627. Gone Boy

Original airdate: December 10, 2017

The premise:
Bart gets trapped in a Cold War-era bunker in the woods, and is declared dead after a brief search. Despite knowing the truth, Milhouse uses this to his advantage to get close to Lisa, and meanwhile, Sideshow Bob seeks to find the boy to kill him himself.

The reaction: “Twelfth time’s the charm!” Bob declares when he confronts his adolescent nemesis. As mentioned on many an occasion, all Bob episodes past “Brother From Another Series” feel so superfluous and meaningless. As much as I love “Cape Feare,” it ended up becoming a template for future Bob shows, where rather than have some kind of grand scheme or master plan tied to his pompous, upper class cultural fancies, he’s just an insane murderer who’s out for the blood of a ten-year-old. There’s no creativity, no intent to explore any other facets of Bob’s character; they even gave him a wife and child and they’ve been absent for the last couple installments. It’s just the same song and dance over and over, and honestly, do even diehard fans even give a fuck anymore? Bob is part of a prison gang doing community service when they are all forced to participate in the manhunt to find Bart. Meanwhile, his therapist is trying to get Bob to get past his revenge fantasies and take back control of his life. This maybe would hold more weight if it was better written, and if Bob hadn’t already reformed at least two times already. And pretended to reform more times than that. With the forced assistance of Milhouse, Bob tracks Bart down, tying both boys to an old ICBM (“I Commit Bart’s Murder!” “That’s your justification for killing two kids?”) This gives Bob pause. It’s almost like the episode is commenting how stupid this all is, and ultimately a call with his therapist gets Bob to release them and give up his murderous ways. At least until next time. The tag features an older Bob living in isolation in a lighthouse, writing “DIE BART DIE” in the sand almost like a calming mantra. Or something. If they wanted to write a “final” Bob show that got super meta about how deranged and unstable Bob is for wanting to pick a ten-year-old’s bones clean, I’m all for that, but this watered down fuzzy version of it is just a waste of time. They’ll bring him back. He always comes back, and even less effective each and every time. Sprinkling in fan service like the rake and him singing Gilbert & Sullivan doesn’t help comparisons much.

Three items of note:
– There’s another Wilhelm scream when a bunch of characters trip over a wire grid. Like just a guy falling down prompted a Wilhelm scream, that’s the third one this season. Is this some kind of inside joke between the post department or something?
– In yet another instance of characters reacting less like human beings and more like joke machines, returning from the woods to the rest of the family without Bart, Homer has an internal monologue (because of course he does) on how best to explain that their son is missing (“Okay, this is the hardest news in the world for a mother to hear. Just ease her into it.”) So he says, “You know that sewing room you wanted, but we could never figure out where?” Brilliant. It’s also a repeat of a joke from “Barting Over,” I believe (boy, I wish I didn’t know that completely useless knowledge.) The family receives a subpoena that Bart wants to become emancipated, and what’s Marge’s first reaction? “I always wanted a sewing room, but not like this!” This show was so brilliant because characters would always react honestly. They’d say funny lines, sure, but they made sense in the emotional context of the scene. In these two scenes, Bart is either threatening to leave the house, or missing/possibly dead, and his parents’ first responses involve a sewing room.
– Milhouse gets a scumbaggy moment when he arrives at the Simpson house to tell them where Bart is. Meanwhile, Kent Brockman just announced on TV that they’re giving up the search for no real reason, presuming Bart to be dead. I guess the family just believes it to be true immediately, as Lisa opens the door in tears, embracing Milhouse. He hesitates to tell her the news, and in case we couldn’t figure it out, we have his inner monologue explain (“I came to tell her he’s alive, but this feels almost as good as hugging Harry Horse!”) (I also don’t know if I get the joke. Is Harry Horse just a stuffed animal? I guess that’s it) So Milhouse exploits Bart’s “death” for some sympathy hugs from his sister. Maybe if they had Bart act like a dick to him like he always does, this would have been more acceptable, but he wasn’t. It felt particularly slimy for Milhouse.

One good line/moment: Out in the woods, Homer gives Santa’s Little Helper an item of Bart’s clothing to sniff, hoping he’ll pick up the scent. The dog does alright, sprinting off and leading them to… Bart’s dresser drawer.

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18 responses to “627. Gone Boy

  1. One scene confused me. When Bart falls into the bunker, he simply turns on his shoe and it’s a flashlight…WHAT?! WHY DOES HIS SHOE LIGHT UP?! You can say he has light-up shoes, but they don’t work that way, and it’s not established!

    Also, Bart did a crank call to Moe. Why does he still do those? I mean, besides tradition at this point? Kids today don’t do that anymore…mostly because of caller ID. And the fact that Bart was trapped in a bunker and he decided to play a joke shows how inhuman the characters have become. No sane, believable character would be stuck in a bunker acting panicked…and then play a joke. And maybe it could have worked if they mixed it up, like the classic era (yeah, even by Season 4 the jokes were getting old and they added twists to them), but this was just, “Bart is calling on an old phone to Moe’s!”

    You could say it drove the plot because he broke the phone and was being stupid…and I COULD buy that…but it doesn’t. He fixes the phone and makes one last call. So it just wasted time!

  2. Oh wow, this episode sounds way worse than I could’ve imagined. Was there an attempt at a B-plot here? I’d figure Bart possibly being dead would hang too heavily over the rest of the family, but judging by your review….probably not.

  3. This is probably the best episode of the season, but that isn’t saying much considering what we have to choose from thus far. Still, I didn’t hate this one as much as I thought I would. I did like how Bart was acting like a child while he was in the bunker. As for Sideshow Bob, I’m very confused. Last time we saw him he was walking away beneath the sea with his new found powers. How did he get arrested? Also, why didn’t he just use his special jumping power to get them out of the bunker?

    I did like the scene when Bob imagined Bart moving him around like a puppet, but then the show fell apart when it started doing the Hitchcock stuff and Bob calling his psychiatrist. Oh, and I totally called that they were going to make call backs to “Cape Feare” since that is all this season does, remind us that we could be watching a better episode instead. Then we have that boring fourth act that was just stupid.

    Lastly, good god, they seriously need to replace Kavner. Her Marge was terrible.

    Wait, one more thing, Agnes Skinner… oh god!

    • Yeah, gotta agree that this was the best episode this season (so far). I mean, it’s not good, but at least for the most part it wasn’t painful. That’s the best we can hope for these days. If every episode from the past several years was a turd, this would be one of the less stinky ones, but ultimately it’s still a piece of shit.

    • “Lastly, good god, they seriously need to replace Kavner. Her Marge was terrible.”

      It is tremendously sad hearing her strain to do Marge’s voice now – what made me even sadder in this episode was that Nancy Cartwright doing an impression of Marge as Bart was actually more on point than Kavner herself.

      You can tell Shearer has lost interest and is really phoning it in as well – completely flat deliveries (with Azaria doing 90% of the male one-shot characters as well) when Shearer used to be the best of the bunch (at least in my opinion). Look back to how much weight and personality Shearer could give to a one-note character in seasons 1/2 and compare it to now. Although… I can hardly blame him with the complete dreck he has to perform every week.

  4. Do they have a boner for the Wilhelm scream or something? Every use of it this season is wince inducing. It’s so unfunny. The worst use of it was in ‘Singin’ In The Lane’; I’m morbidly curious if they’ll use it in an even shittier way in another show.

    (Spoilers: they will)

    • I am so sick of hearing the Willhelm scream in general. It is just so cheap. Can they seriously not pay one of the voice actors to just scream?

      • I don’t think they use it because it’s cheaper, but rather they think it’s funny to use. It isn’t.

      • Yeah, I think they just use it because they think it’s funny. I don’t think it happened in this episode, but in the Closed Captions for “The Old Blue Mayor She Ain’t What She Used To Be”, when that guy falls into the cactus patch, it actually says, “[WILHELM SCREAM]”.

  5. Do you think anything is going to change now that Disney owns Simpsons?

    • Probably not right away, but I doubt the show’s going to stop at season 30 with Disney at the helm.

    • Oh Lord. I didn’t know. I thought that was a joke.
      But it’s all true. Disney owns the Simpsons. This show will never end. Even when the actors are gone (not for many years, I hope) or they voices completely give away (probably pretty soon for some of them, alas) Disney will digitally recreate the voices of the cast. It’s over.

      (Also, can any one with a business training explain to me the reason for Disney “let’s own everything” strategy? Apart from hubris?)

      • I think the only Disney’s strategy is to destroy anything great created and achieved by Walt and arts in general, in order to lower the standards of everything and in this way keep doing thousands of useless shows\movies with no efforts and maximum financial gain.

      • I think you guys are over exagerating. Disney has been doing nothing but giving us quality releases over the last decade. Not everything made may be good, but they do put more quality into their products that most. They have done nothing but great stuff with both Marvel and Star Wars and they will continue to do good stuff with X-Men and Fantastic Four back. Hell, we may even get the first good Alien movie in 31 years out of the deal. Maybe even a second good Predator movie.

        Jean, how did you think it was a joke? Disney just bought Fox.

        As for Simpsons, personally, I hope they properly remaster the classic seasons and put them out on BD.

      • Kaiju no Kami, I can see what you mean, but you actually are denying your own comment.
        You said Disney is giving us quality stuff, but then you felt you had to say “they put more quality into their products than most”, which is the only true thing, and which means nothing since the standard is piss poor. So it actually validate my point.

        You talk about Marvel, Star Wars, X-Men, Fantastic Four, (not to mention the real artistic masterpiece they swallowed, The Muppets) which are things that Disney bought, not created. They can’t create anything new and interesting (just look at their own products), so they buy great stuff created in the past by real artists and give it to us again in a modern misconcepted fan-service version, until we are stuffed to death. Which is basically standard tv\cinema now. But hey!, the standard is crap now, so Disney are good!

        And the new Alien or Predator.. Another useless remake\reboot\sequel? They must really be great creative minds and artists! They are not thinking only about making money with no efforts. Nope. They are artists. Just like The Simpsons staff.

      • Let’s be honest though, what company is being original these days? Everything has been done before, which is why we are getting so many remakes and reboots.

        Disney is at least trying to give us new stuff though with things like Coco, Zootopia, Moana, etc. They put quality behind their products whether it is original content or not.

  6. I kind of defend the sewing room line here because I can totally believe Homer would say something like that trying to ease the news to his wife. It’s in-character for him to say exactly the wrong thing while trying to make someone feel better. It didn’t work in “Barting Over” because it’s not something Marge would say, especially while so emotionally distraught over learning Bart wants to divorce Homer and herself.

    This is yet another episode that could have worked if it were better written and more slowly paced. Bob’s epiphany and change of heart happened so fast I just couldn’t feel it at all.

    Not only is Milhouse a dick, he’s later acts unbelievably when Bob threatens him. He coolly points out that Bob can’t kill him because only Milhouse knows where Bart is. What ten-year-old is that calm when a criminal is threatening his life?

    I honestly don’t get the recent obsession with the Wilhelm Scream. I know it’s some kind of joke among Hollywood, but that joke doesn’t really translate to the rest of the world. Of course, this has been another problem of the show for years now.

    • I remember the “Barting Over” line – I think it was meant to be an allusion to the Matrix (a dated reference even then), hence Marge repeats the line “not like this” a la Switch. I remember it sticking out horribly as Julie Kavner clearly hadn’t got the reference and her reading is completely different to the original. Either the director obviously didn’t have the heart to explain to her, or didn’t care.

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