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'The Midnight Club': The Full Ending Explained and Your Questions Answered

Mike Flanagan gives us a lengthy blog post to explain exactly what would have happened in season 2, had it not been canceled.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Expertise Film and TV Credentials
  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
11 min read
A midshot of Dr. Stanton inside her office, with a frown on her face

Heather Langenkamp plays the mysterious Dr. Georgina Stanton.

Eike Schroter/Netflix

The latest chapter of Mike Flanagan's horror series on Netflix sadly won't be going beyond its first season. Netflix canceled The Midnight Club (co-created with Leah Fong) after season 1, so that tantalizing cliffhanger concerning a certain doctor won't be resolved -- well, you might have thought so, but thankfully Flanagan has fulfilled his promise to fans by detailing in a blog post exactly what would have happened in season 2.

Let's dive into what would have come and everything else to know about the show in the spoiler-packed section below.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

What would have happened in season 2?

Sadly, Netflix won't be renewing the young adult horror series for a second season, despite pretty favorable reviews (including CNET's own). The Midnight Club managed only a three-week run in Netflix's top 10 viewed shows chart, never claiming the No. 1 spot. Another likely factor in the decision is co-creator Mike Flanagan's production company Intrepid Pictures choosing to go with Amazon Studios as its next TV home, signing a multiyear deal with Prime Video, as its contract with Netflix comes to a close.

Fortunately, Flanagan said at a Netflix press event (via Elite Daily) that he was prepared for cancellation and would drop answers to any lingering questions on Twitter. "We didn't answer some of the bigger questions of the season -- those answers exist, but were meant to be for the next season," Flanagan said. If there's no second season, he'll "put [the answers] up on Twitter."

With so many story threads to tie up, Flanagan instead took to Tumblr to post a detailed rundown of what would have happened to the members of The Midnight Club in season 2. "My biggest disappointment is that we left so many story threads open, holding them back for the hypothetical second season, which is always a gamble. So I'm writing this blog as our official second season," Flanagan wrote.

Let's run through the key plot points that would have been fleshed out in season 2:

  • Amesh -- dies early in the season from his glioblastoma.
  • The Janitor -- is confirmed to be Death. Only the patients ever saw him as he offered them kind words before they died.
  • Ilonka -- gets a new roommate, who takes Anya's old bed.
  • Christopher Pike novels -- stories that would have been told at The Midnight Club include Remember Me and possibly Monster.
  • Natsuki -- would be the next to die.
  • Spence -- his prognosis would no longer be terminal thanks to advancements in HIV treatment in the late '90s. He would go home to live his life, just like Sandra did at the end of season 1.
  • Who is Dr. Stanton really? Dr. Stanton is really Athena, the daughter of the original Paragon cult leader, Aceso. She's wearing a wig because she has cancer, and she has a tattoo because she was part of the cult when she was young. Ilonka found her initials Georgina Ballard (her maiden name) carved into a tree. She created Brightcliffe to celebrate life and undo the atrocities of her mother.
  • Kevin -- would have died at the end of the season.
  • Ilonka -- would have died shortly after Kevin.
  • The Living Shadow -- is revealed to be the unknown. "As it engulfs someone, in the last moment of their life, it takes them through a place of understanding and catharsis, preparing them for the next step," Flanagan wrote.
  • The Mirror Man and the Cataract Woman -- not only are they revealed to be Stanley Oscar Freelan and his wife, the couple who built Brightcliffe, but they are the past selves of Ilonka and Kevin. They're true soulmates who always find each other and fall in love.
  • The ending -- Ilonka and Kevin would die without fear, knowing they would find each other again. "The series would end with Cheri telling this story to a whole new table of patients, including our new series leads. Most of our original cast now would exist as stories, a story told to the next 'class' of storytellers at the table, all of whom we will have met by the end of the season. A story called 'The Midnight Club.'"

There you have it. At least there's one final Flanagan project on the way to Netflix, after the stellar The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor and Midnight Mass. The Fall of the House of Usher, based on works by Edgar Allen Poe, will likely hit Netflix in 2023, with many of Flanagan's favorite acting troupe set to appear, including Carla Gugino, Samantha Sloyan, Rahul Kohli, Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas and more.

What are the origins of the Paragon cult?

The origins of the Paragon cult are all recorded in a diary that was kept by the cult leader's disillusioned 16-year-old daughter,  Athena. Athena wrote that the commune was started in 1931 by her mother, Regina Ballard. After Ballard's husband died of pneumonia and her son of polio, she began a new age health philosophy -- "a naturopathic alternative to the medical establishment." But this philosophy changed for the worse thanks to Ballard's obsession with five Greek goddess sisters all connected to healing. She created the Paragon cult, their hourglass emblem drawn from Ancient Greece's symbols for Earth and air.

Eventually, Ballard and the cult delved into ancient rituals involving blood sacrifices. But, in 1940, one of these rituals went badly wrong. All the other adult members died from poisoning. Ballard was the only survivor, claiming she collected the wrong ingredients for their tea. When the police discovered her, she no longer had hair. A tattoo of the hourglass symbol was visible on the back of her neck.

After the Paragon tragedy, Ballard was sent to a mental institution. Her house remained empty until it was purchased by Dr. Georgina Stanton in 1966. While we see current cult leader Julia Jayne visit Ballard in the '60s, it isn't clear whether Ballard is still alive during the '90s.

Igby Rigney as Kevin standing in an elevator behind Iman Benson as Ilonka, who's holding a lit match and crouching down over strange markings on a basement floor

Igby Rigney as Kevin and Iman Benson as Ilonka in the creepy basement used by the Paragon cult.

Eike Schroter/Netflix

What exactly happened to Julia Jayne?

It should have come as no surprise that Shasta (sanskrit for "teacher") -- the all-too friendly founder of Good Humor Wellness, a naturopathic company sourcing ingredients around Brightcliffe -- is really ex-Brightcliffe patient Julia Jayne.

Like Ilonka, Julia was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the throat as a teenager. She founded The Midnight Club in 1969, then later discovered Athena's journal in the Brightcliffe library. She tracked down ex-Paragon cult leader Ballard by impersonating a hospice care nurse, visiting Ballard's forwarding addresses from the mental institution until she found her.

Ballard, seeing Julia's passion, agreed to let Julia stay with her for a week, during which she taught Julia the ways of the Paragon. She called Julia her "bright girl" -- the same title Julia/Shasta gives Ilonka. Ballard and Julia spun a story around what really happened. In the police reports Ilonka reads, Julia disappeared from Brightcliffe for a week. She returned in full remission and said, "It was because of this place, that she found something here and it cured her."

In Julia's art therapy -- kept in her Brightcliffe file -- she wrote down the Dewey Decimal System numbers of where she hid Athena's Paragon diary in the library, passing on the information as Ballard did for her. According to Stanton, Julia's initial recovery comes down to simple, unlikely luck -- not the secrets Ballard gave her. Julia returns to Brightcliffe as an adult to go through with the Paragon blood sacrifice ritual because she's sick again.

Samantha Sloyan as Shasta, holding a walking stick and smiling in a forest

Samantha Sloyan plays the mysterious Shasta.

Eike Schroter/Netflix

Season 2 theories (before we knew the answers)

What's Dr. Stanton's true identity?

Just when there's a sense of acceptance and calm within Brightcliffe Hospice, Dr. Stanton reveals in the final cliffhanger scene that she -- like many of the other cancer patients -- is bald and wears a wig. Except, when she takes her wig off for the night, a tattoo of an hourglass can be seen on the back of her neck, just like Regina Ballard.

Is Dr. Stanton part of the Paragon cult?

Just like the many stories told in The Midnight Club, you can interpret the meaning behind Dr. Stanton's appearance in multiple ways.

It's pretty likely Stanton was once a believer in the Paragon's methods, even if she doesn't currently practice them. She was definitely aware of the Paragon, having acquired their books and teachings after purchasing the house. Maybe Stanton attempted to use the Paragon ritual on her sick son, Julian.

But Julian is apparently no longer alive, so the method didn't work. In a conversation with Ilonka after Julia breaks in, Stanton labels the Paragon's ways as "sick." No longer a believer in the Paragon method, she hid her connections to the cult. Maybe she's still bald because she too was diagnosed with an illness and has accepted that the only reason she's still alive is thanks to luck. "The thing about Julia and other people I've met over the years is ... they can't accept that they were just lucky," she tells Ilonka.

Maybe, after her son died, Stanton fostered genuine good intentions behind starting the hospice, providing a place where the terminally ill can "focus on living" while giving herself purpose in the process.

A girl standing behind hooded figures screaming in a basement

Sandra (Annarah Cymone) isn't the only one to have ominous visions.

Eike Schroter/Netflix

Is Dr. Stanton good or bad?

There's another way to look at Stanton's intentions.

Despite everything Stanton has said about caring for her patients as a doctor, she might still be using the Paragon's methods. Why else has she kept the basement in the same state as it was during the time of the commune? Maybe Julian is still alive in some form. To keep him alive, Stanton has been using the house and its special properties -- that's why she goes to great lengths to keep Julia and the new Paragon cult out of the picture.

In this reading, Stanton's reason for founding Brightcliffe Hospice might have something to do with using the patients as sacrifices to the gods -- or the ghosts.

Who are the old ghosts?

In the final cliffhanger scene, the camera pans across a framed newspaper clipping from 1898 in the Washington Journal. It includes a picture of industrialist Stanley Oscar Freelan and his wife, Vera Freelan, the original owners of the house. They look pretty darn similar to the two ghosts who haunt Ilonka and Kevin, named in the credits as The Mirror Man and Cataract Woman.

In this scene, Stanton listens to the same old song that plays whenever Ilonka travels back in time. The song -- Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming -- is composed by Stephen Foster and was published in 1855. The old newspaper clipping says that the New Freelan Estate was finished in mid-1898 and that it's "truly a marvel of architecture." (This contradicts Ilonka's research -- she says the house was built in 1901.) Maybe this musical connection is supposed to suggest that Stanton is far older than she appears and that her longevity has something to do with this "marvel" of a house.

Is Stanton feeding the Brightcliffe kids to the ghosts?

Another theory is Stanton might have some kind of deal with the resident ghosts. On the beach in episode 5, while celebrating Amesh outliving the day he was supposed to die, Natsuki speculates that Stanton started Brightcliffe to siphon off the patients' life force into other vessels. Spence also points out that they don't know where the bodies of ex-Brightcliffe kids go.

In episode 9, Ilonka says that the ghostly old woman with the cataracts "keeps talking about how she's hungry, she's starving." Natsuki then shares that her mother told her a story about a "thing," an "eater of years" or "the years eater" which looked like an old woman. It was found in places where people were going to die and it would eat the years they would have had. "This place would be a feast," Natsuki says of Brightcliffe.

Maybe Natsuki's right. Maybe Stanton really is feeding the Brightcliffe kids to the ghosts in exchange for some kind of benefit or life force for Julian.

Is 'The Living Shadow' Death?

Or could it be Julian?

Maybe Stanton managed to keep Julian alive thanks to the Paragon's methods, but it came at a price: Julian now exists as a sort of in-between being. Both Anya and her ex-roommate Rachel talked about seeing The Living Shadow shortly before their deaths. The myth of The Living Shadow has been passed down through generations of The Midnight Club, its presence felt as long as there are patients around to potentially keep it and the other ghosts well fed.

Or maybe, in the end, the shadow really is the manifestation of the kids' untimely ends.

Why does Ilonka have visions?

Is it because her medicine is making her "see stuff" as Kevin says in episode 3? Or is it because the house and its ghostly residents are calling to her? "I hear things. I see things. Those whispering voices ... [are] practically screaming at me," Ilonka tells Kevin. She initially thinks the voices are her own intuition spurring her to investigate Julia Jayne's past, but maybe it's really the ghosts reaching out to a new victim to feed on.

A young girl in a school uniform holds her hand up in a creepy way with dark wispy smoke covering the bottom half of the screen

Natsuki (Aya Furukawa) in the first story we hear from The Midnight Club.

Eike Schroter/Netflix

Any Easter eggs?

You bet! Flanagan likes to pepper in satisfying Easter eggs throughout his shows and The Midnight Club -- co-created with The Haunting of Bly Manor producer and writer Leah Fong -- is no exception.

  • The cool slanting graphic design of The Midnight Club's title card looks to be inspired by Christopher Pike's novel, aka the source material. One of the editions uses a similar font for the title on the front cover.
  • The Lasser Glass, a possessed antique mirror that featured in Flanagan's 2014 horror Oculus, can be seen in the basement room in episode 4 a bit over a minute in, partially hidden under a cloth cover. This Easter egg also appears in Flanagan's 2021 horror series Midnight Mass.
  • This isn't really an Easter egg, but a fun fact: Episode 1 of The Midnight Club broke the Guinness World Record for "most scripted jump scares in a single television episode" with 21 instances of the classic horror trope.
Adia as Cheri Ian, Igby Rigney as Kevin, Annarah Cymone as Sandra, Iman Benson as Ilonka, Aya Furukawa as Natsuki, Ruth Codd as Anya, Sauriyan Sapkota as Amesh, Chris Sumpter as Spencer all sitting around a table, in a library, next to a fireplace

The Midnight Club convening in the library.

Eike Schroter/Netflix

Is The Midnight Club based on a true story?

Yes! The story of The Midnight Club is based on Christopher Pike's young adult novel of the same name. The stories the members of The Midnight Club tell each other are drawn from Pike's other novels, including The Wicked Heart, Gimme a Kiss, See You Later, Witch, Road to Nowhere and The Eternal Enemy.

Pike drew inspiration for The Midnight Club from a true story. In 1993, a young cancer patient asked him to write a story about her and the kids in her ward, who had started a "Midnight Club." "They would meet at midnight and discuss my books," Pike said in a Netflix press release. Pike gave Ilonka Pawluk a Polish name in honor of the young patient, who also had a Polish name. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Pike was unable to finish the book before she died.

Is Brightcliffe Hospice a real place?

The Brightcliffe house itself doesn't actually exist. While a portion of the house's facade was set up on the filming site in Pitt Meadows, Vancouver, the majority of the exterior was created through VFX magic. According to a Netflix press release, the Zoic Studios effects team scanned a house in Maine as the VFX basis for Brightcliffe's gothic exterior.

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