'Midnight, Texas' Review: Well-Intentioned Comfort Food For 'True Blood' Fans

NBC's foray into the supernatural, Charlaine Harris' Midnight, Texas, brings the familiar flair of Harris' other work, True Blood. But this time around, things are less R-rated and more suitable for the conventions of primetime basic cable viewing. If you've been hankering for a dark fantasy show while you wait on the return of FOX's Lucifer and The Exorcist, this might fit the bill.

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Home is Where the Haunt is

First, let's get into the basic plot. Manfred (Francois Arnaud) is a psychic on the run from some mysterious and nefarious characters. Since his life is at stake, his (dead) grandmother Xylda (Joanne Camp) tells him to leave his current residence in Dallas and hightail it to a small town called Midnight to stay safe. (Apparently, the same characters that are after Manfred were after his grandmother when she was alive.)

However, Midnight isn't the sleepy town Manfred was expecting. Instead of finding a hideaway, Manfred stumbles into a town full of strange beings, such as Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley), a wiccan shop owner who's actually a full-blown witch complete with a talking cat familiar, Mr. Snuggly (voiced by Joe Smith). There's Lemuel Bridger (Peter Mensah) an alluring vampire who works the nightshift at the local pawn shop, Joe (Jason Lewis), an angel-in-hiding in wait as a tattoo artist for the prophesized One to save Midnight from an apocalyptic threat, and Rev. Emilio Sheehan (Yul Vázquez), the town preacher who dutifully looks over the Midnight Chapel and the creepy pet cemetery, but goes into hiding during each full moon (aka, he's a werewolf).

Midnight is also home to folks who, while non-supernatural, are still on the other side of "normal," such as town hottie and pawn shop owner Bobo (Dylan Bruce), who may or may not have a thing with Fiji, and Olivia (Arielle Kebbel), a highly-trained and heavily-armed assassin who has, as NBC itself states in the character bio, "a passionate and deeply emotional connection" to Lemuel. There's Creek (Sarah Ramos), an aspiring writer who works at her family's convenience store. Her only character purpose is to serve as Manfredo's love interest, but she also has a deep family secret she'll eventually learn about. There's also Madonna (Kellee Stewart), the owner of the restaurant Creek also works at as a waitress, and Chuy (Bernardo Saracino), Joe's human husband.

If you feel comfortable while watching Midnight, Texas, it's not just because it's based on another set of supernatural stories from Harris; it's because the show's archetypal characters and situations are wildly similar to True Blood as a whole. This says more about Harris' own archetypes as a writer and less about NBC's method of adapting her work. I mean, just run down the list of bullet points—a small dusty town that's off the map from anywhere, a lead character who's a psychic, a white girl waitress with a secret who's also the love interest of the bad boy with strange gifts, a black person who's the heart of the local restaurant (remember LaFayette, played by the late Nelsan Ellis?), vampires—the list speaks for itself.

This is great for those who have missed True Blood ever since it left the HBO airwaves in 2014. But there's also another way that it's familiar—it's a murder mystery. In other words, it's true to NBC fashion of playing into the procedural handbook. The main thrust of the story is that Manfred becomes entangled in solving the murder of Bobo's fiancée Aubrey (Shannon Lorance). Aubrey, who had drowned in the river after being shot, appears to Manfred in full decomposing glory, begging for his help.

If you might recall, the supernatural-procedural angle was last taken by FOX's now-cancelled Sleepy Hollow, which famously started out as one of the best shows on TV (much to the surprise of many), only to fall down around itself in subsequent seasons when it forgot that Nicole Beharie was a main draw for fans. It's also angle taken by the aforementioned Lucifer, which is based on the Vertigo comic book of the same name despite the show taking almost all recognizable elements of that dream-like fantasy series away and replacing it with a bored Lucifer helping cops fight crime. In short, Midnight, Texas is a comfortable way to spend a Monday night with some mysterious buddies.

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We’re All in This Together

Midnight, Texas also has one other thing in common with True Blood—it's a story about togetherness and unity. To put it another way, it's an allegory of how everyone should respect the diversity of human nature.

The throughline with each of the characters in this small town is that they all look out for each other, whether that means giving each other emotional support—like regular neighbors—or killing those who threaten another and sucking them dry of their blood. There's also the very obvious character pattern of those in the town who are non-powered being in relationships with those who are. No matter how you cut it, no one in Midnight stands apart.

But the show also makes it a point to drive home how everyone in the real world would be happier if they kept racist thoughts out of the picture and just accepted people for who they are. Case in point: Joe and Chuy. It's no mistake that Joe, an angel, is depicted as gay. Harris clearly wants to make readers aware that being gay or being anywhere else along the LGBT spectrum is not only okay by human standards—it's okay by godly standards as well. Joe gets this point across when he speaks to the law enforcement investigating Aubrey's murder. A statement he makes about turning the other cheek at anti-gay sentiments being the "Christian" thing to do is pointed towards the officer, but it's also pointed at those watching who think that being gay and being Christian can't work.

This message harkens back to the one LaFayette forcefully made in that now-iconic scene from True Blood, in which LaFayette showed some bigoted diner patrons that he wasn't one to make fun of. This message of togetherness and welcoming diversity seems to be at the core of Harris' writing philosophy, and it's definitely a good message to have.

Overall, Midnight, Texas is a show with enough weirdness and scares that it'll leave you delightfully jumpy before turning in at night. But while you come for the creepiness, it's the characters that stay with you the longest.