If you have any interest in watching this show, get the fuck out of here right now and watch it first. I want to discuss the characterization and arc of a very large character, and to do that I have to, you know, talk about the show, and this is absolutely the sort of show you want to go into with as little foreknowledge as possible. I’ll be getting into some stuff immediately after the Spoiler Chocobo, so absolutely none of this article is safe. Proceed only if you’ve already watched it or want to read about a character in a show you have no plans on actually seeing. I mean, I think I’m funny, but not that funny.
Final warning: If you want to watch Midnight Mass and haven’t yet, make like a tree and fuck off.
Okay, we all good? Everyone here watched the show?
Anyway, what I really wanted to title this article was
Midnight Mass and Fuck Bev Keane, the Spiteful Bitch
But I’m not out here trying to spoil shit in titles.
She’s the Christian that makes non-Christians hate Christians.
She’s the Christian other Christians avoid after church.
She’s Dolores Umbridge with a God complex (a more literal God complex, I guess).
She was definitely going to hell even before all of this began.
From the very second we met Bev Keane I had a feeling she was going to be a mondo-bitch. It’s literally all in the way she stares down Riley Flynn and his mother, the way she holds herself, and the tone she takes with Sturge. In the space of about ten seconds she manages to bully Sturge into believing that he somehow missed Monsignor Pruitt on a ferry boat the size of a backyard swimming pool, because she and Pruitt had agreed this was the boat he would be on, and no one would dare go back on what they agreed with Bev Keane.
Seriously, Samantha Sloyan fucking nails this role. Bev Keane is an immediate, fantastic asshole and it only gets worse from here. The next scene she’s in, where the town prepares for an incoming storm, spells everything out in perfect clarity: Things are to be done the Way They’ve Always Done Things, aka Bev’s Way, and anyone who disagrees or argues is going to get spoken to in that condescending bullshit way these types of Christians always seem to master.
Bev Keane is a fucking monster.
Bev Poisoned Joe Collie’s Dog
I mean, I feel this show makes this pretty abundantly clear, but just in case:
She killed a dog. This self-righteous, supposed woman of God poisoned a dog because it barked at her and because it belongs to the town fuck-up.
The kicker, of course, is she doesn’t think she did anything wrong.
For most of us, it’s the sort of things a person does that makes them ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ It’s not really as simple as a dichotomy, either, we can recognize that some bad people have good qualities and some good people have bad ones. ‘Shades of gray’ and all that. It’s also not a fixed label – a good person can be driven to doing bad things and a bad person can do a faceturn, if you will, and begin to do good things. Humanity, and being human, is complicated.
Well, not for Bev Keane! See, good old Bev got all this shit figured out a couple of decades ago and she just crossed all that off her bucket list. Why spend half your life analyzing situations and changing your perceptions as the situation calls for it when you can give everyone a label and call it a day?
For Bev Keane, ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ is not a quality of actions, but of people. A person is not made good or bad by the things they do. Rather, a person is either good or bad to begin with – based off Bev’s own personal reasoning – and the actions that person takes is rendered good or bad simply because they’re being performed by that person.
So, for instance, Bev is of course a good person. Therefore, the fact that she’s handing out bibles and proselytizing in a public school is a good thing. When Sheriff Hassan asks her what would happen if he came to school one day handing out Qurans, Bev skirts around the issue but we know what she is thinking: that would be a bad thing, simply because it’s being done by Sheriff Hassan who has already been assigned as a bad person for…let me check my notes here…being Not Catholic, Muslim, and brown-skinned.
Or, another example: killing Joe Collie’s dog because it barked at her (and belongs to Bad Person Joe) doesn’t make her bad a person! That was a bad dog that needed to be sent home to God, so it was a righteous thing to do. Being a good person makes that act good.
Wow, hope that’s not, like, foreshadowing or anything.
To her, people like Riley Flynn and Joe Collie can never be ‘good’ people. They both made mistakes, and that’s enough for her. It doesn’t matter to her at all that Riley has spent his entire life since that mistake atoning. It doesn’t matter that Joe Collie has clearly been haunted by what happened and is now trying to fix himself. In Bev Keane’s eyes, they can never fix themselves. She’s damned them to hell without even consulting anyone about it, because she doesn’t think she needs to.
Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain
Everyone knows this one, to the point where we mince the shit out of anything that might even sort of be blasphemous:
- By golly
- For crying out loud
- For goodness’ sake
- Gee whiz
- Jiminy Christmas
- Jumping Jehosephat
But did you know there’s another interpretation of the phrase? Someone could be said to be taking the Lord’s name in vain when they start issuing proclamations or orders that they say come directly from God, but in reality contradict everything a Christian God actually stands for and clearly just comes from their own wants and desires.
Bev Keane, party of one, your table is ready.
The Untimely Death of Joe Collie
Joe Collie is only two AA meetings in (and showing progress) when he is unfortunate enough to put himself directly in front of Pruitt, a starving new vampire. When Bev finds the body, she doesn’t fucking care. She feels nothing.
Okay, not nothing. She feels what she always feels: superiority.
She makes a very impassioned speech to the Mayor and Sturge to convince them to haul ‘the body’ away in a rug and dump it in the ocean that essentially boils down to: Fuck him. He sucked and he deserved this (oh, and also your daughter is walking, Mayor, and you can’t get to keep the good without the bad).
As an aside: she comes with this ‘dumping the body’ plan fucking quick, man. She’s not panicking in the slightest and gives the men detailed instructions. Our girl here has definitely killed someone.
Anyway, Joe Collie’s death only solidifies all of the fucked-up opinions she already has. Monsignor Pruitt killed Joe. Monsignor Pruitt has not killed Bev. He also expresses that he has no remorse for what he did to Joe, chalking it up to being an act of God. Therefore, Bev was right all along. Joe sucked and she’s awesome and she can just continue to be Queen Shit of Turd Island.
The Turning of Riley Flynn
Bev makes it fucking abundantly clear – as clear as anything that comes out of her mouth can be, the way she twists everything to make it sound like its only coming from concern or some shit – that she doesn’t think Riley deserves what has happened to him.
Now, I don’t think that either, but Bev and I are coming from two very different places here. I don’t think Riley deserved to get turned into a fucking vampire because that sucks and he was honestly trying to turn his life around and definitely didn’t want this. Honestly, the scenes in episode five of Riley waking up to this new fucked-up existence might have had me clenching my teeth harder than the church scene in episode six.
Meanwhile, Bev is either still not getting it or is still in denial. Pruitt is a good man, therefore it really is God working through him. Riley getting turned isn’t an existential horror, it’s a gift. One he doesn’t deserve, because she’s already determined that Riley is ‘bad.’ She is clearly pissed from the beginning that Riley was ‘chosen,’ never mind the fact that it was an accident. And when Riley chooses to meet the sun rather than live, ooh, the self-righteous fury is so hot you could burn your face on it.
A Revelation Turned Weapon
It’s never clear, by the end, if Bev understands that what’s happening is not the stuff of God and angels. What is clear is that, to her, it really doesn’t matter. What follows is the scariest line of thinking I’ve ever heard in my life.
Bev comes to the conclusion that what is happening to them at St. Patrick’s is the beginning of the Biblical Armageddon. And she is fucking pumped about it.
See, she’s managed to spend the entire show finding scripture that justifies everything that happens. She even manages to pull something out of her ass to turn on Pruitt after he comes to his senses and realizes that the only thing he’s made is a mess. So, starting at as early as episode five with Riley she begins twisting events to match up with Revelation. This is the beginning of the end. The vampires are actually ‘God’s chosen’ who will inherit the Earth after the dregs are wiped from the planet. The fires that she fucking set are a sign from God!
This ultimately becomes their plan, and while Pruitt is at first on board I can almost guarantee you he did not actually orchestrate any of this. This is all Bev. She wants the faithful on the island to turn, and then massacre the rest of the island – who would have been saved if they had been coming to church, natch – and then they take their show on the road. Everyone goes to the mainland and starts turning the righteous and feeding on the ingrates. And who, exactly, is deciding who is worthy?
Take a Fucking Guess
As soon as Bev has Pruitt out of the way, as soon as she becomes the one truly in charge, the real Bev Keane comes out.
She has the entire town burned to the ground so that all of the new vampires have to stay in the rec center (the rec center definitely built so she could launder money back in the day, by the way). Sturge shows up with someone from town who didn’t go to St. Patrick’s, a friend of his who he wants to save. But Bev isn’t having it. He’s not a Good Person, so he doesn’t get salvation. That’s the beginning and end of it for good ole Bev Keane.
The Most Satisfying Ending
I’ve written about two thousand words describing how awful this woman is, when Annie Flynn sums it up in space of a few seconds:
“You aren’t a good person…God doesn’t love you more than anyone else…God loves [my son, who accidentally killed someone in a drunk driving accident]. Just as much as he loves you, Bev. Why does that upset you so much? Just the idea that God loves everyone just as much as you?”
Bev is still riding high on her insane plan, so none of that really sinks in (nor does Annie stabbing herself in the neck faze her), but Annie has reached into Bev and touched the gross, black, stinking heart-shaped void in the center of her: Bev believes God loves her more than the people she deems ‘bad.’ Maybe God loves her the most. Certainly he will after she kickstarts Armageddon, right?
Later on, the actual good guys of the story manage to burn down the rec center, and because Bev destroyed the rest of the town out of control and spite, the new vampires don’t have a place to hide. While almost all the rest go to the town’s center to face their fate, Bev goes to the beach, cries a bunch, tries to dig her own grave in the sand, and failing that dies screaming in agony and panic.
It’s better than garlic bread.
Vamps Go to Heaven, Bev Goes to Hell
The show leaves it ambiguous to what actually happens to people after they die (or, potentially, declares Buddhism the winner depending on how you interpret Erin Green’s final dying monologue), but I feel like if there is a heaven and hell in this universe, it’s pretty apparent where everyone is going.
A major theme of the show – and also, like, Christianity in general – is that God forgives. But He’s not handing out Oopsies Passes willy-nilly. You have to meet Him half way. To Christians like Bev, the only way to gain true salvation after fucking up is…oh, whoops, file not found.
But in actual Christianity, forgiveness is there if you ask for it. Not by prostrating yourself, or whipping yourself, or going to church every second you’re awake. Just by recognizing your faults. Accepting you fucked up and that you need to be better. Trying to be better. Actual atonement.
By the very end of the show, most of the islanders realize that they’ve been led astray to do horrible things. When they stand in the middle of town, waiting for sunrise, it isn’t just giving up. There’s a clear air of waiting for judgment. The Serenity Prayer is used heavily throughout the show, and these people have been granted the serenity to accept the things they cannot change.
Ali finds his dad and apologizes, helping him to the beach where they each perform morning prayers until the sheriff keels over from his gut wound and the sun finds Ali.
Meanwhile, Bev is down at the beach absolutely losing her shit, because despite decades of pretending to be a Christian, she doesn’t actually know what happens next.
I do. Everyone else has accepted fault and goes to heaven. Bev has never once in her life believed she’s done anything wrong, so way down she goes.
And there was much rejoicing.
Seriously, Fuck Her and People Like Her
We’ve all known people like this, seen them on TV or on Facebook. Maybe even been stuck with them in a terrible conversation filled with holier-than-thou righteousness and barely-veiled white supremacy. So, I declare Annie Flynn to be the real hero of the show, for managing to do what we’ve all thought about in those situations: stabbing ourselves in the neck just to get out of it.
Check out my other article on Midnight Mass where I just sort of ramble out vampires and shit.