Original airdate: October 1, 2017
The premise: In a medieval fantasy world, Marge must face her mother’s impending death. Lisa conjures up the cash needed for a healing amulet, but her use of magic gets her imprisoned by the authoritarians of the land.
The reaction: There’s a reason that these fantasy setting episodes are reserved for three-parters; gimmicks like these tend to grow thin after a couple minutes, and then you’re left with just a regular story that just has different backgrounds and character designs. Even with Game of Thrones wrapping its seventh season, and the show already having recreated its opening title sequence at least twice over the last few years, amongst other references, I guess the show hasn’t glommed onto this pop culture staple enough, so let’s do a whole GoT/Lord of the Rings/medieval fantasy hodgepodge episode, make it the premiere, and soak up some mild press because of it. I don’t watch or know much about Thrones, but to me, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of attempted referencing done here. In fact, most of the story up until the last third feels like it could have been done as a normal episode, and it would have been just as boring. Marge’s mother is turning into a White Walker… err, Ice Walker, and there’s not much the Simp… Serfsons can do about it. There’s a magical amulet that will cure her, but it’s way out of their price range. Nine minutes into the episode, Lisa reveals she has magic powers and turns a nugget of lead into gold, and laments she must keep her powers a secret lest she be imprisoned and exploited by the royal family. Prior to this, we hadn’t seen anyone using magic, or really even seen anything magical, outside of some weird goblins and creatures. As always with this show, it’s tell, not show. There are two “stories” going on, Marge having to deal with her mother wanting to die, and the peasants rising up against the kingdom, led by Homer in the final act. The players storm the gates in an assault that felt like the end of the Futurama movie “Bender’s Game” but worse, and I didn’t care for “Bender’s Game” all that much. In the end, with her daughter’s blessing, Jacqueline Bouvier takes off the amulet, goes full-on White Walker and takes down the dragon and herself. I don’t get why she has such a big role in this. Does this parallel Thrones at all? Whatever. It’s a little weird how much of a failure this one was (well, not really); gimmick episodes like “The Man Who Came To Be Dinner,” and to a lesser extent “Brick Like Me,” removing the characters from their normal setting at least gave way to different kinds of jokes and situations. Despite its fantasy location, this episode just felt very… normal. And normal for this series now is “absolute trash.”
Three items of note:
– Unable to afford the amulet, Homer drowns his sorrows at Moe’s with the regular Joes there. Later, he works overtime at the plant by pushing a wooden power generator whilst being whipped, which we’ve already seen in the “real” world in “Rosebud.” Outside of minor accoutrements like Willie being a Warcraft orc slavedriver and Burns sprouting tiny magic wings (??), the story and the characters feel like it should just be taking place in the real world. The old Treehouse of Horrors, and even the earlier three-story episodes like “Bible Stories” felt like they were different worlds through their tone and framing. This feels like really bad fan fiction or something.
– It’s a bit of a struggle for Julie Kavner to do a consistent Marge nowadays, let alone her much hoarser mother. Jacqueline sounds like Jackie Earl Haley’s villain character from The Tick in this episode (slightly obscure reference, but it’s fresh in my head since I just watched it. There’s a plug, go watch The Tick, it’s on Amazon Prime, it’s great).
– The high elder magicians or whoever thwart Homer from intervening with them taking Lisa by casting a spell on him, making his toenails rapidly grow and wrap themselves around, encasing him in a tangled toenail ball. Gross. This reminded me of an episode of the old Nickelodeon cartoon The Angry Beavers where the titular beavers try to look cool by letting their teeth grow out. The ending involves things getting out of hand when their teeth get exaggeratingly long, with brother Norbert being trapped in a giant toothy sphere. Anyone remember this? Ahh, nostalgia.