Zombies have taken over one of the infinite versions of Earth as former earthling, Clancy, and his interviewee — the president nonchalantly enter a conversation about marijuana, opiates, valium and acid. As cartoon chaos ensues around them, they speak calmly until they themselves are turned into zombies and realize that being a zombie feels great. In the next episode, Clancy is in a completely different setting and onto his next “spacecast” conversation.
From the creator of “Adventure Time,” Pendelton Ward, along with podcaster and comedian Duncan Trussel, comes the new series “The Midnight Gospel.” To match the trippy qualities of the show, it premiered on Netflix on Apr. 20.
Set in a multiverse of bizarre planets, “The Midnight Gospel” teases that it might be a more twisted version of “Adventure Time.” But as the show progresses, it’s more apparent that it’s not —it’s its own surreal adventure. Maybe that’s what makes the show so great —how unpredictable it is going into the podcast-cartoon hybrid.
Clancy, the main character, is trying to gain followers by creating spacecasts (podcasts) using an illegal simulator. He nonchalantly travels to other planets through his simulator to gather artifacts and find various beings to interview. All the while he is dealing with an unexplained issue with his sister, a run in with his neighbor and managing his deteriorating simulator.
However, all of this hazy plot is blurred in with his peculiar interviews and is quite a mess to follow along with. But it makes the show absurdly amusing.
Since crude adult animated cartoons have soared in popularity in recent years, they now seem to come a dime a dozen — especially on Netflix. While “The Midnight Gospel” has some disturbing imagery making it initially come off as just another animated series trying to shock its crowd, the raw conversations of the series are what help it to stand out.
The vast majority of the dialogue in the show is conversations between Trussel and his various podcast guests from his ongoing podcast “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour,” which began in 2013. This is the reason the conversations are so organic. A couple of the guests even refer to the main character, Clancy, as Duncan when speaking.
Trussell, who voices Clancy, discusses with his podcast guests, who are portrayed as eclectic characters on the show, a multitude of topics. The topics range from drug use, meditation, mortality, the ego, buddhism, magic and coping with death. And even with such a range of topics, he doesn’t forget to skip over butt plug analogies.
Each podcast or spacecast guest has their own stories and points of views to share with Trussell/Clancy, making each dialogue feel intimate. Whether the viewer thinks the conversations are thought provoking or they are impractical nonsense, they can gain some insight on perhaps unconsidered perspectives. As they watch, they can also focus on the gnarly psychedelic visuals.
The pairing of the grotesque or perverted imagery of the cartoon and the emotional and thoughtful interview dialogue make the viewer question if what they are watching is even grotesque at all. Well, it is and it isn’t.The beauty is that it’s subjectively the viewers decision.
The stark contrast of the conversation and wild, often unspoken, visual plots of each episode is both a negative and a positive aspect of the show. It can sometimes be hard to follow the hectic occurances on each new planet and follow the dizzy, sad or philosophical conversations at the same time. Especially when the conversations don’t mention what is plainly happening visually.
On the other hand, this is one of the aspects that makes the show so interesting. The connections between the conversations and the plot are often not outright said, but they’re there and sometimes even conflicting what is being said. So watching a deer-dog creature being captured, murdered and harvested for meat while clown robots and little men in gas masks murder eachother in the background accompanied by the conversation about death makes the hazy visual plot seem to make sense.
The final episode is what makes the whole season worth the watch. Even if a viewer was not resonating with the first seven episodes, episode eight dives into a deeply emotional conversation that every person is faced with in life. The conversation is about death, between Trussell and his now late mother Daneen Fendig.
Fendig was diagnosed with breast cancer before the interview and speaks with Trussell about her (and everyone’s) inevitable death. She speaks with coming to terms with it and the lessons she learned. Trussell and her share deeply intimate and emotional moments and even laughs. Fendig passed away three weeks after the recording of the podcast in 2013.
Listening to the actual discussion between a mother and son about their imminent death is incredibly intimate and heartbreaking. Paired with the cutesy and shocking imagery of the episode makes the final episode a spectacularly emotional journey.
As someone who is not highly interested in animated series, “The Midnight Gospel” won over my interest. Baked or not, this series wants to take you on a trip that sometimes only half makes sense. Through disgust, confusion and joy “The Midnight Gospel” dives into a psychedelic journey that will invite you to think about reality and have fun while doing it.