To Binge or Not to Binge Episode 81: ‘The Midnight Gospel’


Hannah Allred

(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cade Anderson, Arts Writer


Enlightening and vulnerable podcast conversations might not sound like they belong against a backdrop of absurd and sometimes violent cartoons, but not far into its first episode, “The Midnight Gospel” proves to execute this blend with ingenuity. Void of a traditional three-part story structure, the show instead teleports viewers to different planets as “spacecaster” Clancy (Duncan Trussell, co-creator) searches for interesting guests to host on his inter-dimensional podcast where he discusses mindfulness, drugs, friendship and death.

To Binge or Not to Binge?

I binged the first six episodes and subsequently spaced the last couple out so I wouldn’t finish the series too fast. The show’s animation is gorgeous, and its script is truly eye-opening, but these elements alone aren’t what glued me to the screen when I watched. Of all its feats, what continues to intrigue me most about “The Midnight Gospel” is the stark contrast between what we see and what we hear. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it — especially not in the format of entertaining half-hour episodes, and especially not from Netflix. 

Sometimes the show’s dialogue clearly correlates with events on-screen, like when an amiable Death (Caitlin Doughty) guides Clancy through what appears to be the stages of the afterlife as she discusses the “death industrial complex” of Western societies. But oftentimes, building a logical connection between the animation and the narration requires some painstaking over-analyzation. In “Taste of the King” for example, Clancy and the President of the United States (Drew Pinsky) talk about psychedelic mushrooms as the White House is swallowed by a giant zombie, and in “Blinded by My End,” Clancy discusses listening and forgiveness with a medieval warrior (Trudy Goodman) as she uses a magic rose to chop the head off a lake monster. Something about this dynamic hypnotizing, I often found myself so carried away by either the interview or the animation that I had to pause and rewind to catch what I missed.

Some have understandably critiqued this jarring disconnect, but it feels cathartic to me to watch characters create meaning together in the midst of irrational chaos. I think this is why I, and so many others my age, found unexpected solace in “The Midnight Gospel” — the show is a vibrant caricature of the anxiety of living as a young adult in the modern era. Simultaneously, though, it offers us messages of infinite value. Even as civilization itself feels on the brink of collapse — from the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis, to the looming threat of spending the rest of our lives working for a corporation’s profit — “The Midnight Gospel” is an invitation to be present. To honestly acknowledge whatever we may experience in our limited, precious time as conscious primates on Earth. It tells us that simply existing in the thick of it all is enough.

Best Episode

Anyone who’s watched the show will tell you that the last episode, “Mouse of Silver,” is a particularly emotional one, and for that reason, it’s my favorite. I didn’t know it at the time of watching, but the vast majority of the show’s dialogue is actually sourced from real interviews of Trussell’s own podcast. This fact came as a pleasant surprise but it made perfect sense considering the deeply authentic feeling of the whole series, and it added considerable weight to Clancy’s intimate, moving exploration of birth and death with his mother in the season finale. There are things this calm, aging woman said to a confused son that I know will stay with me for a lifetime.

Similar Shows

K. Thor Jensen of PC Magazine comments, “If you grew up on Adventure Time, Netflix’s ‘The Midnight Gospel’ is the next evolutionary step for adult themes in kid’s animation,” and that sounds about right to me, as “Adventure Time’s” Pendleton Ward was a co-creator of “The Midnight Gospel.” The show has also been compared to “BoJack Horseman” and “Rick and Morty,” although it’s drastically different from both.

Trigger Warnings

The show depicts cartoon violence and nudity, while diving into potentially triggering themes such as tragic deaths and traumatic drug experiences. 


“The Midnight Gospel”

5/5 Stars

Available to stream on Netflix

One season, eight episodes, approximately thirty minutes each.


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