While the pandemic was still in its infancy, the former creator of Adventure Time, Pendleton Ward and comedian-podcaster Duncan Trussell, dropped the The Midnight Gospel on Netflix on 20th April (4/20, a foreshadowing of the shows’ psychedelic undertone). This came as a salvation to millions who were stuck at home due to the lockdown orders to curb the spread of our ‘favorite’ virus, Covid-19. The show follows Clancy Gilroy, a space-caster in search of stories for his podcast that traverses through various multiverses on his world simulator. It’s an action-packed animation about the metaphysical surmising of mankind. To add, it is a reality and a meditative journey through psychedelic visions of science-fiction.
It’s the Link to the Now
The initial idea by Ward was to construct a complex series that continues to move in various directions about Clancy (voiced by Trussell) and his podcasts across his universe of dying simulated worlds. However, in the end, the story centers around the “Duncan Trussell Family Hour” podcasts where a wide scope of characters are interviewed regarding their philosophies of life and their methods of meditation.
The Midnight Gospel believes in seeking enlightenment. When juxtaposed with the current generation that is hidden from society, Clancy’s adventures offer an exact image of loneliness which rings true to many. The voyage of Clancy was both a spiritual journey and a futile attempt to avoid reality. His aimlessness and hollow excitement was constantly being discarded for the next diversion, reflecting the current perpetually online mentality. This is especially prevalent nowadays for people whose only medium for contact or news of the outside world is via the Internet.
In this peculiar age, the show seems remarkably relevant. Not only with the quarantine’s existential fear, but also with the strange market that has evolved over the last decade. Where in which we have begun to sell our practices and identities online. This very act becomes almost incomprehensibly challenging while trying to simply be present in the now. These notions are all the more important and soothing since the series came out during the pandemic-induced lockdown.
The topics discussed within the show are spiritual and incredibly hippie. It shows a contemplative, lengthy outlook on life, death, and meditation. According to Trussell, the show is not only about sorrow. It is also about how people avoid looking at loss directly in the eye, and how they use it to increase existing havoc when things stop working the way they should.
The last episode illustrates themes and concepts at the heart of the series from Trussell ‘s viewpoint. The most significant part of which is that even in the most devastating moments—even in the potential end of times—people continue to find a way to get to the other side. In our reality, many people are dealing with deaths of those that are closest to them, including the front-liners. Despite this, people had shone through the tragedy with community spirit (which is also discussed in the show). These very people have shown solidarity by staying inside, which benefits not only the individual, but society as well.
The Journey to the End
For each episode, the goal was to somehow establish a balance between the absurdity of what was unfolding and a dialogue that didn’t sound like background noise. The audio and visual stories interact and clash, unveiling contemporary expeditions into human consciousness. The Midnight Gospel encourages you to overpower the diversions and appreciate the core essence.
Purposely, the ideas brought forth are thematically linked. The fact that the show includes real interviews of existing people and their philosophies based on their experiences makes the show even more genuine and enriching. Clancy discusses how meditation allows him to concentrate and process his feelings better. The characters talk about examining and responding to their emotions, instead of recklessly confronting them. The Midnight Gospel also addresses several catching issues, including death and mental illness acceptance. Clancy and Damien Echols (West Memphis Three) talk about meditation, its correlation to magic and how Eastern Spirituality traditions interlink and connect together. Trudy Goodman (a vipassana teacher) tells Clancy about the significance of forgiveness and how it is healthy for the body and spirit to let go of past enmities and so on.
The last three episodes proved to be especially deep and emotional. It merges the personal development of Duncan Trussell with that of Clancy, his fictional avatar. In this finale, Clancy interviews his mother, and explores her terminal diagnosis. This contributes to an emotional discussion between the characters, with his mother offering him advice on how to deal with grief. Deneen tells Clancy that it is okay to cry and advises him to “turn to” the origin of his distress when asked the best way to move on. All these themes, with the dark turnout of this year thanks to the pandemic, can teach us one or two lessons. But, most importantly it teaches us to accept that whatever emotions or feelings we go through are valid and to find a way to live and move on with it.
The Midnight Gospel offers us such a wonderful world. It accurately reflects the peculiar environment of the internet age, concentrates on “browsing” the virtual multiverse, navigates us through viruses and constant pop-up commercials, ignores our personal needs in favour of the never-ending search for creativity. It proposes that it matters more than anything to live in the moment rather than worrying about what happens next. After all, 2020 has shown us multiple times: unpredictability is its reigning feature and we have to just walk with it.
Written by Mariyam Sarah.
Featured image found on Pinterest.