American Dad: Daesong Heavy Industries II: Return to Innocence Review

A three-pronged character study marks a strong conclusion to the shaky first half of ‘American Dad’s’ two-parter

This American Dad review contains spoilers.

American Dad Season 12 Episode 16 

“The simple wonders of nature are quite breathtaking, but I am not the only one enjoying the view.”

Now this is the American Dad that I want!

The lofty, out of place Biblical ruminations of last week’s episode barely even come up this week! Hallelujah! It would seem that a lot of Stan’s existential last episode was just the set-up to arrive at this curious take on digging into the dynamics of the characters. At first it looks like the Smiths might be forced to ruminate on their damnation on this cursed boat as they float on endlessly. While there’s appeal in such a claustrophobic idea (Always Sunny even did it to great effect this season), it’s not long before the episode destroys this idea by sinking Stan’s Ark (at the end of an impromptu Roger musical number, no less) and splitting the episode up into three equally creative directions.

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In a recent interview that I did with American Dad executive producer and co-showrunner, Matt Weitzman, I spoke to him about some of the episodes through the series that have been stylistic departures, such as “Blood Crieth Unto Heaven.” Weitzman teased this episode in response to Stan and Francine’s portion of the episode and so I’ve been anxious for this episode to arrive. Sure enough, Stan and Francine’s segment does pull out some interesting stops. The shipwreck leaves them contused, non-verbal, and stuck on a deserted island. With the two of them being unable to talk, a narrator takes on the duty of speaking, giving their segments an interesting “nature special” aesthetic.

None of the stories in this episode are weak, but this one especially shines while also saying some interesting things about communication. There’s also something to be said on the fact that despite their circumstances, Stan and Francine are still attracted to one another and find each other. It’s a creative way to tell a story, if nothing else. It gains more momentum too upon the twisted realization that the narrator also seems to be some trapped individual on the island?

The shipwreck’s destruction leaves Hailey and Jeff adrift at sea with Jeff’s “street smarts” not helping the situation any. Thankfully the Navy comes to their aide just in time, however Jeff looks to them as the perfect means of straightening up and keeping himself from continually putting speed holes in the life raft of life. This decision of Jeff’s seems to be costing the Navy millions of dollars and dozens of lives, so in spite of the confidence boost that it’s giving him, it doesn’t seem to be that great of a fit. This is certainly the weakest of the paths that the episode follows, but it’s also the one given the least amount of time, too. There are barely any beats to this story, with it doing quite well considering what it has to cover.

Finally, the sinking of the Ark leaves Steve and Roger stuck on a lifeboat (with a wolf, thanks to Roger’s quick thinking). This feels like the sort of situation that could fuel an entire episode of the show (and I would still like to see that to happen, American Dad). In spite of Roger’s transformation into Buck Wetnap, (YouTube) famous survivalist, the three of them don’t fare too well in the middle of the ocean. There’s plenty of wonderful Steve and Roger squabbling, with Roger giving himself ocean madness pretty quickly by gorging himself on salt water. There’s also a visual of the wolf eating Roger’s dead face skin that irked me far more than it should have.

The trio of stories manages to dovetail together as everyone’s dysfunctions connect in a surprisingly plausible way. It’s nice to see the episode actually do the work to bring these together rather than some slap-dashed narration or cop-out to close everything off. The effort is there and it makes the idea of telling these three separate stories have all the more impact. All of this amounts to a strong return for American Dad with them again on the right foot as they begin to close out their season.

Oh, and Klaus is totally fine and chilling at home committing statutory, for those that had been holding their breath all week to see if he’s okay.

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Uungak, everyone. Uungak.


3.5 out of 5