Original airdate: March 8, 2015
The premise: When the church is destroyed by a freak accident, Marge and the other churchies raise the money to rebuild by counting cards at the local casino, under the tutelage of their learned accomplice Apu.
The reaction: Uggh, these are kind of the worst kinds of episodes, the ones that think they’re making a point about something, but they’re just as inept as any other show. Religious commentary and satire used to be a firm strong point for this series, so seeing something like this is pretty pathetic. So the church gets destroyed by stupidity, and for whatever reason, Apu offers up a solution to Marge, that they play the casino for cash to pay the reconstruction costs. So theoretically, the show is about a crisis of conscious if what they’re doing is morally right; counting cards is not technically cheating, but gambling is a sin, I think, so that’s an issue, I suppose. There’s also the fact that Marge has a past gambling addiction, which I thought was going to crop up at some point, like Marge would get too obsessed and end up losing all their money, but that never happens. Anyway, they pray before and after every big score, so they’re relying on staying in God’s good graces, but when Homer is kidnapped by the casino, Marge rebukes this reliance on miracles, and vows to take matters into her own hands to save the day. But… isn’t this whole casino scheme them taking charge of their own fate and raising the money themselves? If the “point” is supposed to be them going from passive to proactive, this doesn’t make any sense, they were already embroiled in a huge plan in the first place. So Marge goes to the casino, gets down on her knees and prays, which gets the attention of everyone around her. There’s an inner monologue about the function of prayer and what it means, which I guess is supposed to be the “meaningful” part of the episode, but it’s so empty and hamfisted. Again, this show used to be the king of injecting thoughtful, poignant messages without interrupting the comedy; now if they try to do something similar, not only is it poorly written, you can hear the gears screeching to a halt when we get a scene like this. We end with the Simpsons looking out at the rebuilt church at sundown (“Homie, after all this, do you still believe in God?” “On a beautiful night like tonight, how could I not?”) Just terrible. This show has gone long past the point of having its cake and eating it too, we’re down to microscopic crumbs now.
Three items of note:
– Here’s my biggest gripe though, why the hell is this episode entitled “Sky Police”? The church is destroyed by a mishap by Chief Wiggum and his fancy new jet pack, after an opening involving him as “Sky Police,” but that’s over four minutes in. Toward the climax, Marge makes an off-handed remark about God not being like a sky police and they can’t rely on him, so that seemed like a feeble way to actually tie that back around.
– There’s a lot of small moments in this episode that reminded me of classic shows. Apu talking about his past attending MIT (the Mombai Institute for Tantric Sex) is like “Much Apu About Nothing” with CalTech in Calcutta. But why is it a sex school? Is it funny because Kama Sutra = Indian = big laughs? Homer running around the casino desperately looking for Marge was just like the end of “$pringfield,” except without the actual emotional investment or the jokes (no Homer randomly hanging up some guy’s pay phone, “Can’t talk now!”) And Marge thanking the casino ceiling camera as a higher power was like the gag from “Viva Ned Flanders” (“Keep gaming. It means gambling. Keep gaming.”) Repeating types of jokes is fine, but when you do, it helps to make them actually funny, or different from what you did before.
– The Lovejoys grow attached to their costumes, and start using it for roleplay sex, which Marge catches them in the middle of. Hearing a woman at the door, Helen calls from inside to invite her in, which causes Marge to vomit on their doorstep. But she recovers instantaneously so she can continue repeating exposition to Timothy. Maybe it was just a dry heave. Or just like a little throw up. Just some light spittle.
One good line/moment: I actually kind of enjoyed the opening with Wiggum’s jet pack shenanigans. It’s ridiculous and crazy, but I almost prefer stuff like that at this point, especially compared to the rest of the show attempting to have a message and failing miserably. Plus there’s a kernel of satire there of police forces being given military armament and technology; there’s not really much satire there, but it still added another layer to it. And seeing “Sky Police” return over the credits was a welcome surprise. Really, I’d have preferred to have a whole episode of just that, “Chief Wiggum, P.I.” style.