The reaction: So, we’ve had a bunch of instances this season of the show trying to be culturally relevant multiple years after a phenomenon, but this is the granddaddy of them all: an Inception parody nearly two years after the film’s release. At this point, everyone and their mother had done one. In an era when regular people can create and upload content immediately online, you just can’t do topical content when your show takes nine months to make. But, Krusty already made it clear earlier in the season, the writers know this, and I guess they don’t care. So the psychological trauma needing to be addressed with dream therapy is caused by Homer suddenly… wetting the bed. There’s not much to really dwell on about this one. It gave the writers opportunity to write such home runs as “Why can’t I cork my wang wine?” because that’s how humans talk. I don’t even think characters in Kevin Smith movies talk like that. We also get Homer doing a sexy striptease with an adult diaper, which is maybe one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen in my whole life. Moving on quickly from that, the family enters Homer’s dreams, where they do their Inception set pieces, like skiing down a mountain, the looming city that folds in on itself, and slow-motion fight sequences when Chief Wiggum appears to fight Professor Frink for absolutely no reason. There’s no real attempts made to actually make jokes about the film, it’s just The Simpsons starring in Inception. Between the bed-wetting opening and this toothless Hollywood naval gazing, by the end we’re expected to care that Homer is being haunted by his child-like belief that he’s the reason his mother left them, but there’s just been too much nonsense to expect me to get sentimental at the very, very end. Plus, there’s been absolutely no clues or buildup to this conclusion, so it ends up coming off as just random. All in all, it just felt like a really long, really boring, and really bad Halloween segment, with a stream of urine jokes at the beginning. …no pun intended.
Three items of note:
– This episode is absolutely riddled with exposition. The whole first act of Homer trying to fix his problem on his own, it ends up leading to him talking to himself about what he should do or his new plan, or one scene where he talks to an imaginary six-armed Apu. Later, the family keeps parroting back the clues they get and what they mean, and the worst of all is when Lisa just happens to know about dream levels and just repeats the explanation lines from Inception. So it’s exposition taken from another movie’s exposition? Exposit-ception? …I’ll see myself out.
– This show has a (bad) habit of characters just showing up in scenes without reason either to give a random joke or to unnaturally push the story along. This might be the crowning example: as Marge takes a night walk after failing to be seduced by a diaper-clad Homer, Professor Frink literally falls out of the sky before her, having been exploded by [insert joke I forgot here]. He knows about Homer’s problem through Twitter, and, despite knowing nothing about why he’s doing it, pitches his dream machine thing to her. I guess this is kind of like the memory wipe machine he had in the Eternal Sunshine parody. Also, when did we get to the point where Professor Frink’s inventions actually work? I miss his malfunctioning psychotic Bobo robot and the malfunctioning Gamble-Tron 2000.
– In the end, the family is saved by Death on a jetpack, who we previously have seen throughout the different dreams, who ends up actually being Mona, Homer’s mother. Why exactly was she in a grim reaper costume? Because she’s dead? This also gives us a “joke” that’s been a huge gripe of mine about this show. Mona reveals herself and says she always lives on in Homer’s dreams. So, Homer is actually face-to-face with his dead mother, who he loved dearly. What do we get after that? A joke where Homer grows in dream hair, Marge cites it as Jennifer Aniston’s Friends hair, then Homer makes a Friends joke. These characters haven’t acted like normal human beings for years now, but it’s moments like this where it becomes the most apparent. Rather than react to amazing, emotional moments in a manner that makes sense, these characters are now just like walking non sequitur joke machines. There was a similar joke way back in “My Mother the Carjacker” when Homer and Mona reunite, and he ends up tearfully hugging a nearby bum, but this time, it’s even worse because a) it should be even more emotional since Mona’s dead, and b) Homer at least expressed his hesitation about opening himself up to his runaway mom before the bum joke. All this being said, when we get to Mona’s goodbye and we see the images of a younger Homer and Abe and she says she’ll always be with him, I can’t take it seriously because this show purposefully undercuts moments like this for no reason, thus making them completely hollow.
One good line/moment: One dream level the family enters is a recreation of an old Tracey Ullman short “Family Therapy.” I understand it’s pure fanservice, but it was still fun to see some elements of the prehistoric show redone, like the twister mouths and Homer’s old Walter Mattheau voice. I almost wish the animation had been even rougher and more accurate to the originals.