Episode 4 of Netflix’s The Midnight Gospel is about a soul prison.
Like all previous episodes of The Midnight Gospel, this one’s tricky to explain. In fact, this one’s perhaps the toughest yet. It begins with Clancy (Duncan Trussell) learning that someone puked on the rose he acquired from his last “session” in the reality simulator. When he realizes that music can “soothe the savage beast,” he decides to revive the rose with music. This leads him on a bizarre trip to a planet called Moon R3T8 which seems like a prison planet full of malfunctioning sims.
There he meets a prisoner named Bob (Eddie Pepitone) who has a soul bird named Jason (Jason Louv). As they navigate the strange terrain of R3T8, Clancy and Bob discuss the existential trap of the soul prison.
They lightly touch upon Hindu concepts like Indra’s net, which metaphorically suggests all consciousnesses are connected, and also the Ātman, which suggests consciousness is god. So, as I explore this episode, I’ll assess some of the philosophy going on here as part of my recap (as usual).
The Midnight Gospel, suffering, existence
As it tears through one primordial mind-scape or another, The Midnight Gospel loosely highlights philosophies of consciousness. In addition to the roughly paraphrased Hindu concepts, this episode’s characters suggest that “we think we exist and therefore we suffer.”
They also suggest it isn’t nihilism to say nothing is real, which is just a crass way of saying existence isn’t essential. Of course, one might debate whether one should use DMT or any other substance to “enhance one’s consciousness,” or whatever words one might use.
In other words, you might not want to get all of your philosophical, medicinal, or spiritual advice from a freaky Netflix cartoon featuring decapitations and likening death to a “big orgasm.” However, it does provide excuses to research these ideas, and the idea that “self is a burden” is practically a given. Still, you might definitely wish to research the general ideas presented here, and the histories of Buddhism and Hinduism.
In addition to showing a bird playing spoons, there are valuable moments here, including the suggestion that meditation isn’t about getting anywhere. The Midnight Gospel says the fundamental nature of everything is change, likening everything to a dream.
Clancy likens humans to “amnesic spiritual amphibians” with an “appendage protruding into matter like a snorkel.” Again, one can question if we’re inherently real or not without taking any psychedelic substances, through simply understanding concepts like mind-brain unity.
Clancy compares modern existence to grinding away in World of Warcraft with virtual reality goggles, but we know scientifically that some aspects of what we call “reality” are iffy just by examining the brain. If a person’s brain is damaged, they essentially “glitch,” almost is
similarly almost like a spiritual Matrix concept (as weird as that sounds). In fact, people’s personalities can indeed change dramatically based on chemical reactions in the brain, such as how weather changes our moods.
By the episode’s end, the characters suggest that, if you accept things as they are, you don’t need hope. Cautiously, this is a questionable claim, with “questionable” not meant as an insult. A lot hinges on what one means by “hope.” Plus, of course, there are certain conditions that a living, conscious human being should not accept, at least if they care to survive.
So, basically, you’ll want to cautiously explore the themes presented in this episode of The Midnight Gospel…or not. After all, it is just a cartoon. The end song, for example, features lyrics about “drinking blood from the stump of a prison guard that I just chopped up.”
Also, toward the end, Clancy dons a bird sock that produces an egg that hatches to become his other bird sock. Then we see rats using his magic rose to heal their injuries. So it’s a show that explores potentially serious themes, but not in an overly serious manner.
What are your thoughts on The Midnight Gospel? Let us know in the comments!