This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad! Season 16 Episode 15
“They guy you’re describing doesn’t sound like the dad I never knew!”
This season of American Dad has given Snot a lot of focus, but he’s still usually bundled together with Steve or in a group capacity. The recent “Mom Sauce” even focused entirely on the complex nature of Snot and Steve’s friendship. “Demolition Daddy” takes a risk by breaking Snot away from Steve and argues that he must be a pretty important character since he gets the A-storyline for this episode. It’s actually a worthwhile exercise to get an entry that looks at Snot’s father, albeit retrospectively, and uses Roger as the conduit to make all of this more palpable. “Demolition Daddy” cleverly avoids the typical pitfalls of an episode of this nature by dressing up this story about Snot’s father as a buddy effort that explores the curious pairing of Roger and Snot. “Demolition Daddy” doesn’t sound revolutionary, but succeeds in the execution and results of this dangerous, chaotic storyline.
American Dad is now at that point where it’s not ridiculous for Steve and his friends to deal with storylines where they drive. “Demolition Daddy” begins with the simple assignment of driver’s ed for Steve’s class, but Snot is way more wound up about this than anyone else. The others have their dads to teach them how to drive and Snot’s mother is completely indifferent to driving altogether. Snot’s concerned he might not have anyone to help him out here. But before you have time to say, “father surrogate,” Tuttle is there to help out because of course he is. Thankfully Tuttle’s out of the picture and turned into a casualty at a rate so expedient it shows maybe the series does know how overused he is.
With Tuttle gone, Roger slides in as Mr. Keebler, one of his characters that was apparently close to Snot’s father, Lonnie. Roger’s persona du jour didn’t just know Snot’s dad, but they drove together on the demolition circuit. Roger emphasizes to Snot that his father was one of the best and that derby driving should be natural to him. He opts to not just tell Snot more about his father, but help him become more like his father by coaching him in the subtle art of demolition derby.
Snot’s had a taste of Roger in the past, but he’s never had a chance to get that well acquainted with him and his ways. Once Roger latches on, Snot quickly gets a crash course on how the selfish alien operates. “Mr. Keebler” eventually gets around to trying to fulfill his promise to Snot, but it’s hardly at the top of his priorities. In fact, it’s exceptionally difficult to keep Roger focused on Snot’s task and his frustrations on this matter make for some of the most entertaining aspects of the episode. His freak out in the library is Roger at his absolute best and it’s a blessing that this character is still around to go on ego-fueled tirades.
This could have easily been an episode that was all about a demolition competition, but much more of “Demolition Daddy” focuses on how Snot wants to drive a car, but can’t. The likelihood that Snot will actually make any progress on his quest comes down to his ability to locate the Red Rammer, a derby car this his father left behind to him. Even here, it’s his friends that help him out as opposed to Roger, who just completely abandons Snot. The revelation of what has happened to this important vehicular heirloom is another one of many excellent visual gags that are featured in this episode, but it’s all in the service of the divide that grows between Snot and his mother as he spends more time with Roger.
Snot’s mother has kept some things away from her son that she probably shouldn’t have, but in spite of any wrongs that she commits, she’s still been a constant source of support for Snot. That’s never clearer than at the end of the episode when she’s the one that’s actually there for her son when it counts. Snot’s journey to connect more with his father via Roger is important, but in a lot of ways “Demolition Daddy” is just as much about Snot’s relationship with his mother. It’s a very strong resolution to his vulnerable story that forces him to invoke the best traits of his father while he works together with his mother.
Snot may temporarily gain a father figure in this episode, but when Steve broaches the topic of driving to his own dad, Stan can’t flee the scene quickly enough. In lieu of Stan’s absence, Hayley finds herself stuck teaching Steve how to drive, albeit with highly selfish stipulations in place. Steve also must learn the basics of driving while he’s behind the wheel of Hayley’s massive Sub Hub truck as she transports highly volatile material.
This unconventional take on driver’s ed is a lot of fun, if only for just how cavalier Hayley is towards everything while Steve overthinks each action and struggles to follow her advice. This is not an easy process for Steve, but against these intimidating odds he does eventually gain confidence in the driver’s seat. The episode gains lots of mileage out of Steve and Hayley’s clashing personalities, but the erratic nature of the universe provides even more laughs. There’s a sequence where a myriad of predators of increasing severity try to sabotage Steve’s drive across a rickety bridge and it’s perhaps the funniest gag of the episode. It’s this kind of irrational humor that American Dad does so well. Steve’s tumultuous adventure to learn how to drive nicely dovetails with Snot and Roger’s car-based exploits and explosively ties everything together.
“Demolition Daddy” is a strong example of American Dad stretching out of its regular comfort zone as it lets a supporting character lead the action. It’s an installment that effectively takes an emotional story, but then pushes its humor to extreme levels. A state trooper gets pancaked by a truck and a yokel dives right into an alligator’s mouth and characters barely bat an eye. The absurdism balances the very real personal crisis Snot is caught up in nicely. It’s also nice that “Demolition Daddy” doesn’t eventually reveal that Roger is lying about Snot’s dad or tries to reverse what this episode establishes. It is well within Roger’s playbook, but after nearly 300 episodes, it feels overdue to finally get some actual information on Snot’s father. “Demolition Daddy” gets everything right and delivers a focused entry with heart. Hopefully one day Stan will get to hear the story.
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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.