717. The Longest Marge

Original airdate: January 2, 2022

The premise: Springfield’s football team bags an all-star athlete, arrogant 22-year-old Grayson Mathers, who is quickly scooped up by Mr. Burns to be the sponsor of his failing brandy business. When a hungover Grayson stumbles through his first game, Marge takes him under her wing and cares for him, softening the footballer, much to Mr. Burns’ chagrin.

The reaction: This is another episode in recent years that seems to be focused on a brand-new guest character, in this case Grayson Mathers, played by Beck Bennett, who we’re introduced as a cocky, brash young athlete who has no filter, spouting off self-obsessed quips like “I do me” and “Truth bomb!” Mr. Burns chooses the pro-baller to lift up his struggling booze enterprise, and all-too-quickly softens to Grayson’s charms (“To friendship hugs!” he toasts, in what may be the least-Burns quote ever spoken). A disastrous first game causes everyone in Springfield to turn on him, all but Marge, whose motherly instincts kick in as she invites Grayson into her home to nurture him. There, Grayson’s backstory is revealed: when he displayed talent from a young age, his parents shipped him off to Football Academy, where his entire life has been entirely devoted to the game (“It helped me avoid the distractions that come with being a kid: friends, laughing, that junk.”) This man who was practically bred in a laboratory to be a perfectly marketable all-star athlete, with no concept of a loving family or social norms, that concept is an intriguing one, which the show kind of scratches the surface of, as Grayson finds himself more and more comforted by being a part of the Simpson family. But it’s not nearly enough, as the back half of the episode is devoted to the “hilarious” schtick of Marge and Burns butting head as Grayson’s “parents,” warring over who knows best for him. Even though Burns’ heart had softened to his new surrogate son, he’s aghast at Grayson’s newly proclaimed “momma’s boy” status (“Where’s my bad boy? Marge Simpson, what have you done?” Harry Shearer croaks out.) You can guess what the dialogue is from there, with the two bickering as if they’re actually co-parents, and as if Grayson is their real son. They both get invitations from Grayson to a sports awards show, and resolve their differences after getting blasted on brandy. Then Grayson announces he’s got a fiancee, and the episode is over. A pretty boring episode, all in all. There was the finest germ of an idea within the Grayson character, but it’s surrounded by a bunch of uninspired sports jokes and the tepid Marge-Burns dynamic. Bleh.

Three items of note:
– I had forgotten whether it was established that Springfield has a football team, then I looked it up and kicked myself for forgetting the amazing “Homer Loves Flanders.” The name Stan “The Boy” Taylor is funnier than anything in this episode, that’s for sure. The Springfield Atoms also made a few other appearances within the last decade or so, I guess most notably in the Boston episode, but who cares about those.
– John Mulaney makes his second appearance as fan-favorite character Warburton Parker. Remember him? He helped Homer and Bart go viral with their family fights? It was a season premiere a few years back? Remember what a funny and memorable character he was? He helps Mr. Burns with his brandy re-branding (how could they have not used that joke? It was right there), showing a slideshow on the benefits of celebrity sponsorship, with some surprisingly terrible caricatures of George Clooney and Ryan Reynolds. They look like those terrible gifts you can buy where a shoddy Simpson-ized portrait of your family.
– When Mr. Burns confronts Marge and they argue back and forth, the image starts to wobble as if they’re being “shot” with an actual camera, but it ends up looking like either you’re a little bit drunk or the Simpson house is out at sea. Then Mr. Burns slams his fist against the wall and collapses to the ground, and I realized this is their Marriage Story “parody.” Both he and Adam Driver both yell “You’re winning!” as well. I’ve seen Marriage Story, but like all new movies pre-COVID, it’s basically been completely memory holed, with the scene only being recognized by me thanks to it being immortalized in meme form. I guess that’s why they figured they could do the reference, since I’m sure a lot more people have seen the Adam-Driver-punches-wall memes than even saw Marriage Story. That’s kind of interesting, between this and the show referencing its own meme culture (steamed hams, Homer sliding into the bushes), it’s like the series going from parodying pop culture to referencing memes about pop culture.

716. A Made Maggie

Original airdate: December 19, 2021

The premise: Fearing for her youngest child’s unbaptized soul, Marge demands Homer find Maggie a godfather, and he does, in the form of Fat Tony. Marge is incredibly hesitant, but it seems like Tony has turned over a new leaf thanks to caring for the baby, leading to his associates to plan on rubbing him off for going soft.

The reaction: In regards to our secondary cast, Fat Tony is a character that has been completely tapped. Back in his 1991 debut, it was novel to have an animated sitcom do an extended mafia parody, with Goodfellas being a new rich vein to tap into for comedy, as well as paying tribute to classics like The Godfather. But here we are thirty years later. As with everybody on this show, nobody has grown or evolved, so Fat Tony and his crew are stuck cycling through the same tired jokes we’ve seen them, and other mafia parodies, do for years, decades even. I especially noticed this in season 31’s “The Fat Blue Line,” the last major Fat Tony episode, and it was just as clear to me now. Fat Tony takes Maggie to a “Guido and Me” class. Offended by his subordinates’ language, Tony reacts, “Do you give the kiss of death with that mouth?” He orders Legs and Louie to “take care” of a dirty diaper, so they bury it near the coast after chaining it to a cement block. All of this is such stale shit. One joke involves Fat Tony never having seen The Godfather, but has seen Shark Tale and Analyze This, two mafia parody movies that are twenty years old at this point. The earth has been salted with this softball stuff; if you want to do mob schtick, you need to up your game and come up with a new way to do it. But, par for the course with this show, the old standards are good enough. Marge isn’t pleased with Tony assuming the role as godfather, but decides to stick with it until she can wiggle out of it later. She, and later Homer, are in a nebulous state of terror through the episode, fearing for their lives being inside Fat Tony’s world, but these characters have been so defanged over the years, and as we see them in this episode, that it really doesn’t sell it. Again, Tony and company read as threats twenty years ago, but at this point, they’re basically old friends of the Simpson family with how many times they’ve crossed paths. Tony seems to genuinely want to go straight after bonding with Maggie, opening up a maternity store, but none of this is ever talked about with either Homer or Marge, so whatever. In the end, Tony subdues Johnny Tightlips after trying to usurp him, and he exposits out loud that being a mob boss is who he is and he can’t change that so he can’t be the godfather, whatever. It’s all just a completely pointless exercise. We get one small character moment of Tony talking about his mother giving him a “First Communion” book and ten dollars as a gift as a kid, but beyond that, nothing new is learned or felt at all about Fat Tony. It’s the same old gags just played on repeat, with nothing for me to feel by apathy.

Three items of note:
– Right off the bat, the episode contradicts “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily,” with Marge saying they haven’t baptized Maggie yet, and later having a nightmare that her baby will be damned forever unless she rectifies it. The Simpsons being “cafeteria Christians,” as we see in contrast to the militantly religious Flanderses in “Doodily” seems to make more sense to me, but whatever. What’s more bothersome to me is another instance of a giant story hole in one of these episodes that never gets addressed. So Maggie needs a godfather. Marge briskly mentions that either Patty or Selma can be the godmother, and we see her at the baptism and lunch afterwards and she’s completely silent (hey, wasn’t she married to Fat Tony? Oh wait, I guess that character’s technically dead, and Fat Tony is actually Fit Tony… shit, get back on topic, back on topic…) But who are Bart and Lisa’s godparents? Never addressed. How the fuck is that never brought up? The whole impetus of the episode is Marge worrying about what happens to her kids if they die, and that focus is only honed on one of three kids. Bart and Lisa must have godparents, in which Marge must have already asked them to take on Maggie too. It’s one of those things where I’m just boggled at how this never came up when they were writing this script. Like, how?
– The episode opens with the family going to visit “The Overpriced World of Angelica Button,” and you can probably guess what this is supposed to be referencing. You can buy expensive wands, drink some “Batterbeer,” and have the “Categorizing Cap” decide which wizarding house you belong to. Goddamn. The Angelica Button books were first introduced in season 18, which I guess is good, because this MAD Magazine bullshit “just change a few letters and it’s a parody” stuff really started to hit hard during the 2010s. A few years later, and it would have been called “Barry Trotter.”
– Speaking of tired references, Fat Tony saves Homer and Maggie from a falling piano, accidentally dropped by two workmen who look like Laurel & Hardy. It’s the year 2021, right? This episode was written by Elisabeth Kiernan Averick, and while I can’t find an official age for her, she appears to be in her 30s. While it’s possible that she’s a big fan of classic mob movies and turn-of-the-century silent comedy, these feel more like the contributions of the much older veteran writing staff ripping these scripts apart in the writer’s room. Like I said, this all feels like regurgitations of existing parodies rather than anything even remotely new.

715. Mothers and Other Strangers

Original airdate: November 28, 2021

The premise: When Homer is triggered by traumatic memories of his mother on Mother’s Day, an impromptu therapy session causes him to recall a lost memory: a postcard he received as a teenager confirming his mother was alive, leading to a road trip with his father to Utah to track her down.

The reaction: This episode marks Glenn Close’s eleventh guest appearance as Mona Simpson, and while most of those have been one or two line cameos, a couple of them featured Mona in a significant role, both living and in flashback after her death. Of course, all of these episodes sit in the enormous shadow that is “Mother Simpson,” one of the most emotionally impacting episodes of the entire series, one that established who Mona was and why she was absent for most of Homer’s life. This episode attempts to stay true to this continuity, all while wedging a new story in the middle of it that kind of breaks apart the established history. Now, I try not to be a purist of Simpsons continuity, because even as big a fan as I am, it’s pretty stupid to get hung up on what is or isn’t “canon.” But it’s a little different when an episode is attempting to piggyback off such a landmark episode and rewrite its history; if you’re going to do that, you better have something really important to say, or some interesting or entertaining twist to it. And wouldn’t you know it, it doesn’t! Here, we find out that at sixteen, Homer received a postcard from his mother, telling him she’s in Utah. As he and Abe drive out to find her, they’re being tracked by the FBI, hoping it will lead them to Mona. First off, the one FBI agent comments, “Letting that postcard go through was the smartest thing we ever did.” So they’re able to track all sent mail in the country, and rather than intercept the postcard, go to its point of origin and investigate, they just trusted that this dumb fuck kid could find Mona for them? And pretty easily, as it turns out, as all they did was ask a waitress at a truck stop if they’d seen her and she led them right to her. And why would they be actively tracking her after all these years? The agents make a joke about it at the very end, but it just feels incredibly stupid. But never mind all that, this episode is now saying that Homer knew his mother was alive from sixteen to the “present” where he was reunited with her in “Mother Simpson.” He didn’t think she was dead, he knew that she was hiding out from the law all this time. Their Utah reunion gets botched, only being able to see each other from afar before the agents close in, resulting in Mona hopping into the VW van we saw at the end of “Mother Simpson.” If that’s not bad enough, Homer reveals another memory near the end: the night after Bart is born, Mona sneaks into the hospital dressed as a doctor to hold her grandchild, tell Homer she’s always with him, before leaving him once more. That feels even more traumatizing than just being gone from his life for twenty-five years. “When I heard about the baby, I just had to come and see him,” Mona tells him. How did she hear about it? Does the Springfield Shopper have birth announcements? And does she pay to have it delivered to her to God knows where? Has she kept special tabs on Homer for all these years? In the deleted scene from “Mother Simpson,” Mona told Homer she knew he went into outer space, a national news item she could have seen from afar and be filled with pride about. Here, I guess Mona has followed Homer’s life achievements his whole life and could just pop into his life at will, but chose not to. It’s just really fucking bad. Nothing has been added to Homer’s story whatsoever, just some lame reconciliation with Abe, as flashbacks continue to depict his younger self as nicer and nicer, where Homer sacrifices catching up to his mother for saving his now-loving and caring father. Again, I’m not a continuity stickler, but Homer growing up without a mother and his father being an uncaring asshole are pivotal backstory elements to who he is as a character, a source of a lot of his insecurities and character quirks. If you want to make an episode that negates those elements, you’re basically tearing apart his entire character. Al Jean himself wrote this one, who has written some pretty awful scripts over the recent years, but this has got to be his worst one yet. That such an incredible mishandling of a story from one of the most important episodes of the series comes from a man who’s been with the show from the very beginning is pretty stunning to me. Despite some fans calling for Al Jean to leave the show in favor of Matt Selman fully taking over as show runner, I’m pretty sure Jean is going to be with this show until the very end, ready to go down with this decrepit sinking ship that he helped to crash and decimate. I guess there’s some kind of honor in that, somewhere…

Four items of note:
– The episode barely started and it was befuddling me. While channel surfing, Bart stumbles upon “Muttflix,” a cable channel made for dogs. Then we see the screen and see that it’s a streaming service UI, which seems obvious given the sub-MAD Magazine-level riff off Netflix. So is it a channel or a streaming service? This may seem like nitpicking, but when what I’m hearing is immediately contradicted by what I’m seeing, it just feels like they just don’t give a shit. Then we get our triumphant return of She Biscuit, Santa’s Little Helper’s mother, last seen in the nauseatingly treacly season 31 finale “The Way of the Dog,” where she sits next to SLH and does nothing. In that episode, we saw She Biscuit living with the Simpsons, but now Bart says SLH “invited her over.” What? From where? I honestly couldn’t give a shit if she ever reappeared again, but they couldn’t even be bothered to write any kind of explanation of where she’s been. And why did she even need to be there anyway? The Muttflix sequence would have played exactly the same if it were just Santa’s Little Helper. Just dumb, lazy shit.
– “Oh my God! Dad’s reliving the great tragedy of his life!” “Let it out, Dad. Studies show losing a parent is the most traumatic thing that could happen to a child.” These are lines said by Lisa in immediate response to her father suffering an emotional breakdown. I literally said, “SHUT THE FUCK UP” at my computer screen. I remember Lisa had some similarly awful dialogue in the last Mona episode “Forgive and Regret,” clinically summarizing the situation rather than react like a child concerned for her parent, but this felt even worse than that.
– The wraparound story involves Homer telling this story to an online therapist over the app Nutz, where we get in plenty of jokes that I assume are taking shots at similar therapy apps like Better Help. They’re all pretty lame and boring: Homer attempting to use emojis during his session, alerts about in-app purchases and ads… Also, the family are just there while Homer is having his one-on-one session, something that could have been made into a good joke but was ignored. There was some attempts to scratch at the topic of quick-service psychotherapy in a satirical way, but it all felt very easy and surface-level, as always with this show in its attempts at satire.
– The ending features Homer dreaming a black-and-white sequence of a bunch of characters dancing in a circle, including multiple different variants of himself, bookended by some kids and his younger self playing instruments on a stage? I have absolutely no idea what that was a reference to, does anybody know? Regardless, it was confusing and I couldn’t make sense of it not knowing the reference, and it wasn’t funny, so chalk that up a a big failure in my book.

714. Portrait of a Lackey on Fire

Original airdate: November 21, 2021

The premise: Homer plays matchmaker with a despondent Smithers, pairing him up with fashion mogul and reality TV judge Michael DeGraff. It seems like the perfect relationship, until Smithers discovers Michael’s new factory in Springfield might be a more toxic presence than even the nuclear plant.

The reaction: Season 27’s “The Burns Cage” finally at long last pushed Smithers out of the closet, abandoning his go-nowhere crush on Mr. Burns to find happiness elsewhere (at least for twenty-two minutes), in an absolutely wasted opportunity of an episode. Nowhere in the show was any real examination of Smithers as a character, or of what he really wants out of life or out of a partner. The issue is if that if you’re going to treat Smithers’ sexuality seriously, you need to explore what about Mr. Burns he’s attracted to, and what similar traits he could be attracted to in other people. Instead, the episode temporarily pairs him with the flamboyant party boy Julio, because that’s the only other gay character on the show. This episode feels like a rectification of “Cage,” and while it didn’t dig as much into Smithers as I’d hoped, it definitely felt like an earnest attempt. Perhaps credit can go to co-writer Johnny LaZebnik, who penned this episode with his father, long-time Simpsons writer Rob LaZebnik. This felt like a genuine attempt to write Smithers as an actual character in a real relationship, clearly an intended mission by Johnny, who is gay himself (and funny too, if his Twitter is any indication. His snarky promotional posts about this episode actually made me laugh out loud). So we start with Smithers at a particularly low point, which Homer tries to rectify in setting him up with another rich capitalist, the affable Michael DeGraff, played by Victor Garber. A jet-setting man of high fashion and expensive tastes, he responds very well to Smithers’ simplistic wants and desires, happy to be with someone who isn’t trying to leech off of his fame and influence. Their relationship progresses fast, and eventually Michael sets down roots in Springfield, opening up a clothing factory in Springfield so he can be closer to his new love. In all the Michael-Smithers scenes, it felt like Michael had the bulk of the dialogue, which makes sense since he’s the guest star. I also think it’s appropriate that he’s the more talkative and dominant of the relationship, since we have over thirty years of evidence that Smithers is most definitely a sub. However, like I said before, I do wish we heard more from Smithers in this episode and why he really connected with Michael. It isn’t until the ending when a lot of stuff gets rushed by that really could have been explored. When Smithers discovers that Michael’s factory is horribly damaging the environment, he confronts him about it, but Michael brushes him off with some sound logic (“I can’t believe I fell in love with a monster!” “Really? Seems to me you have a pretty consistent type.”) Yeah, Michael is his new Mr. Burns, but that reveal once again reopens the burning question about Smithers’ morality. He’s been in love with Mr. Burns for decades now, and while it seems he doesn’t approve of all of Burns’ evil inclinations, he definitely was more than willing to actively look the other way regarding all of the horrible shit he’s done. So what does that say about Smithers? Does he realize that himself? Does he just embrace that he’s willing to turn a blind eye to evil for his own happiness? Or does he rebuke it and decide to turn his life around? Well, he was about to go with option A, in another moment I wish had more time to breathe (he gives a toast, “To seeing the best in each other, and ignoring everything else!”) But then Michael is mean to the puppy that he adopted from Burns, and that’s the last straw for Smithers, and he ends the relationship. So, yeah, I was hoping for more, but this episode actually was fairly solid throughout. It felt like one or two baby steps made from “Road to Cincinnati,” a similarly admirable, if still underwhelming attempt to craft a story solely on our supporting cast. But while that episode culminated in a painfully cliche and completely unearned schmaltzy conclusion, this one wraps things up too quickly in a semi-predictable way… but it all still felt like a complete story that progressed nicely, so that is a definite step up to me. I even laughed out loud to myself at one point, which I generally don’t do with anything I watch alone, so that by itself make this episode stand out. This is easily the best executed episode of the season. Honestly, the first two acts were the best I’ve seen from this show in a while. I’ve always harped about wanting to see more episodes featuring secondary characters, and I’m hoping this is a sign of better things to come.

Three items of note:
– Really fun guest couch gag of the family being created from potato stamps. The credits read two Swedish names as the creators, which I looked up to find one of them on YouTube. Apparently they created a video with millions of hits that recreated Homer’s binge-eating through New Orleans from season 29’s “Lisa Gets the Blues,” which presumably got them on the Simpsons staff’s radar, and eventually got them to do this. There have only been two couch gags in the past eight episodes this season, the other being that pretty boring Crossing Swords cross-promotion, but can all future couch gags just be made by artistic fans? It’s less work for the staff to do, and all the fan-made segments so far have been so incredibly creative and original, many times more stand-out than the episode they’re attached to.
– I was kind of confused by the bit where Burns can’t fathom that Smithers is gay, but I was misremembering the events of “The Burns Cage.” Smithers almost confessed his love to Burns at the beginning, and then by the end, they did some bullshit talking around it where Burns gives him a good performance review and they’re buddies again. A moment where Burns actually gives Smithers some tough but honest advice about his life would have been refreshing, but Burns is in full-on senile mode this episode, being stymied by a child’s puzzle for most of the runtime. Instead, he full-on encourages Smithers’ relationship, acknowledging Michael is an even more ruthless capitalist than he. It definitely works within his character, but it didn’t quite hit its mark for me. Also, I know I pledged to stop commenting on the voice actors, but this is the most dialogue Mr. Burns has had in a while, and there were big stretches of it where he sounded incredibly weak. He had at least two starring episodes last season, and I don’t remember him sounding like this. Weirdly, Smithers, also voiced by Harry Shearer, seemed fine to me. At age 77, Shearer is the oldest in the main cast, with Julie Kavner at 71 as second oldest. I really don’t mean to sound unfairly critical, but even knowing this, it still creates a bit of dissonance as a viewer when I’m watching an un-aging cartoon character have a noticeably older and hoarser voice, versus a live action series where your brain can more easily accept an older performance out of a visibly older actor.
– It’s been a long time since I could list off multiple things in an episode I thought were amusing: Homer training the hound puppies (having got a puppy last fall, I definitely related to Smithers’ line about even sharper baby teeth), the reveal of Disco Stu’s bi-curiosity (“Disco Stu is hetero-flexible!”), and even Michael got in a few good lines, including the one bit I actually laughed at. At a get together in the Simpson backyard, everyone is pleading with Michael to critique their wardrobe like he does on his TV show “America’s Got Fabric.” Lenny insistently asks him if he likes his top. Noticing Carl standing behind him, Michael responds, “Yes, he seems very nice.” I was definitely caught off-guard by this kind of gag, feeling like a more authentic flavor of the Lenny-and-Carl-are-gay joke, perhaps assisted by actually being written by a gay man. Johnny’s live-tweeting of the episode was also pretty fun to read. He seems like a real funny kid. I’m certainly interested in whatever his next script is after this.

713. A Serious Flanders (Part Two)

Original airdate: November 14, 2021

The premise: Ned must grapple with having to sin in order to save Homer’s life from the bad guy, as things barrel onto their climactic conclusion.

The reaction: Of all the format-bending episodes this show has experimented with in recent years, this certainly feels like their most ambitious, and the one I have the most amount of respect for. In this second half, we get an extended flashback sequence, and a third act taking place after a three-year time jump, both segments expanding the world of their time periods and the characters within it, all within a short period of time. More thought went into these episodes than most of the typical Simpsons fare, I can at least lend it that. Whether it’s entertaining or not is more subjective, of course. This second half feels like it leans even stronger on peak TV tropes, as the aforementioned first and third act at times feel like attempts to write in that style and not differentiate much from it. Like I talked about in act one, this feels like an earnest attempt to try a different style of TV writing, but what’s missing to me is any kind of Simpsons stamp on it, or an attempt to buck these conventions in a way that’s unique to the Simpsons world. The only emotional carry-over from last week was Ned’s wrestling with his own sense of pride, not wanting to accept credit for his donation to the orphanage. He idolized his lawman grandfather as a virtuous man, but the flashback in act one reveals that he was as crooked as they come, shooting a man in cold blood in order to take off with the ill-gotten sack of money, only to get killed himself by the Bad Guy. At the very end, Ned tearfully admits to Homer that deep down he wanted to take credit and he feels shame for it, and when the Bad Guy reveals to him his beloved grandfather was a murdering sinner, Ned flips out and fights back. As much of this two-parter seems to be about Ned’s crisis of faith on whether he should sin to do good, it never really hits home for me as anything really interesting character-wise. Probably because there’s so much other shit going on in this story that feels like flashy padding. The two assassins have an all-out brawl as the house burns down around a captured Homer. The first act flashback, which really could have been done in half the time if you shaved off all the needless drama. This two-parter was split up into six self-titled “chapters,” and it felt like each chapter was treated as if it would be a full-length 42-minute episode of the “A Serious Flanders” mini-series, but in the end, I just felt the story being told wasn’t all that compelling. Or funny, as was my complaint last week. At least this episode acknowledges that, with the “Serious Flanders” streaming page opener listing it as containing “Brief Comedy.” By the time we got to the final act, I found myself thinking back to my “What even is The Simpsons now?” question. I’m all for experimenting and trying new things, but I feel like a fundamental bedrock of the series is the subversion and re-contextualization of media stories and tropes. “A Serious Flanders” is a card-carrying riff on “peak TV,” but there’s nothing in it that I would say is a true parody. Even the lame on-the-nose dialogue ripping on tropes from part one is absent in this one, save one gag at the very end when the unseen streamer fast-forwards through the Bad Guy’s super long monologue before he goes to kill Ned. Unlike the godawful “Warrin’ Priests,” I have some degree of admiration for “A Serious Flanders,” but I can’t in my heart of hearts say I enjoyed it. But I was intrigued by it, and that’s more I can say for the bulk of the series these days.

Three items of note:
– I honestly kind of liked the Szylak brothers in the act one flashback. It felt like a believable expansion of Springfield lore that Moe’s family would be small town reprobates like him. I guess they were added so there would be at least something recognizably Simpsons going on in that flashback, but it worked well enough. Also I think the barber was a young Crazy Old Man. Or Old Jewish Man, as they’ve re-dubbed him.
– There’s moments in this part that definitely stuck out to be as direct lifts from other series. The motel where the shootout occurs in act one is based on the motel featured from season three of Fargo. The motel sign reads “Free Peak TV in Every Room,” which doesn’t make much sense given it’s set in the 1970s. Ned’s abandoned and desecrated house and his off-the-grid cabin are clearly based on the ending episodes of Breaking Bad. And the ending showdown on the ice was reminiscent to the ending of the first season of Fargo. Again, though, these are all references, but there’s no real jokes associated with them. There’s also the moment where Ned and Homer drive past each other and we get shots of the two turning their heads to acknowledge each other in the cars, which I’m sure is a direct reference to something, but I don’t remember what. Also, Homer’s various disguises to throw off his trail on his way to Ned’s cabins I feel like must be references. Him in the biker getup at the diner might be Sons of Anarchy? I dunno. Again, par for the course with this series, it’s not actually funny, but it’s like a homework assignment to the viewer to find the source of all the references.
– The flash forward seeing a 13-year-old Bart and 11-year-old Lisa for one scene almost made me want to see more of them, but this series has had a pretty shit track record recently with future episodes. Honestly though, I think an episode about Bart and Lisa in high school has potential in the right hands, but I’m not gonna be holding my breath about that.