354. Thank God, It’s Doomsday

(originally aired May 8, 2005)
For an episode about the apocalypse, this show feels rather meek and unsure of exactly what it’s trying to say, or what it’s trying to be. It’s another one of those “stuff that happens” shows; there is a somewhat coherent story here, but no real emotional undercurrent or meaning to it. After seeing a Christian scare-tactic film “Left Below,” Homer starts fearing the seemingly inevitable apocalypse. Through an absurd and baseless calculation, Homer deducts that the end of the world is coming next week, and makes it his mission to warn others. By another ridiculous contrivance, everyone believes his nonsense, including the family, and head out to Springfield Mesa to await the rapture. Of course it doesn’t come, and everyone decries Homer for it. Homer then realizes he made a mistake in his equation, and goes out alone for what he believes to be the accurate rapture… and he was right. Seemingly. But he realizes Heaven just isn’t Heaven if his family is suffering, and creates enough of a ruckus to make an exasperated God undo the apocalypse and put things back as they were.

The people of Springfield are a gullible bunch, of course, so I can buy them following Homer on his absurdly unfounded holy crusade, but here it doesn’t feel like it adds up. The predicated “stars falling from the sky” coming true as a blimp full of celebrities crashing to Earth is a cute gag, but as the basis of the entire town suddenly believing Homer, it comes off as flimsy. So in the end, Homer goes off to Heaven, or does he? I refuse to believe that it actually happened; like “Homer the Heretic,” he only bears witness to God in his dreams. Ultimately the point of all this is that his satisfaction of being right is no consolation for the loss of his family. But the episode really wasn’t even about that; we feel for Homer in some regard, but none of his actions of trying to save everybody were really targeted toward his wife and kids. Earlier he admits it’s self-serving for him to warn people about the apocalypse, that hopefully that will count as his good deed to get himself into Heaven. Then when he comes to with Marge and the kids there, he quickly excuses himself so he can go get a beer, so the family angle is deflated immediately so we can have a Last Supper at Moe’s sight gag to go out on. A serious, meaty topic contained within an empty, purposeless outing.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I guess the Baha Men must have recorded another song when they were in for “Large Marge.” But that was almost two seasons ago. I bet they just thought of the brilliant “Who Wants Their Hair Cut?” song, and then left it aside with a note to write it in to another episode. But here it makes no sense. Bart and Lisa get botched haircuts, and try to avoid Skinner and other kids on a field trip looking for great snapshots. So I guess they just skipped school? Lisa wouldn’t stand for that. They and Homer hide in the movie theater, and then I guess just sit down at a screening, presumably without paying. Seamless transition.
– “Left Below” starts out well enough (newspaper headline: Permissive Lifestyles on Rise, Bible Mocked), but gets too heavy-handed in the end. I guess that’s the point, but it felt like a bit much (“Why did I put my faith in science and technology?”)
– I’m surprised they bothered explaining how Bart and Lisa got their hair back. Marge keeping their hair snippets in the freezer to make them new weaves felt like just the right amount of disturbing to remain amusing to me.
– For an episode about divine retribution and the end of days, there’s no Flanders in here at all, save one shot where Homer tries to keep him away from his apocalypse planning session. Then later he ditches his father; the show is apparently about Homer wanting to save his family, but he leaves his father to die horribly. Great guy, huh?
– Another instance of Marge saying, “I’m so proud of you, Homey!” for no reason whatsoever. Why does she believe her husband’s complete and utter bullshit all of a sudden?
– I guess Homer’s so dumb, he doesn’t even know what the planet Earth looks like. The man’s been to outer space, I think he would remember it.
– Homer blowing up the Heaven concierge’s head is extremely similar to a bit from the comic Johnny the Homicidal Maniac where Nny does the exact same thing. I’m not saying that they stole it… but I think they stole it. It makes no sense for Homer to want to do that.
– The only stuff I really like here are all the bits with God; His big office and pointing to His traumatized son. The idea of Him wanting to placate Homer just to get him out of His hair is also funny to me. There’s also more uncomfortable handling of Homer’s drinking: God Himself tells him He’s concerned about his alcoholism, and the one favor Homer asks of Him is to reopen Moe’s so he can go get hammered.

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7 responses to “354. Thank God, It’s Doomsday

  1. Was the rapture in this episode real, or just a dream? It doesn’t matter which way they would’ve flipped it: You either get a lousy reset button ending, or a “it was all a dream!” ending. Either interpretation is unsatisfying.

    Anyway, what is the message here? That we should believe every crazy person who attaches an exact date for the rapture, because they might, by sheer coincidence, be right? That’s… a really horrible lesson.

    But I must admit “Where did my CHRISTIAN limo driver go?” was a great satire of unnatural film dialog.

    • Well, the Simpsons continuity makes no sense whatsoever anyway. If the world does end — which certainly seems more like a Treehouse segment ending and not an actual episode (and, oh snap, they DID use that as an ending to a Treehouse segment, or two, or three…) — it doesn’t matter since the show mostly has the (sometimes-annoying) self-contained continuity thing going on. “Noncanon” hah.

      This episode sucks for all the reasons the review pointed out and I think you are absolutely right about them stealing from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Was Vasquez pretty popular-ish in pop culture at this point? It seems like it. I think Invader Zim is STILL popular, which is …. not bad but kinda odd … but yeah the Simpsons staff at this point definitely seemed like the bunch who would a) love Johnny and then b) rip it off. Sorry, “pay homage to it”.

    • Well, at least this time the reset button would have been caused by God, a being actually capable of resetting things.

  2. To its credit, I did use Nelson’s line “Ha ha, life goes on” when the world failed to end last year, and I’ll probably use it again this year.

  3. Between “Fat Man and Little Boy” and this episode, that’s two storylines from Season 16 that “American Dad” did about a hundred times better.

    The only things from this one that stick out in my mind are Comic Book Guy’s “Nostra-dumbass” line and traumatized Jesus on the swingset. Other than that, this one just kinda rolled right out of my brain after I finished watching it.

  4. as far as continuity, I like to think that after the town mocked him, he went on a drunken bender and this was all a beer-fueled dream

  5. I was trying to remember if I’d seen this one or not but I’m still not sure.
    The bit about everyone on the mesa rings a bell but I might just be thinking about Independence Day.

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