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Surreal, visually intoxicating, and darkly hilarious, “The Shivering Truth” examines ugly human nature with subversive brilliance.

The Shivering Truth

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One of my great joys in life is discovering a work of unmistakable brilliance that I somehow missed, a display of mind-blowing artistry that inexplicably flew under my radar. It’s like uncovering buried treasure or gaining exclusive clearance to long-withheld government secrets.

My latest discovery is one I regret sleeping on for so long. It’s so squarely in my wheelhouse of the wonderfully weird and subversively sublime that it seems impossible I only recently learned of its existence.

The Shivering Truth originally aired on Adult Swim, the late-night Cartoon Network programming block known for embracing aesthetically experimental, transgressive, off-the-wall, and boundary-pushing content.

The official description of the series is far better than anything I could attempt, so I’ll begin with that:

THE SHIVERING TRUTH is a delicately crafted, darkly surreal anthology comedy. Each episode is a miniature propulsive omnibus cluster bomb of painfully riotous daymares all dripping with the orange goo of dream logic. A series of loosely linked emotional parables about stories within tales that crawled out of the deepest caverns of your unconscious mind and became lovingly animated in breath-slapping stop motion — in other words, it is the TRUTH.

The pilot episode premiered on the Adult Swim website in May 2018, and the television premiere was in December 2018. The series was added to HBO Max in June 2020 (since removed), but the season one episode “Ogled Inklings” was not included due to a scene that some consider offensive.

The scene in question is mighty innocuous compared to some of the show’s darker and deranged content. It contains an admittedly funny anti-cop joke that was considered insensitive in the cultural climate during which it originally aired (it has been restored to the episodes available on adultswim.com).

The Shivering Truth is an insane blend of absurdity and wickedly smart satire.

It’s an anthology of seemingly ordinary people living in a very unordinary world where the subconscious rules supreme and logical order takes a backseat to explore inner darkness, deep-rooted fears, and all the failures and foibles of base-level human nature.

It’s the perfect encapsulation of dream logic — that liminal space where you’re lucid enough to understand that you’re experiencing something strange and disconnected from reality but deep enough into the subconscious to understand there’s something meaningful happening that gets to the core of who you are. You’re unraveling the mysteries of nature and glimpsing secrets of profound importance — whether you fully understand them or not.

Truly horrifying but also strangely beautiful, THE SHIVERING TRUTH does not hold back one iota when it comes to displaying and dissecting the ugly side of human nature.

It shines a shivering spotlight on what it means to be human, plundering the depth of our darkest desires and insecurities — our guilt, greed, selfishness, neurosis, and desperation to find meaning in a world of chaos and cruelty.

Highly creative ideas are paired with stunning visuals.

Nothing is taboo, and some of the topics explored include identity, religion, toxic relationships, mental health, manipulation, victimization, abuse, loneliness, and existentialism. There are no sacred cows, with 9/11, sexual perversion, and sacrilege all employed in the service of examining the cyclical nature of life, death, and trauma.

It’s always weird and disquieting, vacillating wildly between hilarious and nightmare-inducing, with a grim nihilism that’s uncomfortable but impossible to look away from.

It’s impossible to properly describe, but the best I can do is call it a modern mindfuck version of The Twilight Zone.

It’s utterly deranged but aggressively intellectual. Profound philosophical musings are wrapped in nightmarish visuals and Cronenberg-levels of body horror.

With its illustration of Jungian theories on man’s complicated and dualistic nature, it pushes the limits of storytelling and animation. With relentless momentum, its twisted stories endlessly twist upon themselves with frightening effect.

With evocative music and savagely smart wordplay, elegant connections are made amidst a dizzying stream of consciousness, creating strange synergy between extreme dichotomies.

It’s the kind of experimental ecstasy that can be enjoyed on its surface for its jaw-dropping visuals and sublime surrealism. But there’s an undeniable amount of depth for those who appreciate a bit of intellectualism with their uncanny nightmare fuel.

The Shivering Truth is the unhinged brainchild of multiple Emmy-Award-winning Vernon Chatman, the co-creator of MTV2’s twisted children show’s parody, Wonder Showzen. He also produces and voices characters for South Park (he’s the voice of Towelie).

The characters in the show are meticulously crafted, handmade puppets. Six episodes took approximately 6 months of physical production, a month of recording, and 2 and a half months of post-production.

There’s an inspiring, almost otherworldly attention to detail in the show’s mesmerizing visual style. The gore effects are extraordinary, and the set pieces are a wonder to behold.

From episode to episode, The Shivering Truth almost always sticks the landing, masterfully uniting seemingly disparate thoughts in a way that will leave your jaw agape.

It’s a show that starts off amazingly strong and just keeps getting better and better. Season two is a marked improvement, which is really saying something because season one is phenomenal.

The pilot episode, which also happens to be one of the series’ strongest outings, perfectly sums up the central theme of the entire show.

The universe’s nature is chaos, and the only way to navigate it is to accept and respect that control is an illusion. Madness is our natural state of being, and the illusion of order is a construct we create to cope with that fact. The universe is filled with infinite wonder and unspeakable horror that we can’t begin to comprehend or contain.

Like most original and thought-provoking art, this isn’t for everyone. It’s dark humor that’s often unnerving and bleakly depressing.

For the game, however, it’s one of the most unforgettable and singular explosions of creativity you’ve ever seen.

Can you handle the (shivering) truth?

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 5

WHERE TO WATCH

You can watch both seasons of The Shivering Truth for free on Spectrum On Demand or buy seasons on Apple TV or Amazon Video. If you move quickly, you can watch them all for free on adultswim.com. However, as of the time of this writing, most episodes have an upcoming expiration date, which I’ve noted below.

Because this is a disconnected anthology series, you can watch them in any order you want, so you can definitely watch the episodes expiring soonest first. Each season has only six episodes (plus the season one pilot episode) and is only 11 minutes long. Thus, binging both seasons in a single setting is easy if you so choose.

With that said, it can be a lot to take in, and the effect of the show’s twisted and disorienting unreality starts to lose its edge after a while, so it may be best to watch a couple of episodes at a time.

Adult Swim has many short clips on their YouTube that can give you a taste of what you’re in for and hopefully encourage you to dig deeper into this gorgeous Freudian hellscape. However, if you think this might be up your alley, it’s better to skip the teasers and dive right in.

As of January 2024, Adult Swim executive Jason DeMarco has said there are no signs of another season of The Shivering Truth. That’s a damn shame, but I’m just grateful to live in a world where a show like this exists at all.

  • S1 E1 – THE NURPLE RAINBOW (Expires 7/11/24)
  • S1 E2 – THE MAGMAFYING PAST (No stated expiration date)
  • S1 E3 – OGLED INKLINGS (Expires 7/25/24)
  • S1 E4 – CONSTADEATH (No stated expiration date)
  • S1 E5 – TOW AND SHELL (No stated expiration date)
  • S1 E6 – FOWL FLOW (No stated expiration date)
  • PILOT – CHAOS BENKNOWNST (Expires 7/4/24)
  • S2E1 – THE BURN EARNER SPITS (Expires 5/23/24)
  • S2 E2 – CARRION MY SON (Expires 5/30/24)
  • S2 E3 – NESSLESSNESS (Expires 6/6/24)
  • S2 E4 – BEAST OF BOTH WORLDS (Expires 6/13/24)
  • S2 E5 – THE DIFF (Expires 6/20/24)
  • S2E6 – HOLEWAYS (Expires 6/27/24)

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