Lately I have been utterly entranced by a new Netflix show, The Midnight Gospel. Created by American comedian Duncan Trussell, and Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, the show combines select interviews from Trussell’s podcast with a cartoon story about a man who interviews beings from dying universes through a simulation machine.
Trussell and his accompanying talent certainly have some eye-opening ideas, with people ranging from doctors to ex-death row prisoners. The first three episodes cover the topics of drug abuse, death, Christianity, Buddhism, and magic. These first two topics were no surprise to me having been exposed to some of Trussell’s ideas in his features on Joe Rogan’s podcast. I was not expecting the topic of religion to come up, in particular Christianity, as the main thing I recall Trussell saying about the Bible in one of the latest JRE episodes was his experience of reading the Gospel on speed (as in methamphetamine).
However, it was a welcome addition to the plethora of engaging topics. The second episode, Officers and Wolves, features a lot of discussion about Christianity and Jesus. Author Anne Lamott, the real-life dreadlocked Christian writer, takes the form of a cartoon deer-dog in The Midnight Gospel. Lamott talks about her experience with God and Jesus, while Trussell speaks his mind about Satan and the meaning of love. Podcaster, Raghu Markus, is also depicted as a deer-dog who recounts his experience of trying to meditate like Christ, at the time being a Jew who had never read the New Testament.
I found this second episode to be where Christian themes are most prevalent, though in the third episode there is some discussion about the Bible being ‘the greatest book of magic’, and the focus of the fourth episode is on the idea of forgiveness. Even the topics not directly connected to Christianity such as meditation, mindfulness, and death can still be great conversation starters to have with people. The abundance of religious themes has personally helped me understand other religions better, something I wasn’t expecting from this show.
Now admittedly, although I think it’s pretty cool that Christianity was such a prevalent topic in this episode, the show can be a little crude at times. I feel swearing, innuendo and cartoon violence are very much present throughout the series. It’s an adult cartoon, not a kid’s show, unlike Adventure Time. Not only is the show a bit too crude for children, but the existential discussions of religion, culture and society would probably go over a kid’s head.
It’s a bit of a trip though the show is visually beautiful if you can appreciate the art style. I grew up watching Adventure Time (much to my parent’s dismay) so for me it is familiar and easy to get lost in. The fictional side-stories involving the cartoon characters, offer an amusing reflection of the topics discussed by real people, for example a character dying over and over again accompanied by the topic of Buddhist ideology.
The show is unlike anything else I’ve seen. The combination of deep, intellectual conversations from Trussell’s podcasts and a surreal cartoon adventure is very entertaining, and it feels more productive to watch than other comedy shows. The show ultimately explores how we can live our lives in a better way, and it does this through multiple different worldviews. Some of these ideologies are very distant from Christianity while others come straight from its core. I think The Midnight Gospel is an example of how God works in mysterious and sometimes outright weird ways.
Jackson Reid is a journalism student currently studying at University of Wollongong in Australia. He has been working casually at Pulse 94.1, a Christian radio station, for the last 5 years. He is particularly passionate about youth and kids ministry at church.