This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad! Season 15 Episode 16
“People depend on my personas, Stan. It might not seem like it, but this town would fall apart without me.”
American Dad! has earned the luxury of being around for a very long time and it’s gotten to reach some landmark episodes throughout its run. In the past, the series has taken a sensationalized event TV approach towards pivotal installments, like the show’s 100th, 150th, and 200th episodes, some of which have literally ended the world. The stakes may be high in these episodes, but they’ve also all turned out to be some of the series’ most passionate, love letters to the fandom.
American Dad! continues this loving tradition with the show’s 250th installment, “Persona Assistant,” and the results are easily on par with the hijinks present in “100 A.D.” or “The Two Hundred,” yet a much more intimate story gets told this time around.
The introduction to “Persona Assistant” is as close to perfect as it gets and effortlessly illustrates just how difficult Roger’s life is due to the many personas that he juggles on a day-to-day basis in order to help the world go round. It’s actually a little surprising that the show has never done a sequence of this nature before, since American Dad! has explored the intricacies of Roger’s personas in various ways in the past. However, the arduous nature of all of this serves a very important point in “Persona Assistant,” and that’s that Stan will soon have to take on these roles and get a taste of Roger’s life/lives. It’s a fun and clever way to effectively establish the stakes for this episode.
The audience knows that Roger’s character-playing tendencies run rampant, but “Persona Assistant” makes it clear just how out of control and ridiculous they’ve become at this point in the series. His skills now range from everything to newborn babies, to prostitutes, to ostrich-riding serial killers, to entirely different species, which is still just a fraction of what’s on Roger’s docket here. All of this is eloquently capped off with a brilliant gag where Roger’s persona responsibilities are running him so ragged that he can’t even appear in Stan’s car during the show’s theme song to complete the verse. In spite of this, Stan remains unsympathetic to Roger’s busy schedule until he’s forced to experience it for himself.
Roger’s commitments become so cumbersome that a stress tumor takes him out of commission from his duties and Stan haphazardly saddles himself with Roger’s many personas. Naturally, Stan fails to take this job seriously at first, even though Roger stresses the butterfly effect-like consequences that will happen if his personas aren’t properly put to use. Stan gives up pretty quickly (it’s Roger’s incontinent jai alai instructor character that breaks the camel’s back here, FYI) and in almost no time at all Langley Falls plummets into disarray.
The Rube Goldberg-like chain of events that result in an all-out mob war is another concise sequence that rivals the episode’s introduction. Not only does Stan finally appreciate what Roger does, but in a rather poetic moment he comprehends that the beautiful version of his country that he proudly salutes every morning is a byproduct of Roger’s personas.
The final act sees Stan stoop to desperate measures to right these many wrongs before Roger realizes that he’s screwed up. These dire tactics include Stan pulling one of Roger’s retired personas out of commission, but not just any persona, the most objectionable character that’s ever graced the show, Ricky fucking Spanish. “Persona Assistant” keeps things fresh and fluid when the tables turn yet again. Stan as Ricky Spanish handles the mob problem with no difficulty, but then Stan succumbs to the dangers of this character and soon becomes the tyrant that holds Langley Falls hostage.
This all builds to a very impressive conclusion where Roger (as Jeannie Gold, no less) needs to stop his worst creation—and ostensibly take on himself—to make sure that the horrors of Ricky Spanish don’t completely decimate the town. This is already too good to be true before the whole showdown gets scored to Steve’s frenetic scatting. It’s a conclusion that truly underscores how powerful Roger’s personas are and that he’s the only one that can handle such a responsibility. The premise that this task is like some ancient prophecy or that Ricky Spanish is a dark curse that must be contained work pretty well for me. It gives Roger and his roles the proper credit that they deserve.
It would have been totally fine if this ode to Roger via Stan was the episode’s sole storyline, but American Dad! continues to play to its strengths here and delivers a B-story that revolves around Steve singing. If anything is worthy of detracting focus from Roger, it’s Steve’s golden vocal chords and “Persona Assistant” places him within the school’s jazz choir. The episode finds a surprising direction to take Steve’s new passion as it turns out that “Jazzma Attack” is rife with “swing enhancing” drug use.
This kind of storyline has popped up before in American Dad!, but there’s something so purely funny about Steve taking amphetamines or cocaine so he can scat faster during his solos. He turns to this dark place for such an innocent reason and it makes his fall from grace all the more hilarious and tragic. He tries to rat out his team and be the “good guy” here, but Principal Lewis’ insistence that Steve gives in to these influences makes for a twisted obstacle to knock him down.
“Persona Assistant” has some very satisfying stories at its core and some tremendous deep cuts for the longtime fans, but this is an episode that’s also rife with fantastic random non-sequitur gags, like Principal Lewis’ music room office, Klaus catfishing as an Alexa, or basically anything Francine says in this episode. The laughs are fairly constant through this one, which is kind of incredible for a show’s 250th installment.
On that note, “Persona Assistant” decides to make some lasting changes to American Dad! in honor of this milestone of an episode. Roger’s debilitating tumor gets removed, but it soon begins to grow into an odd baby version of Roger that the alien affectionately names, Rogu. The Smith family officially gains a new peripheral character and I’m already very pro Rogu. Give me more Rogu. Do a Gremlins riff with Rogu. And when Rogu’s not on screen, let other characters be asking, “Where’s Rogu?”
American Dad!’s 250th installment is a memorable episode in what’s already been a very consistent season for the show. More than anything it’s comforting to see that so far into the series’ run that it’s still capable of feeling fresh and finding new and creative ways to celebrate its characters. “Persona Assistant” is a strong mix of what’s made this show work so well for over a decade as well as an encouraging look towards the future.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.