REVIEW: ‘The Midnight Gospel’ is Easy Philosophy

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The Midnight Gospel, Netflix Animation

The Midnight Gospel is a Netflix animated series co-created by Pendelton Ward (Adventure Time) and Duncan Trussell. It is a show that explores simulated worlds on the verge of their own apocalypses through our main character Clancy Gilroy. I am a huge Adventure Time fan and was really excited to dive headfirst into this project. Clancy serves as a vessel to bridge the gap between animation and podcasting. He goes into his multiverse simulator and finds people to interview for his spacecast. Immediately, viewers are thrust into a world filled to the brim with psychedelic imagery and bright colors. The skies are yellow and pink. There are rainbows here and there. The backgrounds are consistently moving whether or not it has anything to do with the conversations Clancy has with his guests.

What is interesting about his spacecast guests is that they are voiced by real people and focus on their areas of expertise. For example, one of my favorite episodes, “Blinded by My End,” showcases Trudy Goodman as Trudy the Barbarian. In real life, Trudy Goodman teaches retreats at the Spirit Meditation Center and is an expert in psychotherapy and meditation  Trudy is presented as a barbarian warrior and is discussing the philosophy of mindfulness and forgiveness. The premise of this episode is that Trudy is taking Clancy along with her and she tries to find the person who killed her boyfriend. The idea of looking into yourself to forgive others is explored. The information is broken down to bare-bones simplicity. Viewers do not need to really critically think about these high-level concepts because Clancy and Trudy present the information in a laid back conversational mode. This ease of information is refreshing.

Almost every episode is set up like this. Despite The Midnight Gospel using a formulaic approach to its eight-episode run, each episode feels new and interesting. The other guests like Stephen Root, Caitlin Doughty, and Deneen Fendig are all engaging and fun. It doesn’t matter if the discussion is harrowed in on existential dread and the reoccurring deaths of a single person (episode five, “The Annihilation of Joy”) or the conversations centered on the cycles of life (episode 8, “Mouse of Silver), the audio is never disengaging. At a certain point, I was able to close my eyes and pretend that I was actually listening to a podcast. I realized about halfway through the season, that I found the nonchalant delivery easy and fun to listen to.

The Midnight Gospel

Regardless of my intense love of the topics discussed in every episode of The Midnight Gospel, the animation severely impeded on my overall enjoyment of the show. The animation, fully reminiscent of Adventure Time, was a distraction from the conversations being had. The first episode, “The Taste of the King,” featured Drew Pinsky. The interview honed in on the topic of drugs. Drew and Clancy explore the pros and cons of drug use, whether there are good or bad drugs, the spirituality of drug use, and if drugs could be used in safe ways to provide betterment to people’s lives. This is an amazing and innovative discussion that provides a lot of insight into the culture of drugs right now. Although, the background animation of the episode features a zombie apocalypse occurring. Just like in this episode, many others also suffer from the lack of cohesion between the information being presented and what viewers are visually seeing.

For most people, I do not think this would be an immense bother. For me, it was sensory overload. Sometimes I found it difficult to really pay attention to the conversations because of the comic mischief or gratuitous violence occurring on screen. I did not like that at times the ideas of mindfulness, empathy, or mediation where being presented with bombastic, over-to-the-top action, and bright colors. I understand that Pendelton Ward and Duncan Trussell were trying to create a unique podcast meets  animation project. For some episodes like the fourth and the eighth, they hit the nail on the head. However, this makes the weaker episodes stick out more. The clashing of the audio and the animation sometimes gave me a headache, and I could only watch one episode at a time.

While I think that The Midnight Gospel excels in its exploration of mindfulness, meditation, and empathy, I cannot say I enjoyed it as much as others simply because I found its animation style to be distracting and not reflective enough of the information being presented. It is too overstimulating for me as a viewer. This isn’t inherently bad, it just wasn’t completely compatible with me.  However, if you are seeking quick and easily digestible information regarding the aforementioned topics, and do not mind intensely bright, flashing, and fast animation, you will no doubt enjoy it. 

The Midnight Gospel is currently streaming exclusively on Netflix. 

The Midnight Gospel
8.5/10

TL;DR

While I think that The Midnight Gospel excels in its exploration of mindfulness, meditation, and empathy, I cannot say I enjoyed it as much as others simply because I found its animation style to be distracting and not reflective enough of the information being presented. It is too overstimulating for me as a viewer. This isn’t inherently bad, it just wasn’t completely compatible with me.  However, if you are seeking quick and easily digestible information regarding the aforementioned topics, and do not mind intensely bright, flashing, and fast animation, you will no doubt enjoy it