American Dad: The Shrink Review

In an unpredictable American Dad, the Smiths shrink down to flee the world’s many dangers.

“They don’t call me the shrink ray because my name’s Ray and I’m a shrink!”

Death is everywhere (and so are expiring coupons). It’s unavoidable. We’re all just a faulty parachute away from the end of our lives—or coming into a second parachute. This is hardly a revelation to Stan, who is knee-deep in death at all times, and we’ve seen him going through the motions of killing before too. However this time it’s not the malaise of mortality that gets to him, but rather just how random and vindictive the world can be.

This attitude and resulting facial tick are due to Stan nearly dying in an ironic car accident, but instead ends up witnessing said accident. Afterwards he’s feeling more than a little shaken up and therapy seems to be the CIA sanctioned answer to his “psycho” behavior, much to his chagrin.

The concept of Stan in therapy has a lot of potential behind it (especially when Ted Danson is the one voicing Dr. Ray Petit), almost to the point that It feels like it could be a season arc rather than just the plot for a sole episode. Stan’s opinion of himself and his behavior has been unwavering throughout American Dad’s run, so to see it all get put under the microscope and forced to be looked at is deeply appealing. Weirdly though, barely any time is spent on the therapy couch, with instead Stan turning to the next logical safety net: building a fake Langely Falls in his basement, shrinking himself down, and living his life chaos-free down there.

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It’s a pretty absurd plot and feels reminiscent of Stan’s retreat to a moonbounce many seasons ago, but this one again takes a different turn when Stan shrinks his family down to live with him in this madness. Watching Stan becoming increasingly unhinged about how this fake world is a feasible future while his family moans the opposite is a lot of fun. Just when you think you know where all of this is heading, another left turn is taken when some ants gets super charged and wreak havoc on this miniature world. Even if Stan can create a bubble free of danger, that doesn’t mean danger can’t find a way of getting inside.

Even if a lot of this episode feels hackneyed and heavy-handed, it’s constantly juggling a lot at once and wildly changing what it’s up to. Even it’s final moments are left with a number of great surprises, like the fate of Ray Petit (now you get that name, huh?), and that Stan’s solution to all of this is to shrink down even further. It also doesn’t hurt that the effects done with Stan’s fake town when the Smiths are shrunk down into it are really impressive. It’s some really fancy two-dimensional work going on.

Roger and Klaus is a weirdly reliable pairing the few times it’s been resorted to and when you throw in wine as the equalizer how can you go wrong? Granted, we’ve seen plotlines before where Roger is bonding with other members of the family via wine, but here there’s a different energy to it. Amidst all of this Honey, I Shrunk the Kids aping, after Klaus and Roger (in Paul Giamatti from Sideways garb) get banned from a wine tasting, they take it upon themselves to be become the most renowned wine tasters in the area to shame everyone around them.

But that’s about it.

We don’t see them enacting this revenge at all, and really, a problem that’s been happening all season is a number of B-plots just not having a resolution to them.  The shrinking business is more than enough to keep us busy, but I’d at least have liked a little more to this, even if seeing Roger confuse milk for wine was great.

In the end, this makes for a rather strange episode, but one that goes for the swings it takes and ends up working for the most part. And after everything, you can’t control if that parachute fails on you or not. You can be as prepared as you want to be, or just as irresponsible, but it doesn’t change what comes down to fate in the end. After Stan can finally embrace that he’s able to leave his tiny town and return to reality.

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3.5 out of 5