Why The Midnight Gospel is Art
I am a firm believer that anything that makes the bar of truly, exceptionally good should be experienced without spoilers. There is something amazing that happens when you have no expectations, enter in completely blind to a new experience, and come away wowed. If you trust me enough, I suggest that you go watch The Midnight Gospel at this very moment. You can find it on Netflix, as it is a Netflix original, so go, go forth, watch it, rewatch it, experience it, smell it, taste it, feel it, touch it, just go do it. Not enough? Not convinced? Alright, what if I told you that it’s made by Pendleton Ward, creator of the smash-hit TV show Adventure Time? Surely the majority of my audience on this site has watched and loved Adventure Time, right? So go, do it!
Mmm, okay, I see that some of you are still here. Well, I did tell you, it’s best to go in completely blind, but if you’re not going to do that, if you need more convincing, then let me tell you a little something about The Midnight Gospel.
The Midnight Gospel is like nothing I have ever seen. Watching it, you get this sense that you’re viewing the creation of an entire new genre of television. Correct me if I’m wrong of course, but The Midnight Gospel seems to be a pioneer of as-of-yet uncharted TV show waters. I watched the entire series in two days with my brother (8 episodes, 30 minutes each, only about a 4 hour commitment), and this is how it happened.
My brother and I had just finished JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Season I (parts one and two). JoJo is a fun show, but after watching it, I turned to my brother and said: “I want to watch something where I don’t have to turn my brain off to enjoy it.” (Turning your brain off is generally how to best experience action movies and shows.) The Midnight Gospel was advertised on the front page of Netflix, and its artstyle looked particularly interesting. That’s all it took. We put it on, sat on the couch, and watched the first episode.
I have never been so surprised by a show.
Once Clancy — our pink-skinned simulator wizard protagonist — finds an earth infected by a zombie virus and shoots himself down to interview a tiny guy with glasses who turns out to be the president of the United States, I begin to think: “Ah, so this will be a Rick & Morty type of show, where we have a protagonist who goes to a bunch of random different worlds and has adventures.” While that conclusion wasn’t entirely wrong, what happened next really caught me off guard. He begins the interview with the president, and they begin talking about the legalization of marijuana.
End of story.
No seriously I could stop describing the show right there. For the entire rest of the episode, Clancy and the president go back and forth, discussing marijuana, psychedelics, all sorts of drugs, their uses, their dangers, “good” and “bad” drugs… all this stuff, and though they go through the world, shooting zombies and narrowly escaping crumbling buildings, the conversation just flows. Like they were two real people, sitting and talking together, about drugs, practically unaffected, and totally uninterested by the world around them.
By the end, we’ve gone through a conversation about substance abuse, how highs can help elucidate problems you may have, and while this conversation concludes, they are getting eaten alive by zombies, guts pouring out of them, and yet, once again, they seem practically unaffected, totally uninterested, and then Clancy blows a horn that teleports him out of the world. He goes home, uploads what he recorded to an internet stand-in simply called Space, and then he calls it a day.
And my brother and I are just sitting here, on the couch, thinking… what did we just watch? It took us until halfway through to fully come to terms with the fact that they were just going to keep talking about drugs and have this conversation, like the highest budget podcast that had ever been recorded. It was late when we started it, so we only watched two more episodes, called it off, and finished the rest of the five episodes the next day. As we watched, we became more and more enthralled by this strange show, with its extremely psychedelic visuals, hilarious soundtrack (I recommend you listen through each and every credits sequence), and philosophical conversations on life, death, spirituality, enlightenment, rebirth, cycles, drug use, forgiveness, listening, cancer, growing, heaven, agency, magic, freedom… do I make my point yet?
It took us a few episodes to really notice that this show was using the visuals as metaphors for the conversations. The best example of this is Episode 5, which I think is so good, that I don’t want to spoil it at all — it might very well be my favorite. This is definitely not a show you can turn your brain off for. This show. Is art.
What do I mean by art?
Well I don’t mean art in the very literal sense. The literal sense is in terms of “the arts”, which includes visual arts, performing arts, literary arts, musical arts, that kind of thing. You look at a drawing, and no matter its quality, it falls under the category of “art”. But Johnny Test does not fall under my definition of art, nor does Transformers, nor Super Mario Bros, nor The Hunger Games. But The Midnight Gospel does.
Why? Because The Midnight Gospel has meaning. Yes, that’s a very subjective stance, and we could have an entire conversation on how people can pull meaning out of anything and how in that case everything is art, but we’re not going to go there right now. Maybe another time. But The Midnight Gospel is an art because it uses metaphor, to deliver messages, to give life lessons, to deliver deep insights, to explore spirituality, to explore morality, to explore the self. The visuals pair with the podcast-y nature of the show to give it a flavor unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and the brief interjections of the ongoing story in Clancy’s life at the beginning and end tie our episodes together into a greater whole about confronting your problems, living in the moment, and learning to be at peace with yourself.
The Midnight Gospel is the best show I’ve seen in the past twelve months, and I’m only giving it a year because I can’t remember what the last best show I watched was, and when I watched it. This show gave me shivers. The last episode… I would have cried had not my brother been in the room with me. (You know how it is.)
Watch The Midnight Gospel!! You owe it to yourself, seriously.