Offbeat | ​​Take a trip with Netflix’s ‘The Midnight Gospel’

Offbeat is a bi-weekly blog offering new and meaningful takes on all things media.

By Jillian Rowan, Staff Writer

Get ready for the trippiest, yet most transcendent, show you’ll watch — it’s a journey and a half. “The Midnight Gospel,” which Netflix released in 2020, is an animated show chronicling main character Clancy Gilroy and his gallivants around the universe, while simultaneously teaching valuable lessons on the meaning of life.

In a display of funky, dystopian adventures, Gilroy (Duncan Trussell) travels to a series of dying worlds via his multiverse simulator essentially a time-travel device. As he navigates planets on the verge of disarray, he interviews the individuals he meets for his “space-cast” the universe equivalent to a podcast.

Almost resembling a guided meditation, Gilroy and his company guide listeners through tough topics such as death, drug use, enlightenment, religion, connecting with loved ones, different belief systems, existentialism and more. 

TMG is the brainchild of “Adventure Time’s” creator Pendleton Ward and comedian podcaster Duncan Trussell, which explains the combination of trippy animations and profound monologue.

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Conversations from Trussell’s podcast, “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour,” are the backbone of the show’s monologue — weaved in as Gilroy’s material for his “space-casts.”

Based on real interviews derived from actual TDTFH podcast episodes, conversations with guests such as Anne Lamott, Caitlin Doughty and David Nichtern are what constitute the spiels of each episode. Each begins with Gilroy deciding which planet to visit, and ends with an apocalyptic event that he narrowly escapes from, unscathed. 

The concept originated from Ward hearing one of Trussell’s podcasts. Though Ward no longer intended to create television shows after stepping down from “Adventure Time,” the two became friends and came up with the idea of TMG. 

The two relayed in a 2020 interview that the process of finding interview blurbs to fit the apocalyptic theme was “laborious,” but essential to a cohesive plotline. 

The series resembles a highlight tape of Trussell’s most ethereal moments with incredible guests. 

“When I’m doing a podcast, there are moments where my whole universe changes because someone told me something I never knew,” Trussel said in an interview with Daily Beast in April 2020. “Once you hear that, you’re forever changed; you live in a completely different dimension than you lived in before.”

The conversations are a reaction to the collapsing, dystopian world around them, making for a perfect blend of psychedelic animation and dialogue. Too much of one would take away from the other, but Trussell and Ward achieve a perfect harmony. 

TMG has an unconventional yet highly effective method of teaching viewers about the extremely complex and introspective topics of life. It’s a show you can watch intently or listen to in the background whilst doing your daily tasks. 

The first episode,“Taste of the King,” is based on a podcast with Drew Pinsky. It follows the perils of a zombie apocalypse that Gilroy must escape from, in the company of the President of the United States. 

I know I sound like I’m tripping right now just explaining this, but stick with me. Gilroy drops into Earth 4-169, which is succumbing to an international zombie-orchestrated doom. Warding off zombified marijuana protesters at the White House, Gilroy and the president engage in a discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of recreational drugs, drug-use education and experimentation and if drugs, such as psychedelics, can allow for spiritual and metaphysical growth. 

Nonsensical plot lines such as this one give way to far more serious and complex discussion points, such as the stigma around drugs and potential steps to curb the narcotics pandemic.

The final episode of the first season, “Mouse of Silver,” is an emotional yet perceptive look at death and how to cope with losing a loved one. In this instalment, Gilroy’s mother joins him, and the two relive and comment on his childhood. 

Through the episode, the pair go through the stages of life, from the birth of Clancy to the death of his mother. Keep up, I know it’s weird. As they progress through the aging process, they discuss the perplexing concept of being. Nearing death, his mother reveals she has stage four breast cancer, and the duo grapple with the grieving process — the one that begins as someone’s soul is dying during life, and the after-process when they really die. 

In her final moments, they have an exchange about the taboo nature of speaking on death, and why it is a painful topic to address and process. After her passing, Clancy returns back to his own universe, where a figure representing the spiritual guru Ram Dass tells him to “Just be here now.”

TMG is a gentle reminder of our mortality, and how we as humans can deal with it. It’s a tasteful and talented creation that manages to make intense, meditative jargon witty and palpable, and the dope animation and thoughtful articulation brings it all together. 

TMG oils the mental gears, allowing for your mind to transcend fear in the most cartoonish way possible. If you need a reason to get deep and rethink the meaning of life, flick on “The Midnight Gospel” and watch the spiritual pandemonium unfold. 

Jillian writes about a range of media topics. You can reach her at [email protected]