“The Haunting of Hill House” and “Midnight Mass” mastermind Mike Flanagan turned his attention to a younger audience for his new Netflix series, “The Midnight Club,” which launched Friday.
The new drama concludes its 10-episode first season with just a few answers, and many more questions about the fate of Ilonka (Iman Benson) and her fellow terminally ill teens at Brightcliffe Hospice, the Paragon cult’s mysterious connection to Dr. Stanton (Heather Langenkamp), the teens’ head caregiver and owner of the hospice, what actually happened to Julia Jayne/Shasta (Samantha Sloyan) and why those elderly ghosts are haunting Ilonka and Kevin (Igby Rigney).
While Netflix has not yet renewed “Midnight Club” for a second season, Flanagan has a plan for multiple seasons of the series, which follows the teens as they live out the end of their short lives at the hospice and share scary stories to help them cope with the inevitable, all while supernatural forces loom around them.
“He agreed to let me take a shot with the show and the pitch was, we’ll do ‘The Midnight Club’ — but the stories the kids tell will be other Christopher Pike books, and he really liked that idea,” Flanagan told a group of reporters at a “Midnight Club” press conference last week. “And Netflix ended up optioning a pile of Christopher Pike’s stuff — 28 books.”
With “The Midnight Club” being Flanagan’s first series aimed at a young adult audience, it was also the first piece of his work he has ever been able to show to his eldest child, 11-year-old Rigby, whom he shares with his wife and longtime collaborator, “Haunting of Hill House” and “Midnight Mass” star Kate Siegel.
“There was a lot of, ‘I remember what it’s like to be young and cool!’ I don’t, but I was convinced I did,” Flanagan said. “I talked to my oldest son and to some of the other younger writers in the writers’ room and I’m like, ‘It’s a cool scene. It’s a cool thing when this happens.’ And they were like, ‘Oh fuck, we’re doomed. We can’t let this old guy drive this into the wall.’ But my oldest son, Rigby, I would check in with him and bounce ideas and see what he thought, and if I thought something was going to be too uncomfortable for him to watch, it felt like we were tipping.”
“But the other thing, though — and this is something I learned from Pike — was that he always included themes in his books that felt very adult,” Flanagan continued. “He didn’t pull his punches with violence, with heavy things that kids are really thinking about: intense bullying, suicide, sex, drugs — all of that was fair game in the Pike world. And one of the things that my contemporaries and I loved about the books was that he wasn’t sugarcoating things. So while there was always a sense of bearing that younger audience in mind, we were also very careful not to condescend to them or to try to police the places the show would go. And that was something that separated Pike from his contemporaries.”
“And it still does, by the way,” Flanagan’s Intrepid Pictures producing partner, Trevor Macy, added. “I think he treats his protagonists with more respect than a lot of YA authors do today. We tried to keep that ethos top of mind for the series, because the show lends itself to that, because they’re going through the worst thing anybody is ever going to go through. If you don’t treat them with respect, what are you doing?”
See more from Flanagan and Macy’s “Midnight Club” Q&A with reporters below.
On plans for a second season:
Flanagan: This was designed to be ongoing. I don’t know if it will. We’ll see how it goes and we probably won’t know for another month or so what Netflix wants to do. But it was very much designed to continue. Pike has 80 books, so we have a lot of unused material to pull from… We also didn’t answer some of the bigger questions of the season. Those answers exist, but were meant to be for the next season. If there isn’t one, I’ll put them up on Twitter. Then we’ll at least all be able to talk about it.
On the mystery of the elderly ghost characters haunting Ilonka and Kevin, the Cataract Woman and Mirror Man, and how they connect to Christopher Pike’s work about past lives:
Flanagan: If you haven’t read “The Midnight Club” book, the epilogue of the book is very important to us. That’s as much as I can say about that.
Macy: Sadly we can’t answer your question, but that’s, in itself, an answer.
On hidden Easter eggs in “Midnight Club” that shout out to Flanagan and Macy’s other work:
Flanagan: As far as Easter eggs, you can spot the Lasser Glass in the show. If you haven’t already, I won’t tell you where, but someone will put it up really soon. There are some cameos in the show that are really fun and really hard to find. But if you keep your eyes peeled — or your ears peeled — you can find Hamish Linklater, Carla Gugino and Kate Siegel on the show… There are a couple little clever turns of phrase and a couple little nods to “Fall of the House of Usher,” we hit a little Poe.
On the twist of Anya’s pre-death dream sequence in Episode 7:
Flanagan: Ruth Codd crushes that episode. Dealing with Anya was something that we could go a couple of directions on. In the book, Anya dies in the hospice and that’s kind of it. It’s very sad. But the idea came up, we were talking about one of my all time favorite series, “Six Feet Under,” which I think is, still to this day, the single best series finale I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s a remarkable episode, I want to say in the third or fourth season, where Nate is in surgery and he goes under and they don’t really tell you that. They kind of flash it forward as though the surgery is over and then that reality starts to break down and it becomes incredible… We had an opportunity to have an episode where the B-story wasn’t so much something being told around a campfire, but something someone was experiencing and that, in the way all of the stories the kids tell impact each other, we thought there was a chance to pull those threads together and just kind of see how these things existed in Anya’s mind at a very specific moment. It was my brother, Jamie, who wrote that episode. They pitched it very passionately in the writers’ room, about how to kind of live in Anya’s experience. It was a big gamble. It breaks format for us in a big way. But we encouraged Jamie to give it a shot… I’ve seen some stuff online where people have put some value on the 5th episode with our stuff as being kind of where we break format and try to pull the rug out a little bit and for this I was like, “No, no it’s Episode 7.” That one is one of my favorites.