Original airdate: September 25, 2011
The premise: Homer makes it his mission to befriend Wayne, the gruff and incredibly reserved new security guard at the plant. Turns out he has a secret past working for the CIA, and suffers from horrible PTSD about what he went through and the people he’s killed. This is a comedy show, by the way.
The reaction: I actually kind of enjoyed the impetus of this episode’s story, with Homer’s desperate need to get this new guy to like him; it had a “Homer’s Enemy” vibe to it. After a violent altercation with Snake at Moe’s, it’s revealed that Wayne (voiced by now three-time offender Kiefer Sutherland) is actually ex-CIA. Through the episode, we see that innocuous things like a piece of music or having a helmet put on his head trigger flashbacks to his past life and the horrors he’s endured, which put him into an uncontrollable violent fit. The bits of the past we see have little jokes in them, but overall, none of this is really funny. This is a very disturbed character with an extreme case of PTSD. But that only makes his actions in the episode more confusing. He’s seemingly haunted by his past and wants nothing more to do with it, and when living with the Simpsons, he proceeds to teach industry maneuvers to Marge and the kids. Two-thirds into the episode, we’re finally introduced to the actual main conflict (?) involving a Ukrainian mob boss who finds out Wayne is in Springfield and wants revenge. We see in the flashbacks during a shootout, the mob boss’ wife was caught in the crossfire and killed. Homer is kidnapped as bait, and is trapped under the ice at a skating rink for some reason. Wayne arrives on the scene, violently murders all of the skating goons, and ultimately stabs the mob boss in the throat and he dies. So what about the thing with his wife? Wayne was indirectly responsible for her death, does he just not give a shit? It’s almost like second-nature for him to revert back to his ultra-violent emotionless state, but is that something he’s conflicted with, or he just doesn’t even acknowledge it? The episode just wanted to have its cake and eat it too with wanting to present his PTSD seriously when they wanted to, and joke about it when they didn’t, but that just led to a very confused character. There were definitely more amusing and/or promising moments in this than most of the episodes to date, but the core of the story here made no sense to me.
Three items of note:
– As usual, so much elongated padding. Homer’s song walking into work, Snake and Wayne’s fight in the bar, Wayne’s training flashback where he just fights wave after wave of copyrighted characters… Some of these might have been effective if they were about half the length. We also get a string of pop culture gags that, as usual, are over a year too late from the episode’s original airing: autotune videos on YouTube, and most notably, the badly animated 3D Taiwanese news segment chronicling the bar fight. It’s kind of amusing at first, but there’s no real joke or subversion on top of it. The real news animations are actually funnier and more absurd than this “parody” of it. There’s also that Kim Jong-il musical at the end, which may be the craziest, most Family Guy-esque cutaway the show has ever done. I was almost impressed by how random it was. Impressed and exasperated.
– The ending is really shockingly violent, with Wayne literally torching a bunch of innocent goons with a flamethrower, and their smoldering corpses littered all over the rink. Then, as a goof, he also sets a skating mascot’s head on fire as well. You could say it’s over-the-top for comic effect, but that’s not really the case; it ends up just being really disturbing. I just don’t get what we’re supposed to conclude about Wayne. If the episode had actually been about him overcoming his demons, or making peace with them, or just flat-out admitting that he just really likes killing people, I could have gotten behind it, but instead, he goes through no character progression at all. In the end, Marge has a revelation that as a heartless sadist, he’ll be right at home working at the DMV, almost like an afterthought as he’s walking out the door. But does Wayne enjoy being a violent hardass, or is he haunted by it? We don’t get an answer.
– This episode also features the dramatic reveal of the fate of Nedna, which really is barely worth mentioning, but I don’t have much else to say about the episode itself. We get Comic Book Guy at the beginning announce the reveal of whether Ned and Edna stayed together will hidden in the show, which is later shown in a montage of couples being kept up at night by Wayne’s night terrors (which I guess are so loud, literally the entire town can hear them), and we see Ned and Edna among them, complete with Edna winking to camera. And the episode ends with the two thanking the fans for voting. Groan. I tried to find any record of the actual voting or signs of anyone expressing they cared about this shallow publicity stunt, but all I could find was a nauseating press release. “Pro-Nednas worldwide cheered and anti-Nednites jeered as they saw the couple was bound together for all eternity by a majority of SIMPSONS online fans.” Ugh.
One good line/moment: Shockingly, most of the first act was actually kind of enjoyable, removing Homer’s song at the beginning, and Marge’s random Master Chef fantasy (complete with superfluous guest star [insert celebrity-chef-whose-name-I-forget’s name here]). The reappearance of Charlie, “Sidewalk Closed, Pay Sidewalk Coming,” the start of Snake’s robbery, all not bad scenes and gags. I especially liked Marge cheering Homer up over the Wayne situation with pork chops and the two hugging. I like it when those two show they care for each other, outside of an unearned, out-of-nowhere happy ending like we usually see.