This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad!: Season 13, Episode 1
“Just because this is going to be a day that you’re going to forget doesn’t mean that it can’t be a day to remember.”
First thing’s first: we get another chapter in the long and storied saga of the Golden Turd! The relic’s venom has seeped into the political underpinnings of our nation now and its inclusion here automatically makes this episode a stellar installment. What’s even crazier is that all of this Golden Turd nonsense actually seems to be connecting back to the main plot and meeting some sort of resolution, which is truly incredible and something I never would have expected. This is a stupid running joke that has been going on for over a decade now, you guys, and it’s finally coming home to roost.
Now, Easter eggs and niche jokes aside, let’s get into the meat of things with this premiere. With American Dad! spanning over 200 episodes, over a dozen seasons, and two networks, you would think that any worthwhile contributions from the series would merely be a satisfying epilogue at this point. But what “Father’s Daze” and the consistent run of episodes from the past two seasons have proven is that stand out installments are not nice surprises, but actually par for the course with this show.
American Dad! has become so well defined and tuned into its voice, that much like how the later seasons of King of the Hill would operate, even average episodes of this series offer a certain level of satisfying sophistication. Even if this episode didn’t have a rather inspired plot to fall back on, there’s still plenty of sublime American Dad! tableauxs of weirdness to give it energy, such as all of the helping hands that tend to the Smiths when they need roadside attention.
The plot that “Father’s Daze” commits to is a solid riff on Groundhog Day, a concept which has become a growing trope within television shows. I’m not only a big fan of the Ramis film, but The X-Files entry “Monday” is one of my all-time favorite episodes and I just finished watching a Stan Against Evil that delightfully plays with the repetitious construct that ended up being the highlight of its season for me. Accordingly, I’m big on this sort of episode and have high standards for such an outing, which is why it’s exciting to report that American Dad! manages to offer up something original to the idea, with this not just being a rehash of better takes on the concept.
Stan comes to the stark realization that his family has overlooked Father’s Day this year, which means that they have therefore overlooked him, which is a wrong that simply cannot stand. In spite of the many priorities that have kept everyone busy (like corduroy, for instance), the Smiths agree to celebrate Father’s Day after the fact to appease Stan. Only Stan is mighty hard to appease.
Rather quickly into the installment we get the clever reveal that a Groundhog Day situation isn’t simply happening here, but rather Stan is forcing his family to continually repeat Father’s Day. Time is not actually resetting, Stan is just altering the makeup of his family’s brains courtesy of CIA mind wipe technology. It’s kind of the perfect American Dad!–style subversion to the trope, with other smart deviations taking place too, like Klaus being exempt of the mind wipe because he’s “not on Stan’s radar.” On the topic of Klaus, he continues to be in prime form here, whether it’s in pithy asides or factoring into the larger plot at hand. I’m just glad to see that the little guy is still killing it.
“Father’s Daze” wonderfully tows that line between humorous and disturbing as Stan continues to force his family (for five weeks) to become his ideal versions of themselves as they strive to give him the perfect day. We know that Stan is ultimately coming from some sort of warm place, but him keeping his family hostage in some sick situation where even the slightest glitch in behavior will cause him to start the whole thing over is deliciously dark territory. The episode is much more concerned with the humor (and montage potential) of this storyline, but it doesn’t hide how manipulative and damaging all of this is, too. Plus, it all plays really nicely under The Eels.
All of this sees Stan inevitably being forced to deal with shoddy behavior while still managing to turn things around and remind everyone of the good father and husband that he’s still capable of being. This episode gets the ability to hit the reset button but avoids it, reminding us of the strong union that the Smith family is capable of when pushed into a corner.
So in spite of any initial hesitations I might have had here, “Father’s Daze” is a promising start to yet another exciting season of American Dad!. Sometimes a boy in a volcano can end up just being a goat in a jacket, but this episode is the dead boy that it claims to be, you guys. And I can’t wait for more.