This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 13 Episode 9
“This isn’t just about where we eat. It’s what holds us together. It’s our brand.”
So how’s everyone doing now that the dread hour is no longer upon us?
American Dad has established a strong cast of supporting characters through its many seasons. There are a number of residents of Langley Falls that are more than capable of shouldering the responsibility of anchoring a storyline, with even people like Greg and Terry getting the honor. So as glorious of a character as Roger is, it’s always nice when he can take a backseat in favor of someone else. In this case, it’s Steve group of friends that find themselves in the spotlight.
To have no table is to have no nation, and this is a tragedy that Steve comes to learn first-hand. Steve and company realize that through all their years as a group of Goonies-esque misfits, they’ve never had a unifying factor that has helped bond them together. Therefore, their friendship is meaningless and ranks as less than nothing in the social strata. Accordingly, Steve and friends become more determined than ever to “have a thing.” After trying to get by unnoticed for so long, the group is now desperate to somehow stand out. This all adds a nice dimension to Steve and his group of friends that ends up going a long way. These characters have had plenty of time to slowly grow and develop (Snot especially) over the decade plus years that they’ve been around, but this installment surprisingly touches on fresh ground. It ultimately might not be something that’s necessary, but it makes for a nice, honest meditation on the perils of popularity.
The fact that Roger—or rather, Twanderlust Lumpkin—is the one in charge of the “house of the curiosities” that Steve becomes enamored with is another smart play on the episode’s part. He remains a minor presence in the overall episode, but it’s a good way to somehow get him involved in what’s going on. It’s here that the concept of witchcraft is brought up, with it seeming like the natural way for Steve and crew to get over their issues and “find their thing.” They all take to witchcraft without really any hesitation on the matter. However, as the boys continue to abuse their magical powers, Principal Lewis reveals himself to be a witch hunter that’s determined to catch the new warlocks in town. A lot of this is effectively established through a fun montage (set to “Abra Cadabra”, no less). It makes you wonder if that time that Lewis saw that werewolf all those years ago might have merely just have been part of him carrying out his birthright.
With the immediate popularity that the gang’s boy witch status brings to the table, the true obstacle comes in the form of the forbidden sect of the supernatural, blood magic. It’s the tempting lure of this dark art that risks toppling everything over and jeopardizing what Steve and friends have been working so hard for.
What I loved about this main story of the episode is that it hit all of the beats of some supernatural-based young adult series like Vampire Academy. It’s a solid structure that works well and it never feels like things drag. Things also move in the encouraging direction where Steve is the one who the blood magic corrupts, with Snot, Toshi, and Barry needing to work together to bring him down. “The Witches of Langley” also never forgets that this struggle for power that has Steve wanting to take over the school, then Langley itself, all began over these guys having nowhere to sit at lunch. Complacency has turned these losers into gods.
As entertaining as all of this magic and mysticism is, the episode splits its focus slightly by standing in on a session of Stan and Klaus’ new podcast devoted to ‘90s bands. There’s really nothing more to this storyline than that. It’s an incredibly earnest detour that actually makes for a great juxtaposition to the chaos going on at Pearl Bailey High. While I got a kick out of this weird bonding session between Stan and Klaus, I can also see this stuff completely washing over some viewers. Not everyone is going to love a gag that is mostly just the duo reminding the world of bands like Better Than Ezra, Cowboy Junkies, Spin Doctors, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Luscious Jackson, Blind Melon, Veruca Salt, Soul Asylum, Soul Collective, and Soul Coughing (the ‘90s were a soulful time, evidently).
Unfortunately things get a lot clunkier by the end. The storylines inexplicably converge at a ‘90s festival for no other reason than it being convenient for the episode. Francine and Hayley are even there with their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it funnel cake “story.” Also, it’s a little jarring to go from seeing Stan and Klaus recording their first podcast episode to suddenly seeing them headlining a festival. Saying that Stan and Klaus had always been doing this podcast, but we just never saw any of it, would have been an easy fix.
Steve’s magical corruption gets so out of control that people like Barry and the lead singer of Semisonic end up murdered. Thank goodness there happens to be an “undo spell” in Roger’s book of witchcraft. “The Witches of Langley” is a frustrating entry about friendship in that it opens with a very strong focus, but ends up muddling things and getting lazy towards its end. That being said, it’s nice to get an episode that so thoroughly focuses on Steve’s friends rather than a member of the Smith family. Plus, any time that you can organically work “Closing Time” into an episode of your show means that you’re doing something right.
May we all find and obtain the Prescott of our lives. Whether it involves meat slicer-adjacent sex or not. Now it’s time to put on some Spin Doctors.