For those of you who dipped into this show without doing a background check, the source material for this series is Charlaine Harris’s best-seller Midnight Crossroad. For those of you who are here because you miss True Blood, keep in mind that this is NBC and not HBO, so the sex is dialed way, way down. Now buckle in, it’s going to be a cheese whiz and Rotel covered ride (er, that’s called queso in Texas, and you should have microwaved some to eat while you watched the first episode).
Midnight, Texas tells us something important in the first scene, where we’re given the impression that Manfred Bernardo (François Arnaud) is a gigolo meeting with an older female client who he fluffs and delicately tells that his rates have gone up. It’s a bait and switch; he’s a psychic. What have we learned, class? To never trust this show. It will do anything to throw us off the scent of what is happening. Things take a turn for the dark side when his client, Rachel (Kat Sawyer) tells her husband she’s getting married to his business partner (cliché much?). His ghostly apparition shows up and, guys, it turns out that ghosts remain in whatever form they were in when they died so this guy is rocking an open hospital gown with his chest cut open and it’s gruesome.
The ghost takes over Manfred’s body to try and kill his wife because, in Midnight, Texas ghosts are homicidal and can do all this, but of course Manfred forces him out in the nick of time. Now that we’ve been through this dramatic encounter together, we have bonded with Manfred. We’re supposed to understand that he’s a good guy who has ties to the supernatural realm but who won’t stand for it crossing over to hurt innocent (or borderline innocent) humans. Our hero.
Meanwhile, our hero has done some bad shit in his past. He fields a call from someone who is on his phone only as Hightower (IRL that is lowkey a well-known real family name in Texas, but mostly to the east — Hightowers have done some politicking, building libraries, and running of big lumber companies) who wants their money or his life. And that is why he leaves Dallas for Midnight (which is in New Mexico in reality but meant to evoke west Texas). On the drive to Midnight, his dead grandma Xylda (Joanne Camp) shows up to co-pilot in his camper. They have a good rapport – we can tell by the way she keeps laughing heartily at his not funny jokes.
Midnight is apparently a ghost town, in the sense that every building is in disrepair, needs a new paint job, or hasn’t been cared for at all in the last 50 years, but all the shopkeepers did go for splashy neon signs to add just that right touch of modernity. It’s a weird aesthetic. The first person he bumps into is Olivia (Arielle Kebbel) who happens to be doing her best Sydney Bristow impression because being a female spy is a highly conspicuous job. He pops into the pawn shop, and now we know that the legend of Annabelle is real (and headache inducing), where he meets Bobo Winthrop (Dylan Bruce), not to be confused with Bobo Del Rey on the other TV sci-fi show with western sensibilities, Wynonna Earp. (I grew up in Texas and have never met anyone who goes by Bobo, so I don’t know where this TV phenomenon is coming from, but anyway.) This Bobo just so happens to be the nicest human in the world, so he rents Manfred an apartment and asks for his help finding his missing finance in exchange for a month’s free rent. Manfred takes a pass, pretending that he’s a fake because he’s a city boy who doesn’t know about helping his small-town neighbors out yet.
To continue the exposition of meeting all the characters in Midnight, that night Manfred goes for dinner at Home Away, the restaurant in town, where he meets and immediately falls in love with Creek, the waitress. She takes him to a backroom where all the residents of Midnight eat, away from the riff-raff like local ranchers and residents of the nearby town of Davis (I sense a Pawnee vs. Eagleton style grudge match on the horizon). We sort of meet Rev. Emilio Sheehan (Yul Vazquez), and we hear, rather than acknowledge, Creek’s fellow waitress Madonna Reed (Kellee Stewart). Manfred follows Creek into the locals only room where he’s properly introduced to his neighbors: Olivia and Lemuel Bridger (Peter Mensah), a vampire with eyes so blue that it will make your contact lenses hurt. He lets Creek pick out what he’s going to have for dinner, so you know he’s flirting, and Lemuel advises him not to let her father catch Manfred all up in Creek’s order pad. When some bikers start harassing Creek, Lemuel sucks the life force out of Manfred without asking permission first to juice himself up for a fight. Apparently, this vamp doesn’t suck blood, and I can already hear the objections coming in from people who hate when authors mess around with existing vampire lore.
Creek brings Manfred to the town picnic the next day, and if you were wondering, only a couple of dozen people live in Midnight and could be bothered to show up. I’ve seen bigger picnics in my apartment complex. We meet Fiji Cavanaugh (Parisa Fitz-Henley), the neighborhood witch who has an unrequited crush on Bobo. The plot of this episode is unveiled when Fiji and Olivia find the dead body of Bobo’s missing fiancee Aubrey (Shannon Lorance) in the river. A couple of haters from the local Sheriff’s office show up to make it clear that they don’t trust Midnighters and that Bobo’s alibi is far from ironclad. That night, ghost Aubrey shows up in Manfred’s house, grossly spewing water everywhere and asking for help. This time Manfred says yes.
(Question: Did anyone else find it weird that we jumped from Aubrey visiting Manfred in the night to Fiji bringing Bobo breakfast in the morning to Manfred breaking into the church to steal holy water on another night and then jump back to Fiji and Bobo’s conversation, apparently still happening in the daytime? The show marked the passing of time while skipping a full day for no discernible reason and I’d like an explanation.)
Anyway, the sheriff drops in on Bobo and Fiji to let ‘em know Aubrey was already married to a guy in the Sons of Lucifer, a white supremacist biker gang, who just got out of federal prison. The sheriff advises Bobo not to try and take care of it himself but don’t worry guys, Manfred has already got that handled. Back at his place, he summons Aubrey. She’s desperate to get inside his body and show him what happened to her, but he wants her to play with the Ouija board instead. She spells out Pecados, and then all of the ghosts turn up to crash their party. Oh, and so does a demon who is living under his floorboards.
The sheriff shows up at the church to question the Reverend, and I’m only going to mention it for two reasons. One, there is a huge pet cemetery next to his church which is not normal. Second, he claims that he doesn’t eat barbecue, so I need to know where he’s actually from because this man is not a Texan. The lady sheriff is questioning Fiji at the same time, and of course, she’s a cat lady. During the questioning of the town, we also meet Joe Strong (Jason Lewis) and his partner Chuy Strong (Bernardo Saracino), who runs the town tattoo and mani/pedi shop. We also found out the whole town didn’t like Aubrey. In his questioning, Manfred leads to cops to Pecados, which is a sign over the river where they find a gun. Frankly, not an exciting discovery in an open carry state.
Olivia kidnaps Manfred, dragging him to her (absolutely gorgeous) apartment with Lemuel — and for some reason, Fiji is also involved in this — to interrogate him about why he moved to Midnight. I’m making special note of the fact that she asked if her dad sent him because we don’t know who she works for yet and that’s obviously going to be a plot line in the future. He tells them Xylda sent him here because of a psychic feeling and Lemuel says he knows her. Manfred doesn’t give up Hightower, but it turns out all this suspicion is because the sheriff questioned Manfred exactly like they did the rest of the time (and because Olivia is inherently distrusting of everyone). Insert exposition about what Midnight and its inhabitants are, powerful mystical energy, the veil between the living and the dead, etc.
Naturally, the Sons of Lucifer show up to kill Bobo, so Lemuel and Olivia, who are obviously this town’s power couple, drop in and kill them all but only after Aubrey’s husband comments with a few platitudes, and Lemuel eats him.
Creek has been missing in all of this, so Manfred drops in on her other job at her family’s store to hit on her. He meets her unfriendly dad, who is in the other room fixing a car because he’s less of a real human being and more of the cliché of an angry father from a ‘80s movie.
Insert quick, creepy call from Hightower here, to remind Manfred he’s being tracked like a deer.
Creek drops by Manfred’s trailer to apologize about her dad, have a beer, and tell us her life story as well as the backstories for everyone who is going to be a leading player in the series. She’s got a little brother and a dead mom. She was a weirdo in high school because Davis people hate Midnighters, in case you forgot. The only new thing she tells us that Joe is the town savior — and we cut to Joe getting his wings because homeslice is an angel. And that’s Midnight, where outsiders are welcome. Just not if they’re demons or ghosts.
Oh god, Fiji has a smart ass talking cat. Let’s hope this isn’t a recurring thing.
Back to some actual plot, rather than this overload of exposition: the cops arrest Bobo after identifying the gun they found as belonging to him. Midnighters refuse to let it be, with Fiji crushing the police car with her mind while the rest of the town stands around and watches. Everyone agrees to help, as long as Fiji chills the fuck out, but the damage is done. And speaking of damage, the ghost infestation of Manfred’s house is completely out of control. That’s where the show leaves us, hanging on to see how this is going to play out in episode 2.