Title: The Midnight Gospel (Season 1)
Release Date: April 20, 2020
Production Companies: Oatmeal Maiden, Titmouse, Inc.
Creators: Pendleton Ward, Duncan Trussell
A Cosmic Path For Truth
The Midnight Gospel follows a space caster named Clancy, who uses an illegal multiverse simulator to visit and interview individuals who are encountering dangerous and deathly circumstances.
Each episode deals with a serious theme that searches for answers and philosophical explanations. These range from psychedelic usage, handling death, connecting to close ones, the cycle of life, and a few more that are explored.
Created by Adventure Time‘s Pendleton Ward for his first Netflix project, the various journeys are animated colorfully to reflect a cosmic awareness. Much like Adventure Time, The Midnight Gospel uses wacky tricks to please the audience as the episode’s story continues to develop. He teams up with comedian Duncan Trussell, who lends his podcast talent and voice as Clancy. Ward was impressed by Duncan’s real-life podcast, The Duncan Trussell Family Hour, soon creating a concept that’ll feature interviews over the adult animation for a pretty solid team-up on a project that’s both original and cool to watch.
Woah, That’s Deep, Man
The Midnight Gospel presents itself with a unique way to approach its tales and themes. For a good chunk of the animation, the dialogue between Clancy and his interviewees complement the animation and vice versa. Heavily philosophical, the show does a great job of balancing its questions and potential answers in lieu of a more straightforward narrative. It’s easy to close your eyes and allow the waves of metaphysical breakthroughs to intake the lessons better.
While the animation is nearly top-notch, it doesn’t always supplement the dialogue. At times it can be totally random, which can be annoyingly distracting if you’re trying to listen to the actors do their thing. There were times when an interviewee would be discussing something sincere, and then something moronic would occur that wipes away my attention. It’s honestly a missed opportunity and a disappointing one at best.
However, it doesn’t totally falter. Despite the big flaw, a couple of episodes stood out to me where the intended creative approach really works. Episode 2 “Officers and Wolves” and Episode 8 “Mouse of Silver” were phenomenal experiences due to their ability to wonderfully capture their messages with awe-inspiring animation; the latter episode nearly brought me to tears, so I highly recommend watching that one even if you might not have much interest in the show to some degree.
Plus, the show’s narrative structure is built to make it seem as if each episode is its own, especially since a different world is explored instead of having a single continuous chronicle. This can be a good thing if you’re trying to watch a single episode at a time; on the other hand, it isn’t an entirely rewarding experience for the standard Netflix user. It’s one of the few polarizing aspects of the show I’m split on.
Can I Interview You?
As aforementioned, the dialogue is written by mashing clips of interview conversations with mild story elements to combine both worlds into one. Just listening to the interviewees’ talk was therapeutic, and I learned some things after hearing and reflecting on their philosophical monologues. Some of the featured guests include Drew Pinsky, Anne Lamott, Caitlin Doughty, David Nichtern, and Will Oldman.
Unfortunately, I can’t essentially give the same praise to Clancy/Duncan. While he can be fun to watch and listen to, he comes off as slightly annoying when it comes to acting and asking questions. His delivery is obviously podcast heavy, but he doesn’t bring anything new or innovative aside from a discovery here and there. It got to the point where I was looking forward to hearing more of his Universe Simulator talk (voiced remarkably by Phil Hendrie) than the protagonist himself. Relating to Clancy seemed like a decent step-up. Still, I found his character to be dull and a bit irritating, to say the least, even when he’s donning an avatar while visiting each individual universe.
While I wasn’t crazy about Clancy, I did indeed enjoy the rest of the aspects of the show. The guest stars were welcomed gems, and each was more distinctive than the last, the comedy hits most of the time, and there’s some sweet music throughout the season, most notably the synthwave track that plays when Clancy travels toward a planet via Universe Simulator. Its memorable palavers of philosophy and quest for answers pay off well, and there’s a lot to reflect on once the credits start rolling.
You’re bound to have an existential crisis session upon finishing the debut season. It’s an adult animated show, so evidently, children aren’t the target audience this time around. There’s a fair amount of bloodshed and language, but the real mature content comes through the dialogue and character interaction with self-reflection and complex ideas. Therefore, it might not appeal to everyone. For some, it might be the answer they’re looking for, while some might find it to be a product of acquired taste. It’s a good show, but it isn’t as great as the trailer made it seem to be.
Verdict: The Midnight Gospel serves up a plate that can either be tasteful or not, depending on the viewer. Eager fans of Ward will find the animation to be spectacular, yet the overall cosmic experience tends to have its ups and downs. Although the ups inevitably overshadow the downs by the season’s conclusion, not every episode matched its full potential caliber of anticipation and deliverance.
- The animation is a treat to enjoy on almost all angles.
- Guest stars bring intriguing thought and dialogue.
- Trussell's performance is hardly a performance at all.
- Forgettable episodes outweigh the memorable ones.