(originally aired May 2, 2004)
All I can say up front is that this episode could have been a whole lot worse. Homer the superhero? It’s a laughably looney plot that could have ended up so ridiculous and improbable, but at least it stays relatively restrained. There’s even a nugget of a Homer/Lisa story underneath the silliness, but it’s pretty much buried under a bunch of other crap within the episode. Homer’s crime-fighting begins at the county fair, where the Rich Texan is incessantly berating Lisa’s entry for the place setting contest. A bunch of “why”s crop up here: why is Lisa in a place setting contest, and what the hell is such a thing, and why is the Rich Texan judging it, and ripping apart this eight-year-old’s work for no apparent reason, and why is everyone else just standing there not doing anything, including Marge and Bart? But… whatever. Not wanting to get another assault on his record, Homer adheres a pastry tin onto his face and doles out some justice incognito, via a pie to the Rich Texan’s kisser, rendering him humiliating. Thus begins Homer’s crusade as the Pie Man, standing up for downtrodden citizens everywhere.
It’s a plot that sounds unwatchable, but it manages to ride the line of wackiness to be mildly entertaining. Mildly. Why Homer’s doing this makes no sense, nor why the police view him as such a humungous threat, enough to use firearms on him. It starts to venture into dumber territory when we see Homer jumping from buildings onto fire escapes in an unusually nimble fashion, and Marge randomly in attendance at the closed orphanage-now plastic surgery clinic just so they can do a tired Spider-Man upside-down kiss thing. Also a much bothersome part of this show is how apparently people can’t figure out that Homer is Pie Man. Lisa and Marge later comment how you’d have to be a moron not to realize it was Homer, but we see earlier rather smart folks like Apu and Sideshow Mel refuting that fact. It might have been interesting if everyone knew it was Homer and were just humoring him as Homer did his insane antics, but then they start to get out of hand and they have to drag him back into reality. As we’ve seen recently in movies like Kick-Ass and Super, anyone who would become superheroes in real life would most likely be a bit touched in the head, so why not run with that? Nah, let’s milk the gag that no one can figure out it’s Homer with a fucking pie tin on his face, something that’s been a staple in comic books for decades.
The third act involves Mr. Burns unmasking Homer and forcing him to perform dastardly deeds for him under threat of being publicly outed. This is a cartoonishly evil Burns episode, as he forces Homer to throw a pie at a girl scout, and apparently is breeding feral gophers and hamsters to do his… bidding? Why would Burns want Homer to do any of this for him? Is this more of that prank monkey garbage? Whatever. His biggest assignment entails Homer besmirching the Dalai Lama, who is coming to perform a speech in Springfield. Having promised Lisa he would give up pieing, and that he’s a highly respected figure to her, Homer is in a crisis. What do you think is gonna happen? Homer unmasks himself to the crowd, and no one believes that he’s the real deal, which I guess automatically exonerates Homer in Wiggum’s eyes. There’s been a lot this season of Simpsons avoiding jail time for really stupid reasons… Lisa urging his father to quit before he gets killed and sitting down with him for some pie is a sweet moment, but there’s way too much crazy junk around it to really resonate. But as I said, I feel it could have been a lot worse, so I’ll give it an incredibly minor pass. That’s the best I can do.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening bit of FOX’s “Promiscuous Idiots Island” is pretty excellent; the title and lead-in is a bit on the nose, but the big reveal is great: it wasn’t an island at all…. it was a peninsula (“I just want to get on that boat and go home!” “Well, you don’t need a boat, because you can walk.”)
– Some of the stuff at the fair is pretty good: the world’s biggest pile of mashed potatoes and the world’s biggest ribbon. The ultra-jingoistic country singer is alright too (“If you don’t buy my records, then Al-Queda wins!”) but it pales in comparison to Randy Jackson in the “Ladder to Heaven” episode of South Park.
– Homer looks at Lisa drawing a picture of the Pie Man, and his immediate thought is that his eight-year-old daughter didn’t draw his package large enough. A tad bit creepy…
– Great comics CBG peddles onto Bart: Richie Rich Incorporates in Delaware, Supergirl vs. the Glass Ceiling… and then of course instead of the Fantastic Four, Fantastic Floor.
– Why would Krusty be affected by a pie in the face? Also Homer’s decree of his crimes (“This is for your show’s slight decline in quality over the years!”) is pretty ballsy coming from this show. If you replace “slight” with “devastatingly sharp,” of course.
– Wiggum and Lou bickering between gunshots is basically a retread of the same bit from “The Fat and the Furriest.” It wasn’t funny then, and it’s not funny now.
– Burns whips his employees and sells their clothes while they’re in the showers. Later he shows up dressed like a baby in a carriage wheeled by Smithers to give Homer an assignment. I guess the writers feel this is appropriate material for him. Sad, really.
– Homer’s pie hallucinations are pretty amusing, with the crusty old Phyllis Diller pie, and the smooth gangster complete with cigar.
– Homer bemoans the possibility of having to do community service if exposed (“I can’t stand helping others!”) Just like the ten zillion jokes about Homer freaking out about supporting charity, I don’t get these gags. Is it funny that Homer is a self-serving, uncaring asshole? And as a superhero, wasn’t his mission to help others in the first fucking place?
– The Dalai Lama leaves even though he had only just given his introduction. And he flies away. …whatever.