This article contains minor spoilers for parts of “The Midnight Gospel.”
Adult animation has grown in popularity in recent years, especially through the success of series such as “Rick and Morty” and “BoJack Horseman.” Not only are the two shows filled with well-crafted animation, but they also contain deep material that warrants reflection. While Netflix’s new animated series, “The Midnight Gospel,” follows in the footsteps of these shows, its dialogue-driven narratives provide a new approach to the adult animation genre.
“The Midnight Gospel” was created by “Adventure Time” creators Pendleton Ward and Duncan Trussell, who is known for his podcast “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour.” The series derived its content from these podcast episodes and explores subjects ranging from drug abuse to meditation. The show follows a human named Clancy (Trussell) as he travels through his multiverse simulator to interview characters for his “spacecast,” this show’s version of a podcast.
People unfamiliar with the show could make a comparison between this and “Adventure Time.” The characters are both designed in whimsical fashion, the worlds are expansive and littered with color, and both feature characters with clumsy movement as they often trip over themselves while moving. However, “The Midnight Gospel” doesn’t stand in the shadow of “Adventure Time,” rather making leaps in animation with its psychedelic color scheme and mind-bending effects. The heavy use of bright colors creates a visual trip for all viewers.
As mentioned previously, the show is based on episodes of “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour,” which reflects the dialogue in the series. The way the characters communicate feels natural and reminiscent of a podcast as they often stutter and repeat what they are saying, differing the usually well-organized, heavily scripted voice acting of other shows. Characters interviewed by Clancy are often in dangerous situations, like in the first episode where he interviews the U.S. president during a zombie apocalypse. Although the world is ending, the president continues to talk to Clancy as if the two of them are chatting over lunch. The juxtaposition between the absurd events that befall our protagonist and the rational discussions about life and death keeps the viewer interested throughout the series.
Each episode explores a different, divisive topic and discusses it in a calm tone that leaves the concept open for interpretation. Some episodes are more political, focusing on topics like drug abuse and marijuana legalization. Others explore moral and emotional subjects, like in the fourth episode when Clancy interviews a “love barbarian” about forgiveness. However, a majority of the series focuses its time on philosophical and religious subjects such as existentialism, meditation and death. “The Midnight Gospel” does not try to make fun of the values that people have or the things they do, but instead explores the diverse nature of the subconscious and the ways people think about life.
To some, this series may feel like another animated science fiction show to rival “Rick and Morty” or “Futurama.” However, unlike those shows, the purpose of “The Midnight Gospel” is not entirely to make the viewer laugh per se, but rather to make them think and feel. The series’ emotions are highlighted in the season finale, where Clancy interviews his mom, based off of a real interview between Trussell and his own mother. They talk about important things in Clancy’s mother’s life, such as his birth and her battle with cancer. It’s saddening to hear descriptions of Trussell’s mother through this traumatic period of time, but the emotions amplify when one learns of his mother’s death shortly after this interview in 2013. Other shows have dealt with depressing material, but few have made such a moving impact due to their realism. Clancy’s interviews may be outlandish throughout the series, but they will always leave a lasting impact, and the final episode calls attention to this perfectly.
The trailer for “The Midnight Gospel” contains the following quote: “In every universe there is a question; in every person there is an answer.” The series lives up to this idea through its communication of complex ideas which is assisted by the show’s equally complex visuals. With a run of eight episodes, “The Midnight Gospel” will leave you wanting more of its creative charm and fascinating outlooks.