This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 12 Episode 15
“This guy you’ve got the balls to call a nerd? God.”
Full disclosure, this is probably my least favorite American Dad episode of the season. Right from the start where Stan is trying to steer the whole Smith family to church for Easter (the search for perfect overalls be damned), things feel a little off. It’s a peculiar smell that only grows stronger as the episode goes on, and by the time you’ve reached the end, it’s impossible to ignore how rotten things are.
Early in the episode we see Steve’s promotion to actual church from kiddie Sunday school, with this schism being what throws everything into disarray. The episode’s decision to fall back on religion and this prototypical version of Stan feels like the fodder from an episode from over a decade ago in the show’s run. That doesn’t mean that returning to such a well after so long can’t work for a series—especially if the point is to highlight how much the show has changed over this span of time. But as Stan blindly explains that his endless faith in religion is what allows him to be the awesome individual that he is, this really begins to feel like some lost season two script. Especially when Hailey (and Steve) are the voice of reason on the other side of the shouting match.
All of this leads to the push of Stan and Steve reading the Bible together, with Stan being a virgin on the matter. Stan’s continual ignorance towards the Bible is more so a conduit for a creative take on Bible history, complete with an impressive new animation style veneer to complete the image. It’s funny that it was only last week that I was talking about how “Nova Centauris-bugh’s” lack of embracing a stylistic departure in animation is what was holding it back. Well that is quickly made up for here as this School House Rock-mixed-with-Greek-classicism art style immediately gives the episode a distinct look. Once more this is an idea that would work better in the earlier run of the show, with it feeling like the series is trying to find its voice rather than the alternative, that it’s running out of ideas.
It’s a cool little detour for the episode to take, but one that feels more like an incomplete thought. There’s a real moment where it feels like the entire episode might be presented in this fashion, with this being the way of the show delivering some “American Dad’s Bible Stories” anthology. Thankfully that’s not the direction that the episode goes in, but it leaves this new visual flair so quickly, it nearly feels more awkward than constructive. I suppose that I’m still glad that it’s there in the end—the mark of a show that’s always trying to be creative—but I wish that the episode somehow found more to do with this.
After Steve plunges holes all over Stan’s Ark of belief, Roger tries to convince him that this is hardly a bad thing and that living a Godless life of no consequence is hardly as depressing as It sounds. Stealing welcome mats soon becomes a slippery slope to a world full of debauchery. With Stan’s void still an aching hole that’s struggling to be filled by anything—not even Suckboy Tony—Steve takes it upon himself to fix his father and get him believing again.
The final act of the episode sees Steve coming across an ocean liner that’s actually as large as Noah’s Ark would need to be. It acts as a clever way of showing Stan that if that aspect of the Bible can be true, then why can’t the rest of it? It’s then only a hop, skip, and a leap of logic before Stan is heading to Korea, convinced that he’s the “New Noah” and has some humanity to save.
Look, American Dad has gone to some pretty outlandish places before, but this just didn’t work for me from the jump. I mean, do you know a single person out there who’s favorite movie is Evan Almighty? It also doesn’t help that storylines like this are designed to make you think your protagonist is crazy before ultimately showing you how right they are, as ridiculous as that might be. With the larger plot machinations of “Daesong Heavy Industries” pretty much telegraphed with each new development, it doesn’t help the already struggling episode, as many wrenches as it may try and throw into things. This is an episode that is constantly trying—the fight sequence at the end set to old Sunday School music is a great, misguided example—but it’s too far off course to save things.
The fact that the episode chooses to make this a two-parter for whatever reason—a decision that’s only been done once before on the show—makes all of this more confusing. This is hardly the sort of idea to stretch across two episodes, especially when we know that the world isn’t really ending here (probably). In a season that has been as strong as this one, it’s understandable that there will be some clunkers, I only hope that next week’s “Daesong Heavy Industries Part II” is more of a step in the right direction.