Traversing trippy worlds inside his universe simulator, a space caster explores existential questions about life, death and everything in between.
The small miracle of “Adventure Time” in its earliest season came from creator Pendleton Ward’s ability to juggle ingredients that shouldn’t work so well together. The show was silly and profound in equal measures, treating that balance as the ultimate yin and yang. “The Midnight Gospel” brings that same notion to ambitious new heights, shedding the pretense of a “children’s show” that sometimes hindered the reach of “Adventure Time” and chases big ideas right out of the gate. It’s mind-blowing in the best possible way.
Every episode approaches sophisticated ideas while stuffing them into an astonishing psychedelic cartoon, so that “The Midnight Gospel” forces you to push beyond the distractions of its many moving parts and appreciate the substance at its core. The resulting trippy sci-fi adventure is a feast for the eyes and mind at once.
Netflix might live off of a binge-watch model, but The Midnight Gospel is a show that resists binging. It's just too much sensory overload to take in more than an episode or two at a time. The visual comedy of the animation is often delightful, but it takes a lot of effort to follow both the fast-paced trippy action and the rambling, often heavy podcast discussions. You're not going to find the same character connections and consistent world-building that made Adventure Time's absurdity more easily digestible, and the show's inconsistent nature might test some viewers' patience.
The Midnight Gospel is not a show you can easily make judgments on. Its overwhelming style and experimental inconsistencies will hold it back from connecting immediately with all viewers. But any experiment that can create an episode as beautiful as [the season finale] "Mouse of Silver" has to be doing something right. It's not the Second Coming of Adventure Time, but it's totally unique and provides plenty of deep food for thought.
Overall, I’m not quite sure if I enjoyed watching The Midnight Gospel, but I absolutely can’t stop thinking about it. And maybe the point isn’t to like it, but to chew on it, anyway? It’s not like the interview subject matter is light reading material -- there’s a whole episode about ceremonial magic and Eastern traditions -- and the animation flies by at a pace where new, fantastical environments, characters, and obstacles are introduced practically every minute. The Midnight Gospel made me laugh, think hard thoughts about things I never have, and contrary to many other shows, I can already imagine myself returning to Clancy and his strange, imperfect spacecast multiple times in the future.