404. I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Don't Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings(originally aired October 14, 2007)
Another one of those episodes that felt like it had potential, but ultimately doesn’t feel right thanks to over-exaggeration. Here, Marge gets caught up in a bank robbery, helmed by bug-eyed loser Dwight, voiced by Steve Buscemi. His plan basically foiled, he agrees to turn himself in only if Marge agrees to come visit him in prison. However, Marge is extremely skittish about the whole thing and keeps putting off her obligation she promised. The problem here is that a lot of time was invested in painting Dwight as this sad, needy person, Marge’s dilemma doesn’t feel as conflicted. He gets comically sprayed with dye packs at the bank and ultimately breaks down, then in act two we see how he is desperately waiting for Marge to arrive. Meanwhile, Marge is doing everything and anything she can to avoid not going there. Perhaps if they made Dwight a bit more morally ambiguous; he could still have the sympathetic side we see in the end, but making the first act a bit more dramatic and jarring to Marge would have helped in the long run.

Dwight ends up escaping from prison: if Marge isn’t going to come to him, he’ll come for her. He stows away in her car and forces her to drive to an amusement park, where his mother abandoned him as a kid. All he wants of Marge is to spend the day with him, give him the day he wished he could have had. I really do feel this story could have worked, but there’s just not enough time spent on it around the pointless time filler. They could have built a report around Dwight and Marge, where he, as damaged as he is, sees her as a mother figure, and Marge reverts to her default nurturing ways, defending him from the police at the very end. This happens often in these episodes; where they delay the story so long in favor of horrible side bits and gags, then by the time they remember to wrap things up, there’s only like three minutes left. I feel like these plots are written as outlines, they write the most basic amount of scenes to get the story beats across, and then they focus on cramming in as many unnecessary gag scenes and jokes as possible. Then again that would imply they spend most their time and energy writing jokes, which clearly isn’t the case. Another case of wasted potential.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I like the beginning with Homer being browbeat about not missing Lisa’s award ceremony, so he overcompensates and gets there almost two hours early. Before that in his sleepy state, he mistakes Maggie as his tie and a milk bottle as aftershave. Also, adorable moment when Homer’s driving, you just see her asleep in the back in her car seat. Awwww.
– Fourteen seconds killed by a close-up of two newspaper ads as we have voice-over of the bullies talking. Animation discount!
– At this point, nameless extras are apparently forbidden, so the bank is entirely filled with recognizable faces: Lindsay Naegle, Krusty, Bumblebee Man, Dr. Hibbert… and this one guy we don’t know. Could that be the guest star? Mmmmmyeeeeah, could be!
– There’s also a weird tone shift in the first act; at first, everyone at the bank doesn’t take the robbers seriously and keep cracking jokes, then later they act more scared and uneasy about the whole thing. Maybe it has something to do with Gil being shit and killed in front of them, except that never gets mentioned at all ever. Shouldn’t Dwight be put up on murder charges? Will we ever hear from ol’ Gil again? What about that other guy who ran away? All of these questions will not be answered, of course, what were you expecting?
– Wiggum reading off the scene select names on the DVD is another one of those endless scenes that make me want to rip my face off. Did the writers really think this was so funny throughout the entire writing process to leave it in?
– Moe apparently has been hospitalized for three weeks, and of course Homer hasn’t visited him (“You said you visited him every night!” “Moe the tavern, not Moe the person.”) What a likable guy!
– There’s really so much filler here. There’s the prison movie Marge watches, which works into the story, but could really have been half the length. Act three starts with an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon that goes on way too long (tip: they should not exceed a minute, especially when they have no connection to the plot), and a completely superfluous montage of him stalking Marge. Why wouldn’t he just go up and get her? There’s the one shot where he’s glaring at her on the Jumbotron at the stadium, but when she looks at the screen, he acts nonchalant and looks away. Hey, you’re an escaped convict whom the police are presumably looking for, how about you don’t get your image on a gigantic screen where hundreds of people can see you. And then, why didn’t anyone recognize him and call the cops? Oh, who cares…


8 responses to “404. I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

  1. Aw, I was really hoping you’d like this one. It’s easily the best of the season, and I thought Dwight was one of the better one-shot characters of recent years, and a much better use of Steve Buscemi than his guest spot in the awful “Brake My Wife, Please”. I liked how Marge kept putting off visiting Dwight; it felt very believable and gave good conflict for the story. Nobody was really out-of-character to speak of. Even most of the humor works, save for exceptions like reading the DVD menu titles and a couple others I’m blanking on.

    Favorite moments:
    -Homer and Marge negotiating how drunk Homer can be
    -Wiggum’s blank expression when Lou says they’ve got a 64G in progress.
    -“I can’t die! I just came here to check the date!”
    -Dwight climbing through the sewer pipe when he could’ve crawled through the Pure Mountain Spring Water pipe
    -The priest pulls the electric chair switch
    -“Dwight has stated that he will turn himself in after he takes care of some unfinished business. The police have issued a statement: “That seems more than fair.””
    -“Really, Marge? Look me in the eyes and say that.” (dramatic sting with a close-up of Dwight’s eyes) “They’re so buggy, I can’t!”
    -Krusty and Hibbert’s dialog (“I saw it, I just didn’t feel like talking to you.”)
    -“Can’t a man have one moment alone with his stuffed monkey? One moment?” “The monkey would make a better chief.” “What did you say?” “I SAID THE MONKEY WOULD MAKE A BETTER CHIEF!” “He’s a good monkey all right.”

  2. Wiggum reading off the scene select names on the DVD is another one of those endless scenes that make me want to rip my face off. Did the writers really think this was so funny throughout the entire writing process to leave it in?

    Aside from the newspaper ad reading still image and the star map image from another ep. The DVD scene select is fucking annoying and illogical and yes the Spingfield Police is fucking incompetent but how the fuck would a movie called the negotiator help with their problem??? and if your going to resort to that why not just play the fucking movie from the start!

  3. Ian, what do you mean best of the season? That honor goes to “Eternal Moonshine in a Simpson Mind.”

    Anyway, yeah, this episode is not horrible, but we already had this plot with Michael Keaton instead of Steve Buscemi.

  4. “He’s a good monkey all right.”

    I do like that line.

  5. “At this point, nameless extras are apparently forbidden, so the bank is entirely filled with recognizable faces”
    The funny (but not “ha-ha” funny) thing is, the writers take pride in this. Their attitude is having generic extras is lazy when there are established characters they can use.

  6. “Oh a shooty stealy!”

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