Show Review: The Midnight Gospel

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Netflix

The new collaborative effort between Ward and Trussell is as goofy as it is heartfelt.

Pendleton Ward and Duncan Trussell’s experimental new Netflix series The Midnight Gospel is unlike anything I’ve seen before. I don’t mean this in the facetious, hyperbolic way someone might use for a movie or show they lightly enjoyed; this time, it’s different.

The series’s trailer promises to be an exciting new show from the start, highlighted by Ward’s incredibly detailed world-building visuals. However, as I hunkered down to begin what I’d hoped to be a second Adventure Time, it became increasingly evident that The Midnight Gospel had much more to say.

Clancy (voiced by co-creator Duncan Trussell), a human who fled Earth after a fight with his sister, now lives on a fantasy space farm. Using his last bit of cash left, he purchases a world simulator through which he interviews a plethora of different simulated characters for his “spacecast.” The experimental element of the show comes in when the interviews begin, as each he holds is actually clipped from Trussell’s podcast The Duncan Trussell Family Hour, on which he interviews contemporary authors, artists, philosophers, and more.

From the surface, it’s a difficult show to recommend. A show whose most intimate moments are clipped from year-old episodes of a co-creator’s podcast is a tough sell to any crowd. Podcasts are a dime a dozen nowadays, and it’s fair to say the playing field for quality is uneven.
Fortunately, what the series lacks in a major overarching plotline it makes up for with genuine and thought-provoking conversations touching some of life’s hardest questions. Each episode revolves around a certain topic, with themes of death and its acceptance, grief, spirituality, and meditation sprinkled throughout.

As expected from the creator of Adventure Time, the show has its fair share of both comedic and light-hearted moments, as well as its sincere and emotionally-driven ones. The season finale in which Clancy interviews (spoiler alert) his late mother only months before she dies of cancer is one of the most heart-wrenching and impactful moments I’ve seen on television in a long time.

Ward beautifully directs each conversation it holds and the story building efforts dedicated to each frame of the show make it a masterpiece based on visuals alone. Instead of being bombarded with cartoon, cookie-cutter psychedelic nonsense to hold you over until the interviews are over, metaphors and allusions are peppered throughout.

The Midnight Gospel clearly has something to say, and it says it magnificently. It’s as profoundly weird and off-base as it is insightful. What many, including myself, expected to be a mature-rated adventure from the creator of their favorite childhood show instead delves into topics many are too afraid to discuss and wears them on its sleeve like a medal.

Its delivery of ideas may not be for everyone, but if you let your teeth sink into what it has to offer, you may soon find yourself accepting some of the worst of life. In undoubtedly scary times like these, insight into yourself and the world we inhabit can provide some of the best comfort around.

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