Niels Arden Oplev directed the original movie version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. He’s also directed for Under The Dome and Mr. Robot and is helming the upcoming Flatliners reboot/sequel.
  • Monica Owusu-Breen has written and produced for Alias, Brothers & Sisters, Lost and Agents of SHIELD among others.

Review by Alasdair Stuart

Read all our reviews of Midnight Texas

No Comments

No Comments Yet!

You can be first one to write a comment

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.