Netflix’s new YA series The Midnight Club is the perfect horror starter kit. While there’s a central plot about a maybe-haunted mansion slowly unspooling across 10 episodes, it’s also a collection of short horror stories told by the story’s cast: a collection of terminal kids living in hospice at said mansion, bonding in their final days by scaring each other at night, Are You Afraid of the Dark?-style.
This means The Midnight Club can take any shape — in one episode it’s a film noir homage, in another, there’s a riff on The Terminator. And, in the fifth episode, “See You Later,” the show takes on the rarest of forms: the gamer thriller.
“See You Later” features a story told by Amesh (Sauriyan Sapkota), who spins a tale about Luke, an aspiring game designer (also played by Sapkota; in The Midnight Club each cast member generally also plays the protagonist of the story they tell) who meets his idol in a video game shop: Vincent Beggs (Rahul Kohli), a legendary game designer. And even better, he invites him over to play a game that he’s currently working on.
What follows is a twisty sci-fi tale where a seemingly unbeatable video game is the means by which Luke learns that his world is not what he thinks it is, and that his heroic ideas about life and his place in it might be distractions from more mundane things that really matter. All told, it’s not really The Midnight Club’s best short story, but it does take on an air of poignance when held up against Amesh’s arc throughout the show.
Amesh is established as a gamer early on in The Midnight Club. In the group therapy sessions the kids all attend together, Amesh talks about his childhood playing every video game console that came out, and that he is sad that he might not live to play the Sony PlayStation, which isn’t out yet. He’s sheepish when he says this, cognizant that it’s small potatoes compared to the many other things there are to miss about being alive, in a room full of other teens who are also not long for this Earth. But he can’t help it — this is who he is. He likes video games.
Part of what makes The Midnight Club a wonderful show is the deep sense of affection it has for all of its characters, the way that they are all taken seriously even when they are messy, or hateful, or not the best storytellers (Amesh’s story is not great). Amesh’s love for video games may not be as classically appreciated in the show’s ’90s setting, but it is as beautiful as Anya’s (series standout Ruth Codd) desire to dance again, and it’s also an illustration of the show’s poignance in miniature.
To be into video games as a hobby is to never be satisfied. There is always more: a new console, a new sequel, a new update, something else to achieve or buy or see. Coincidentally, this is also what it’s like to be a teenager: to be constantly tugged in the direction of your overwhelming emotions and desires, to be so sure that you were meant for greater things than your dreary present, that your best days were always ahead somewhere in your vague, indefinite future.
Amesh gets to feel all that, but he doesn’t get to indulge it. Like all of his new friends in The Midnight Club, he’s fated to end his story somewhere close to where he is right now, as a teenager who is just getting started. Eventually, someone does give him that PlayStation, and attentive viewers might note that there’s nothing for him to play. It feels like an oversight, but perhaps it’s the point. Amesh is happy he got the PlayStation. He doesn’t need to play it. He just wanted to be known while he was still here.