Full moon: Ex­traor­di­nary and su­per­nat­u­ral be­ings stand their ground in ‘Mid­night, Texas’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - COVER STORY - By Shona Dustan

Hol­ly­wood has been turn­ing nov­els into big- and smallscreen sen­sa­tions for decades, and while spe­cialty ca­ble chan­nels may seem to have that mar­ket cor­nered at the mo­ment (see “Game of Thrones,” “Out­lander” and oh so many more), NBC is about to give them a run for their money.

The pea­cock net­work has cho­sen a se­ries by au­thor Char­laine Har­ris as their sub­ject mat­ter, which is a pretty great way to hedge their bets — Har­ris’s ad­dic­tive Sookie Stack­house nov­els (also known as the South­ern Vam­pire Mys­ter­ies) served as the ba­sis for HBO’s in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar “True Blood,” so this new se­ries should come with a built-in and very ea­ger au­di­ence.

“Mid­night, Texas” pre­mieres Mon­day, July 24, on NBC, and is based on the lit­er­ary tril­ogy of the same name. Once again, Har­ris uses her nov­els to weave a com­plex web of mystery and drama, us­ing char­ac­ters with su­per­nat­u­ral qual­i­ties as her pro­tag­o­nists. The se­ries stars broody Cana­dian hunk Fran­cois Ar­naud (“Blindspot”) as Man­fred Bernardo, a man on the run from his mys­te­ri­ous past. Bernardo is a psy­chic who, through his dead grand­mother, Xylda (Joanne Camp, “Man­hat­tan”) can com­mu­ni­cate with other de­ceased in­di­vid­u­als, some­times with ter­ri­fy­ing re­sults.

Led by Xylda to a tiny Texas cross­roads town called Mid­night, Bernardo is told by his ghostly gram that he’ll be safe there. “Safe” prob­a­bly isn’t the right word, but he cer­tainly finds a sense of pur­pose and be­long­ing. Mid­night, Texas, you see, is a haven town for oth­ers like Bernardo — su­per­nat­u­ral hu­mans in­habit the ham­let, and they take care of each other, pro­tect­ing one an­other from in­ter­lop­ers and pry­ing eyes, not to men­tion mor­tal dan­ger.

It’s Mid­night’s most prom­i­nent vam­pire who de­clares Barnardo the be “one of us.”The strik­ing Peter Men­sah (“Sleepy Hol­low”) plays Le­muel Bridger, an old and very wise vamp whose opin­ion holds a lot of sway in the Texas town. He works at the lo­cal pawn shop (the night shift, of course) and is one of the old­est lo­cal in­hab­i­tants. Men­sah is no stranger to sci-fi and su­per­nat­u­ral roles, or roles orig­i­nat­ing in Har­ris’s nov­els, for that mat­ter — he had a sig­nif­i­cant char­ac­ter arc in “True Blood” back in 2012.

The rest of the town’s res­i­dents are just as in­ter­est­ing. Fiji Ca­vanaugh (Parisa Fitz-Hen­ley, “Jessica Jones”) is the owner of The In­quir­ing Mind, a witch with a Wic­can shop who has some se­ri­ous un­re­quited feel­ings for her neigh­bor.That neigh­bor is Bobo Winthrop (Dy­lan Bruce, “Or­phan Black”), who owns the pawn shop and em­ploys Mr. Bridger; though he seems to be a reg­u­lar hu­man, his past is mys­te­ri­ous, and he’s an in­te­gral and stal­wart part of the eclec­tic town.

Arielle Kebbel (“The Vam­pire Di­aries”) stars as Olivia Char­ity, a deadly and eerily ef­fec­tive as­sas­sin with a deep emo­tional and phys­i­cal con­nec­tion to Mr. Bridger. Sarah Ramos (“Par­ent­hood”) plays Creek Lovell, main love in­ter­est of Bernardo and a writer whose fam­ily har­bors a deep, dark se­cret. Yul Vázquez (“Blood­line”) is Rev. Emilio Sheehan who watches over the town and over­sees the Mid­night Chapel and Pet Ceme­tery, while not-so-mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­pear­ing ev­ery month dur­ing the full moon (were­wolf alert!). Round­ing out the cast is per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter: Joe Strong (Jason Lewis, “Sex and the City”) is a lit­eral an­gel. He’s been on Earth for thou­sands of years and lives with his hus­band, Chuy (Bernardo Sara­cino, “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Se­ries”), while he watches over all the ci­ti­zens of Mid­night. His is a sa­cred mis­sion: to await the ar­rival of “The One,” an enig­matic stranger who is des­tined to save Mid­night and all hu­man­ity from a great evil.

Upon his ar­rival in Mid­night, Bernardo has no idea what he’s walk­ing into, but wins over the towns­peo­ple one by one. It isn’t long be­fore the town is threat­ened by out­side forces, and Bernardo finds him­self fight­ing along­side the strange in­hab­i­tants.The se­ries is shap­ing up to be an ex­cel­lent mix of weekly mys­ter­ies and threats, as well as long-run­ning story arcs — a com­bi­na­tion that has been net­work tele­vi­sion’s bread and but­ter for years — and while “Mid­night, Texas” is by no means the raunchy, en­ve­lope-push­ing, sexy ex­trav­a­ganza that “True Blood” was, it’s safe to say that the new se­ries can scratch a lot of the itches fans were left with when the lat­ter se­ries ended back in 2014.

With three of Har­ris’s nov­els to pull from, writ­ers have plenty of fod­der for a good few sea­sons of this show, and when they run out, they should have a hand­ful of well-de­vel­oped and al­ready beloved char­ac­ters to work with — plenty of ma­te­rial for many sea­sons to come, though the longevity of the se­ries will be largely de­ter­mined by the view­er­ship num­bers. Sum­mer se­ries al­most never do as well as those that air in the fall and win­ter, but NBC has a lot of faith in this quirky sci-fi drama.

Whether you’re a sci-fi or fan­tasy fan, or even just a mystery buff, tune in to “Mid­night, Texas” when it pre­mieres Mon­day, July 24, on NBC.

Parisa Fitz-Hen­ley as seen in “Mid­night, Texas”

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