A Look: What Is the Paragon Cult in ‘The Midnight Club’?

The Five Goddesses: Who is the goddess they represent? is there an actual ritual that could help the Brightcliffe children?

Since the publication of The Haunting of Hill House in 2018, director and writer Mike Flanagan has established himself as a household name to those who love horror films and psychological dramas. Through haunted homes and vampire-infested islands alike, he provides deep investigations into topics like love, family faith, faith, and how people confront their mortality. In his latest Netflix program, The Midnight Club, Flanagan and co-creator Leah Fong delve into the inequity of premature deaths and the meaning of storytelling.

Based on the novel that has the same title written by Christopher Pike, the series follows a group of seriously ill teens living in an institution for hospice care with several secrets. The main character can be described as Ilonka ( Iman Benson), a high school athlete whose hopes of going to Stanford University have to be put on hold for the rest of her life when she is diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer called metastatic thyroid.

Devastated, Ilonka decides to spend her final moments with Brightcliffe Hospice, where she will meet the infamous Midnight Club: a group of children who meet every night to tell stories and, maybe someday, they will receive a sign that there’s a future.

However, Ilonka isn’t drawn to Brightcliffe simply because of its luxurious accommodation and top-of-the-line medical staff. The real reason that attracted her attention to the place wasn’t Dr Stanton’s ( Heather Langenkamp) but Julia Jayne’s ( Larsen Thompson). In 1988, Julia was absent from Brightcliffe for a whole week before wholly healed of her thyroid cancer. What was interpreted by doctors as a simple yet surprising remission was believed by Ilonka to be an apex being or a god residing in the hospice’s grounds — something revered by a group who resided at Brightcliffe before any sick child was born: The Paragon Cult.

The Paragon is an essential component of the story in The Midnight Club. What does it mean? Do its gods have the powers to help save the lives of teenagers suffering from illness?

The History of the Paragon

Ilonka’s extensive research into this manor Brightcliffe was first constructed by the logging industry’s industrialist Stanley Oscar Freelon and his wife, Vera. The manor was purchased by Dr Georgina Stanton in 1966 and was transformed into a living care facility for teens. However, a lot transpired in Brightcliffe during the period before it was purchased by Stanton and also after the deaths of the Freelons. Through the Great Depression, the mansion was a halfway house. Then, it was the residence of a religious community. As Ilonka states, Brightcliffe used to be an occult compound.

In the 40s and the ’40s, a woman named Regina Ballard ( Katie Parker) was living in the home with a group of followers and her daughter, a girl identified only as Athena; however, it was likely not their real name. According to her journal Ilonka discovered in the Bright Cliffe library Regina lost her husband and son to pneumonia and polio between the 1920s and the early 1930s. The grief she experienced was followed by research and action. And in 1931, she started an age-related health movement known as the Paragon.

At first, the Paragon was just an organization of people looking for alternative therapies to conventional medicine that Regina’s followers believed had failed them. However, over time it transformed into something completely different. Because Regina was fascinated with her love of the old Greek goddesses, the subtle movement of the new age slowly transformed into a cult based on the five daughters of Asclepius, one of the Greek gods of medicine.

Regina began to call herself Aceso in honour of the goddess of the healing process and assigned to a few selected participants in the cult, the personas of her four sisters Panacea, goddesses of all health; Iaso, goddess of healing; Hygieia, goddess of hygiene and health as well as Aglaea goddess of beauty. Through the worship of Aceso and the Five Sisters, Aceso believed she was capable of not only treating illness but also of attaining immortality. This is why the cult symbol is an hourglass that could be turned around multiple times.

However, the word “worship” has numerous meanings. Aceso’s method of paying homage to goddesses was a cause certain of her followers uncomfortable, particularly her 16-year-old daughter. When Aceso was about to cross the line into the territory of blood sacrifices, Athena gathered the other children from the group and fled the site. She alerted the police, who found most of Paragon’s adult participants dead in the basement of Brightcliffe’s hidden. One survivor was obviously, Aceso.

Apparently, she poisoned her followers as part of the hope that it could finally get the goddesses in their interest. Aceso said that the deaths were accidental and that there was a mistake with the herbs she used in the ritual; however, Athena did not believe her. She was the child of her mother, who sacrificed the remainder of the Paragon for a purpose in exchange for long life. The result was that Aceso was confined for years, like the mass murders/suicides in cults. The Brightcliffe tragedy was the final straw for the Paragon. Was it?

Did the Paragon Heal Julia Jayne?

Julia Jayne wasn’t just any ex-resident from Brightcliffe Hospice: she was the creator of the Midnight Club. Like Ilonka, who was a member of the Midnight Club, Julia Jayne was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and was a lover of research. This led her to discover the cure for her condition. In the show’s finale, we discover that Julia discovered Athena’s journals in the library. In a ruse to appear as a hospice nurse, she found Aceso living an ordinary existence close to Brightcliffe.

When Julia first vanished when she first disappeared, she was paying for an appointment with Aceso. The so-called reformer religious leader instructed her in the ways of the five Goddesses and to perform a ritual which would heal her. Aceso was willing and even devised an idea to ensure that Julia could return to Brightcliffe without having to answer numerous questions. She would return to the woods, dressed in the dirty clothes of her nightgown and proclaiming that she had found something within the house that helped bring the health back, even though she couldn’t pinpoint the exact nature of what.

Julia did indeed return to Brightcliffe fully healed. Was it the result of magic or just nature’s mysterious aspects? It’s hard to determine as she did enjoy a long, healthy life; when she returned to Brightcliffe region in the year 2000 in the form of Shasta ( Samantha Sloyan), her health was declining more.

What About Ilonka and the Midnight Club?

So it’s possible that this ritual was successful in the case of Julia Jayne, but can it be applied to others? It certainly did not work with Anya ( Ruth Codd). When Ilonka was able to convince her fellow people in the Midnight Club to give the Paragon ritual a shot, they failed to cure Anya of her bone cancer.

But the ceremony they conducted didn’t involve blood sacrifices, but an incense burning ceremony of their items and a few drops of blood. It’s implied that it was not an actual blood sacrifice, yet Shasta says it was responsible for curing another Brightcliffe resident, The extremely Christian Five Goddesses denier Sandra ( Annarah Cymone).

Then, Shasta convinces Ilonka to attempt the ritual again, but this time with her help. She also brings four members of her community of natural health practitioners to Brightcliffe and starts performing the ritual in the basement where Regina Ballard used to conduct her ceremonies. Ilonka did not know that Shasta was not trying to aid her but rather looking for a solution to treat her illness again.

Fortunately, the doctor. Stanton interrupts the ritual before Ilonka drinks the poison Shasta had made for her and can save the other four women who were asked to participate. So, who is to say? Perhaps the ritual might have been successful to the benefit of Ilonka or Anya If the kids did it correctly. Blood as well; however, maybe it’s better to accept the inevitability of death.

Is the Paragon Gone for Good?

Although she rarely refers to her commune as such a brand name, Shasta was able to revive a version of the Paragon. Shasta and a few members of her naturopath community have the identical Hourglass Tattoo Aceso, along with her previous followers. But, this return was relatively short-lived given the scathing testimony from Ilonka and Dr Stanton, as well as her declining health; likely, Shasta will never have the chance to revive the group of followers.

There is also Dr Stanton herself. In the closing episode of Midnight Club Episode 10, the camera is shown in her room, sitting in the mirror. She takes off her wig and exposes her head as bald, indicating that she, like most patients she sees, suffers from some form of cancer.

The camera moves across her neck, providing an excellent view of her hourglass tattoo. However, she claimed to know little concerning The Paragon until Ilonka arrived, and Dr Stanton was a part of the community. Given her age, her loyalty to Brightcliffe and her aversion to Julia Jayne and Regina Ballard, it is probable that she’s nothing more than Athena. Perhaps she can bring the Paragon back to heal herself?

If you look at her past — including her release from prison and the loss of her son this seems very unlikely. Dr Stanton also tossed Athena’s adventure in the flame and stopped future Brightcliffe residents from pursuing Aceso or the Five Goddesses ever again. For the moment, it appears that no blood ritual could help bring the Paragon back to life from his death.

The entire series of The Midnight Club is available to stream on Netflix.

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