From the creator of Adventure Time (Pendleton Ward) and the Duncan Trussell Family Hour Podcast comes The Midnight Gospel, Netflix’s latest foray into brilliantly bonkers adult animation. It’s like an acid trip through space while listening to a podcast discussing reality & existentialism! It’s completely strange and surrealist and it does take a few episodes to get your head around the concept, but you’ll be rewarded with a wildly unique and emotional experience.
Clancy, a spacecaster, travels to interdimensional trippy worlds through his forbidden multiverse simulator to gain new experiences whilst interviewing other lifeforms about existential topics, perspectives and philosophies. Audio clips from Trussell’s podcast are brought to life through mind bending visuals wonderfully rendered by production company Titmouse.
Think Mr Ben meets Rick and Morty whilst listening to an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience and you’ll get a good idea thematically of the show. In each half hour episode Clancy explores a different planet and with each new creature/being he meets, discusses a certain concept or philosophy. These include how to achieve enlightenment, spirituality and even drug addiction – it’s deep stuff. Each podcast conversation is set to a backdrop of a mind bending adventure or quest involving pirates or zombie apocalypses etc.
Standouts include the particularly profound final episode, “Vulture of Honor”, as Clancy has a deeply moving conversation with his mother about how, in the process of avoiding certain situations in our life, we forget to simply be present in the current moment. Along with episode five, titled “Annihilation of Joy”, as Clancy discusses spiritual practices and belief systems in relation to the US criminal system. While the first few episodes are somewhat silly, the series transforms into something far greater as we start to understand just why Clancy dives into these adventures and escapes from his own reality.
At times the distinct psychedelic animation can detract from the central conversation with the insanely colourful palette and bonkers character design, which does at times steer into overly gory/horror territory. (I’d avoid the second episode if you’re particularly squeamish!) But the wildly imaginative worlds and creatures which inhabit them are so creatively brought to screen with a distinct visual aesthetic. The central character in episode “Hunters Without a Home” is just insanely wonderful, he’s a piano playing magician with a fishbowl head who helms a mega-yacht, complete with an entire crew composed of cats. Oh and there’s Trudy the Love Barbarian who battles the sinister Prince Jam Roll in the fourth episode – honest!
The Midnight Gospel is a wonderfully creative animated podcast which feels all too timely with its insight. Although it won’t be for everyone, those who take the time to explore each of the richly philosophical episodes may find themselves adjusting their outlook ever so slightly. In a world full of constant distractions, remember to take a minute to be present in the here and now.