This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 16 Episode 18
“I’m not selling lemonade! I’m leaving—forever!”
When American Dad started, Klaus was a bit of an afterthought. He initially felt more like the result of the series’ fear of straying from Family Guy’s formula, a watered down version of their talking dog more than he is a necessary component of the show. However, over the years Klaus’ functionality has gradually changed and evolved to the point where he’s turned into American Dad’s stealth MVP in recent seasons (although Rogu could give him a run for his money).
“No Weddings and a Funeral” gives him the most attention that he’s received in years and easily becomes one of the definitive episodes—if not the definitive episode—for the character. It’s also easily one of the show’s best installments, period. The episode is both a roast and a celebration of the Smith family’s weird talking fish and even those who loathe the aquatic character are likely to enjoy this tribute to the fringe family member.
It begins in a hateful place. Everyone is uncharacteristically mean towards Klaus to the point that it feels like abuse. It’s a rough display, but that’s the point because Klaus gets pushed to his breaking point and decides to leave the family. On some level Klaus is clearly hoping that his family objects and tries to stop him, but their disinterested attitude towards his exit is emblematic of their behavior towards him as a whole. Klaus leaves and the episode immediately flashes forward 15 years to inform everyone of Klaus’ death.
American Dad is no stranger to episodes that surprisingly break from the norm and tell stories that span several years—or even decades—to fully articulate what they’re trying to say. “Fartbreak Hotel” is perhaps the best example of this as Francine is able to build an entire impressive career over the 10 years the episode spans. However, “No Weddings and a Funeral” goes even further and turns the clock forward fifteen years in order to hammer in its point about Klaus’ role to the Smith family.
As much as this episode is about the loss of Klaus, it leans in hard to the time jump angle and presents very different versions of everyone in the Smith family. Hayley and Jeff have a gaggle of children, Roger has “come out” as an alien, Steve is ripped and the founder of a robotics company, Stan is borderline homeless, and Francine has remarried Toshi. The installment also doesn’t allow time for Klaus’ mistreatment to build up. His blow up happens within the opening minutes of the episode and the leap into the future takes place while the credits are still rolling. “No Weddings and a Funeral” really wants to have some fun, deviate from the norm, and use a normal story about feeling neglected to explore matured versions of the show’s characters. This is a fun temporary facelift for the series and it really plays into the future angle with robots, floating cars, humanoid deer, and the works. Some of this definitely feels farfetched, but considering The Simpsons was doing future episodes in their sixth season and American Dad waited this long to play that card, they should be allowed to go a little nuts here.
This glimpse into the future reveals that the Smith family has fallen on harsh times and whether they want to admit it or not, Klaus may have actually been the glue that held their family together—even if that was just in the form of a sponge for abuse. Klaus’ funeral allows the family to reunite after their lives changed and Klaus’ final act here can help heal their wounds and help them regain what they’ve lost. It’s a very beautiful concept that’s not only deep for American Dad, but also a healthy reminder of how the loss of anyone can act as an unexpected catalyst to bring people back together. There are some very touching scenes where Hayley and Steve and Francine and Stan slowly, naturally reconnect and remember that they’re a family and they’re almost too poignant for a show like this.
It’s a little surprising how painful and bleak the conditions around Klaus’ death are. He goes far from peacefully into that good night and his demise entails Hepatitis C, war trauma, and parasitic moon mites from the Moon Wars. Again, the point here is to be as tragic as possible to hopefully tug at the heartstrings of the Smiths, but they remained nonplussed. They’re borderline forced to give the fish a funeral, hoping that the act of reflection will trigger something in them. It’s eventually revealed that there are severely ulterior motives in play to all of this and a surprising twist that drastically changes the tone of the episode’s second half. The episode continues to subvert expectations when Roger instantly figures out what’s afoot, but decides to go along with it so he can double down on the prank at the funeral. It’s perfectly in character and also allows the episode to have it both ways with its twist.
Usual heavy hitter, Tim Saccardo, once again delivers a winner of a script that presents a layered story that’s incredibly funny and has a lot of weight to it. It broaches some emotional topics, but the dialogue is some of the funniest of the season (I’m still laughing over Stan’s, “My life isn’t a fairytale—this is a ferret tail”). Saccardo did a lot of strong work on Community and this episode does feel reminiscent of something the dark comedy would do. Using a funeral to both bring people together and tear them apart is a storyline that they also put to great use. “No Weddings and a Funeral” is a much more complicated episode and has a very American Dad-like spin on the premise, but it’s always satisfying when the series can pull off an episode of this magnitude. The only real missed opportunity is that there’s no Rogu here and a look at him as a teenager presents so many possible opportunities. I can only assume that the reason here is that this episode was perhaps written much earlier in production during a pre-Rogu time. Other than that, everything else tracks with the show’s history.
In the end, it’s a mutual disrespect that brings the fractured Smith family back together and it comes at a time where teamwork is more important than ever. Everything somehow goes in an even crazier direction and manages to organically include a riff from Voltron in here on top of everything else. The conclusion surely feels rushed in a few respects (did Klaus fake that first death? Did he transfer himself into a different goldfish?), but the episode prioritizes what’s actually important. It’s also extremely satisfying to see this not turn out to be a dream or near death-induced hallucination, but that this is assumedly canon fifteen years down the road. Of course, for that to make sense this episode would need to chronologically take place last, since Klaus will be around next week, but it’s probably best to not think about it too hard. “No Weddings and a Funeral” is thoughtful, funny, and weird, which is everything that American Dad should be.
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.