The premise: Moe participates in Homer and company’s drunken night out for the first time ever, breaking the sacred bartender-customer oath of the secret society he belongs to, resulting in every bartender in Springfield being out to get them.
The reaction: Season 28’s “Treehouse of Horror XXVII” featured a segment with Moe in a secret society of bartenders in a half-baked Kingsmen parody. Four years later, we’re doing John Wick, except it’s a normal episode and it’s three times as long. The concept of “The Confidential” is kind of interesting: a place where bartenders can share their woes, but always must keep the secrets told to them in confidence by their clientele. We open with Moe toasting to the grand institution, which begs the question, why is Moe such a lonely, miserably sad sack when he has all of these other bartenders who are open to talk with him? Instead, he’s touched that Homer and the guys ask him to drink with him, and they go all out on a raucous, drunken night, during which Moe blabs a bunch of secrets told to him by other bartenders (again, indicating he belongs to a social circle), breaking the Confidential’s code. Not only is Moe expelled from the organization, his regulars are being hunted by other bartenders to be injected with “anti-booze,” which will make them sober forever. All of this is absolutely ridiculous, of course, and has the feel of an extended Halloween episode. It’s also a “parody” in the usual sense that it just recreates visuals and plot elements from a film without even trying to satirize it. Just as the Kingsman “parody” featured a sequence imitating the elaborate church fight scene from the first movie, this episode has Moe fighting like John Wick in the street against a bunch of bartenders, subbing a gun for his trusty bar rag. None of the fight choreography is particularly entertaining or creative, especially when stood up against the exhilarating and fun action sequences of the John Wick movies. Homer, Lenny, Carl and Barney all end up getting de-boozed, but flash forward three months, we see that they’ve all greatly improved their lives now that they’re sober. They track down Moe to gloat about it, but when they find him miserably working at an omelette bar, they make amends and return to Moe’s (which Moe still has, I guess), wanting Moe to be their bartender again, even serving just water. Then the Confidential head magically appears in the bar, offering them all an antidote to the anti-booze because the episode is almost over and we need to reset the world. For an episode supposedly parodying an exciting action film series, one that I very much enjoy, this show felt particularly boring, and a really tired way to close out the season.
Three items of note:
– After the opening with Moe, Bart and Milhouse end up in the audience of Bumblebee Man’s late night talk show, an exciting affair filled with ridiculous game show segments and Horchata sponsorships. It felt kind odd that we get entire lines of dialogue from Bumblebee Man and the audience in Spanish with no subtitles, like you can follow what’s going on (and Milhouse helpfully shouts explanations to Bart from the audience when he’s brought on stage), but none of it felt particularly funny and was mostly just time wasting. Bart’s prize from the show is a crystal skull bottle of tequila, which Homer eventually gets his hands on (through a Raiders of the Lost Ark opening parody, inevitably reminding me of the superior “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love” sequence) and shares with everyone at the bar. A credits scene features the broken bottle magically regenerating and speaking ominously to the kids in Spanish. It’s not like a bilingual bonus joke, where you understanding the language is an additional joke; in the case of the Bumblebee Man scene and the ending, it’s just full Spanish dialogue and that’s it.
– Ian McShane voices Artemis, the leader of the Confidential, appearing in a similar role as his John Wick character. I really don’t even know how you would parody a series as ridiculous and over-the-top as John Wick. You could comment on its gratuitous, exaggerated violence, I guess, but it kind of feels redundant to what the series does anyway, and certainly not something you could do on a network show. Maybe something on Adult Swim could do it. Or maybe Robot Chicken will do a shitty John Wick sketch. They probably already have, but I don’t care to look it up.
– In the end, Homer is the only one who chooses not to take the antidote, prompting Artemis for some reason to put out a Confidential hit for him to be re-boozed. Sober Homer is shown to be a wonderful husband and father, fully functioning at work after his new promotion, noticeably thinner, with everything going great for him. I was expecting him to be as quick to jump on the antidote as the others and that being the tired joke, but him choosing to keep his new, better life, only to be doggedly chased down and forced to be an alcoholic again felt a little bit sad, even if it really doesn’t even matter.
And with that, that’s a wrap for yet another season, and boy howdy, can you believe it was a real stinker? This honestly may have been the worst season yet, but ranking anything within the past decade of this show feels so unnecessarily granular to me, since it’s all been pretty terrible. I always held season 28 to be the worst, with the ensuing few seasons after feeling not quite as bad, but looking back at the episode list this year, this felt like a particularly sorry crop. Season 31 had the surprisingly enjoyable “Thanksgiving of Horror,” while this season, I can’t point to one episode I even halfway enjoyed (the closest being “The Road to Cincinnati,” enjoying the impulse of an honest Skinner/Chalmers episode, but not the execution.) Meanwhile, my worst episode list is bursting at the seams (“The 7 Beer Itch,” “Sorry Not Sorry,” “Diary Queen,” “Yokel Hero,” “Do PizzaBots Dream of Electric Guitars?,” “Manger Things,” “Burger Kings,” “Mother and Child Reunion.”) But one thing I can say, I’m genuinely curious about the future of the show for the first time in years, but only because of the world outside the show itself, thanks to their new corporate overlords. The FOX acquisition by Disney has been over and done with for a few years, and the upcoming 33rd production season is the first one actually ordered by Disney. Meanwhile, The Simpsons still airs first-run on FOX, who has no ownership of the show anymore, while Fox Entertainment, the FOX-owned media branch that formed after the Disney buy, is busy creating their own slate of new animated series, starting with Housebroken, which premieres next week, as well as Dan Harmon’s Krapopolis, and I’m sure more to come. Despite the dwindling popularity of The Simpsons and Family Guy, it’s probably still very important for FOX to hold onto them to anchor their Sunday nights, but I imagine their goal is to create their own new animated hit that they can reap all the financial rewards of. When (and if) that happens, they might see less and less need to air shows that their major competitor owns. Meanwhile, who’s to say Disney might not want to move The Simpsons onto FXX? Or Freeform? Or cancel the series as it is and revamp it in a new streaming format altogether? I’m not aware of all the ins and outs between Disney and the FOX network airing the show, and at what point that might change, but suffice to say, I have to imagine sometime in this next decade, there’s going to be a major shift in the show for sure. Whether that be a channel hop, a new movie, or the end of the series, it all remains to be seen. And seen it shall be, come this fall, when we dive headfirst into season 33. That’s right, for yet another year, it’s back into the toilet I go.
As for the blog, there’s the last few Revisited posts to come: the finale of season 11, The Simpsons Movie, and a small conclusion post for the 10th anniversary of the blog. Stay tuned!