Disgusting, absurd, and profound, The Midnight Gospel will move you to depths you didn’t know you had (or maybe you did because you’ve dropped just as much acid as Pendleton Ward and Duncan Trussell). The music, the humor, and the visual gags will draw you in; the content will keep you riveted (possibly for all four and a half hours, if you’re stuck at home on pandemic lockdown).
The Midnight Gospel prides itself on being a mind fuck, both visually and spiritually. The eight-episode visual podcast tells the story of Clancy (played by Duncan Trussell), a twentysomething who has left Earth to move to a trailer in the middle of nowhere (nowhere being a double-helix-shaped floating landscape that is beautiful, serene, and lonely) where he interviews beings in a universe simulator for his spacecast, a video-cast “that goes into space.”
Each episode features a guest from backgrounds such as author, mortician, and former inmate, and the interviews are accompanied by plot expositions that are viscerally nauseating, chilling, and existentially-heartbreaking.
The show starts with Clancy listening to the radio. The song? “Let Me Up, Let Me Down, But Don’t Let Me In.” The song represents Clancy’s main struggle and the show’s arc: he’ll ride the highs and lows, but he keeps his heart and spirit closed off. Then the first episode dives into a conversation between Clancy and a simulator earth’s President of the United States (played by Dr. Drew Pinsky) about drugs and how the most important aspect of drug use is using them in healthy ways and not using them in unhealthy ways. “One of my favorite statements,” the president says, “is, you know, health is about accepting and perceiving and dealing with reality on reality’s terms.”
Subsequent episodes feature different points of view on life, love, and loss, some of which are laughable and some of which are wickedly wise. In one episode, the interview takes place as both Clancy and his subjects are assembly-line chopped, ground, and suctioned into a meat conglomerate. In another, Clancy accompanies Death on a spiritual elevator through Biblical scenes, famous paintings, and finally, the edge of a cliff. In another, Clancy interviews a knight who discusses the importance of forgiveness while she exacts revenge on a ninja who ate her boyfriend.
One of my favorite scenes is in the last episode, when Clancy (Duncan) interviews his mom, a cancer survivor and psychologist, about the cycle of life and death. Their conversation ends with a black hole, pointing to the cosmic death that is ongoing in the universe, raking viewers over the coals of meaning and hope and love and gratitude. We fear death because we love life, and that realization is striking.
The nonstop narration and life-and-death events of each episode keep viewers busy until key moments when epiphanies and circumstances push you to tears. The Midnight Gospel was made for you and me and everyone else (which is everyone) who fears death, and while it guts you, it also wraps you into the comfort of accepting that death is as inescapable as life.
Are you afraid of dying? Do you want to be happy? Are you grieving the loss of someone you care about? Do you want to “get in” on the secret to life? The Midnight Gospel has your back. Watch it wherever you are, however you are, and let your heart bleed out like it’s your last night alive.
Kelsey May is Editor-in-Chief of Hyype, Coordinator of the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition for Grand Rapids Public Library, and the host of WYCE’s Electric Poetry. Find her at kelseymaywrites.com. Image: The Midnight Gospel, Netflix