This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad! Season 16 Episode 11
“Husbands are a lot of work…”
One of the major forces in tonight’s episode of American Dad! is the conceit that Stan and Jeff suddenly have aspirations to be frontiersman. This would normally feel like it comes out of nowhere, but it’s a premise that now feels more plausible after the recent run of Jeff-heavy episodes. Curiously, this is exactly the kind of storyline that would occupy Stan and Steve in an earlier season, so it’s interesting to see American Dad! evolve and that these older varieties of plots get to live anew through a fresh filter.
On that note, it’s also amazing to watch Hayley and Jeff slowly grow into a new version of Stan and Francine. It’s a brilliant area for a series to explore this deep in its run and it’s very rewarding watching it come to pass. I don’t think American Dad! would ever do a spin-off, but if Jeff and Hayley ever have kids, they’re now at the point where that show would operate as a nice parallel to the original series. Building off of that idea, “An Irish Goodbye” is a compelling mix of old and new as American Dad! remixes its central relationships to find fresh territory.
The placement of this episode is likely purely coincidental, but it strangely feels like it builds off of the ideas and relationships from last week’s “Wild Women Do.” The two episodes definitely touch on similar territory and both split up Stan and Jeff’s marriages, albeit in the previous episode’s situation it paired together Jeff and Francine, while “An Irish Goodbye” embraces the gender divide and lets boys be boys as girls go wild.
Both of the marriages within the Smith household come dangerously close to crumbling apart when Francine innocently boasts that she’s “better at being married” than Hayley is. Then when the constant responsibilities that surround Jeff begin to become too much, Hayley follows Francine on her mysterious disappearances to figure out how her mother stays so chipper despite Stan’s reckless antics.
Hayley soon learns that apparently the secret to marital bliss is hiding away at airport bar, an obscure pleasure that Francine illustrates to Hayley through a Cheers-esque song among other endorsements. It’s not a hard sell for Hayley to jump ship and abandon her man-baby of a husband in favor of Francine, but casual drinks in the middle of the afternoon is just the beginning for these two. Soon taking advantage of happy hour turns into petty domestic violence and other displays of machismo.
After years of practice, Francine understands the essential balance that’s required in this compartmentalization technique, whereas Hayley hits the alcohol abuse and responsibility avoidance a little too hard. When Francine tries to reinforce how important balance is here, the added pressure makes Hayley run away from marriage—literally—as she seeks solace in Ireland. Hayley tries to embrace her new surroundings, but it turns out that Ireland is full of sorrow and their happy hour is anything but.
Hayley gets some easy thrills, but with this chaos out of her system she’s ready to return home to Jeff. Hayley’s realization comes at the exact time that Francine and Jeff decide to give in and bring her back from Europe. This all makes for a rather pat conclusion and characters reach breakthroughs when it’s convenient for them to do so. In spite of the loose nature of these resolutions, Francine’s advice that all marriages are different and have unique balances is solid. There’s not one easy answer that can magically fix your marriage.
While Francine and Hayley are away finding themselves, this leaves Stan and Jeff to their own devices as they hit the wild outdoors. It’s honestly very endearing to see that the main aspect of a frontiersman that appeals to Jeff and Stan is the planning and imagination aspect behind it. They’re really both just big kids at heart and their version of the wilderness is basically a glorified sleepover as they camp in the backyard.
So when they’re both allowed to go unchecked here, in theory their wilder impulses should go out of control, but this Davey Crockett-friendly diversion mostly amounts to wacky set dressing for the episode. There are only pieces to this story, which leads to it feeling rather empty, but each moment of bonding between Stan and Rogu is a delight.
“An Irish Goodbye” stands out for the fact that it provides more insight into Hayley and Francine’s marriages than many previous episodes. The simple gag that Hayley and Jeff have a wedding album full of sample photo proofs from the photography studio is a perfect character detail for them. This is a very introspective installment of the series and it feels less interested in cramming in laughs than it does with telling a moving, honest story.
The episode opts to show the audience a gorgeous, sprawling sequence where Hayley reaches Ireland by boat, the wind catching her hair, as she tries to find clarity over her marriage, instead of depicting a scene where Stan and Jeff hunt Steve with a crossbow. “An Irish Goodbye’s” priorities may not please everyone, but it’s an episode that stands by its convictions and is technically stronger for it. It’s just an episode that I probably won’t choose to watch again over some of this season’s strictly funnier installments.
While this is a reasonably grounded episode for American Dad! standards—especially season sixteen American Dad! standards—the weirdest element in play here is the steady presence of Rogu (aka “Infernal Rogu, the King of Pranks”). He gets more screen time than Steve, Roger, and Klaus, which is a welcome surprise and most of the episode’s best lines go to him.
In this episode he’s mostly used as an unusual way to punctuate scenes, but his presence here is a strong example of how Rogu can work as a regular character. Just his bizarre appearance and cadence is enough to make every time he shows up feel memorable. Hopefully the show will get increasingly comfortable with subbing him in for Roger as time goes on.
“An Irish Goodbye” may not be the funniest or craziest episode of the season, but it addresses some fairly mature subject matter for the series. There’s never any real danger of either of these marriages staying apart at the end of the episode, but the malaise and frustration that both Francine and Hayley feel over their husbands is a very real, serious issue. Of course, these problems are all dressed up in musical numbers and schemes to hunt fur trappers, but it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of this episode is Francine and Hayley drinking and complaining about their spouses.
That’s not the kind of thing that American Dad! can afford to do often, but they at least make it feel significant by using it as a way for this mother and daughter to bond, arguably more than they ever have before in the series. Putting all of this into consideration, “An Irish Goodbye” isn’t the season’s funniest episode, but it is one of the their most layered entries and it tells a very cathartic, necessary story. Much like in a lengthy marriage, it’s the kind of pressure release that’s necessary for a series that’s run this long.
Now, I wonder if Clarke Michael Duncan and Klaus have gotten to spend any time together. Or maybe that’s just unhelpful generalizing.
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.