Original airdate: March 17, 2019
The premise: Bart’s gamer team is on the road to the grand championship, and Homer joins in to be their coach, hoping to eventually rest comfortably on the laurels of his son’s successful e-sports career.
The reaction: I was dreading this one a little bit, an episode about e-sports written about a nearly sixty year old man, but this show really isn’t interesting in lampooning this contemporary subject, and the jokes that are here are pretty surface-level, or just old gamer humor (dancing over corpses replacing teabagging. I’m pretty sure we saw similar jokes in the thirteen-year-old “Marge Gamer” episode). The show itself is seemingly a Bart-Homer story, except there’s not really much focus on their relationship, and I don’t fully know what the intent was. Homer is initially befuddled that Bart can actually get money for playing video games, and upon learning of the $500,000 grand prize tournament, he doubles down in his support of Bart’s new interests, making himself the teach coach. After a brief detour featuring a hoodie-wearing, 19-year-old gaming guru (incredibly dry, with very few jokes), we get a montage of Homer supervising the kids on their computers. He’s not necessarily drilling them, he’s just kind of testing them with distractions and refilling them with coffee. After that we get a dream sequence of Homer rubbing elbows with other parents of famous successful athletes, at which point the plot now changes into Homer wanting to achieve glory vicariously through his son. Couldn’t that have been set up earlier? Why bother? Making the finals, the Simpsons jet off to Seoul, South Korea, with Lisa tagging along to take Homer and Marge to a Buddhist temple, where she teaches her parents about achieving inner peace and entering a zen state. This is all introduced within the final five minutes of the episode. Now Homer is super zen, wanders his way to the tournament where Bart’s team is about to win, and just shuts down the power via a convenient master power switch on the roof that he’s able to access somehow. Now… a few things. Through the episode, Homer never seemed too angry or obsessed or overwhelmed by his role as Bart’s coach. The living-through-Bart thing was randomly introduced later, but never seemed to be negative or overbearing, as perhaps it should have been. He just seemed cool and chill about doing this thing with Bart, so the turn of him learning to chill out and rebuff competition really makes no sense. Meanwhile, his out-of-left-field attitude change comes completely at the cost of Bart, who not only lost the $500,000 grand prize, but in the final scene of the show, we see that his teammates are super pissed at him and hitting him with stuff on the flight home. Not quite sure why they’re blaming him. Do they know Homer causes the power outage? Does Bart know this? What’s the resolution to this Bart-Homer bonding story? The answer is there isn’t one. And when we pan by Homer on the plane, he looks pissed about there being no in-flight entertainment, so his whole zen revelation was completely wasted, I guess. At least until he gets upgraded to first class because he’s too fat (“Thank the Buddha I win again!”) Too bad all it cost your son was a huge cash prize and his friendships. I can’t even get mad at this ending because I have no clue how the fuck we got here. What a mess of an episode.
Three items of note:
– Bart’s teammates are the usual suspects of Milhouse, Martin and Nelson (I’m past the point of complaining why these four tolerate each other in social settings), as well as Krusty’s daughter, Sophie. Not quite sure why she’s there. I thought maybe they’d want to do some material about women in the professional gaming space (what fun material for a comedy show! What could be toxic about that subject?), but all we got was one gamer girl joke at the very end (“If I win, I’ll be the most famous girl gamer of all time! Also, if I lose!”) I’m sure there are a couple prolific female gamers in e-sports, right? Whatever. It’s still weird that it’s Sophie. Why not Sherri or Terri? Or Janey? Those characters still exist, right?
– At the beginning of the episode, Lisa balks about Homer rewarding Bart for bad behavior by buying him a game station set-up. Fourteen minutes later, she shows back up again, sitting in her room in the dark, lamenting about not being paid attention to. Marge walks in and offers to spend the day with Lisa, but Lisa, now with an eye twitch, shuts that shit down flat (“Mom, I try to spare you because I don’t want you feeling thoroughly appropriate guilt for what this family does to me.”) She then explains that the Jogyesa Monastery is in South Korea, and she’s desperate to go (“I’m holding onto a thin rope here, because if Bart and Dad go to Seoul and I miss out, I’ll lose my grip!”) She then proceeds to freak the fuck out, and Marge gets her to shut up by saying they’ll go to South Korea too. Man, Lisa needs to calm her tits. Seriously, what is her damage? This behavior is appropriate in a lot of other episodes where Bart falls into great success, fame or luck by pure accident, being given access to things Lisa would kill for that he responds with apathy or stupidity. In this case, Bart and Homer have actually worked very hard to reach the finals, and their efforts are paying off. If the show featured Lisa turning her nose up at pro gaming throughout, this scene would kind of make sense, but instead, she just reappears to whine and complain and damn near have a seizure until her mother gives her what she wants. When Marge tries to placate her and spend some time with her daughter, Lisa responds basically with emotional blackmail at the cost of an expensive plane ticket halfway around the world. Why are there so many instances in these past couple years of the show actively trying to make me hate Lisa?
– There’s some pretty lazy sight gags throughout the show that stuck out to me. When the pro gamer Homer hires decides to give up his career, Homer and the kids oversee him in the backyard burn his hoodie on the grill, as well as his notebook conveniently labeled “10,000 Video Game Hacks Only I Know.” At the end of the episode, we see little thought bubbles of Bart and the others as they get close to winning. Three of them dream of the first place trophy, Martin dreams of Nelson with a NEW FRIEND sash, and Nelson dreams of a wooden door labeled BEDROOM WITH DOOR. Both of these feel like incredibly lazy jokes. They both feel like they were pitched in the writer’s room as concepts, they tried to figure out how they could organically and logically work them into the script visually, and this is what they eventually gave up on and just left in the script anyway.
One good line/moment: Eh, I got nothing for this one. A lot of the episodes recently have been kind of innocuous and boring in their badness, but this one felt particularly aimless, and then just pulled it out with that nonsensical ending.