This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad!: Season 12, Episode 13
“My dead husband buys—I’m sorry. My dead husband used to buy our steaks. As I said, I’m a widow.”
The conceit of Stan going away on CIA missions has been such a predominant factor of American Dad! that it’s never really been put under the microscope before. That makes it a reasonably rich area for the show to finally dig into, with this episode going to some pleasantly unexpected places in the process. With Stan busy away on a mission developing a fluidly growing sexuality in the name of our nation, this sees Francine and Roger being left conspicuously alone.
“Widow’s Pique” is for the most part a large celebration of Francine and Roger. We learn that whenever the two of them find themselves “alone” like this they like to play “The Widow Game” which takes them all over town mourning/reaping the benefits of their dead husbands. This is exactly the sort of ego-boosting, self aggrandizing behavior that Roger and Francine live off of and even if we’ve never seen them “widowing” before, it’s a worthy addition to their twisted friendship.
We’re treated to some wonderful scenes of Francine and Roger pushing the goodwill of their widowdom as far as it will take them. Rather than tow any sort of line here the episode just decides to drown you in this nonsense, literally throwing you in a barrage of the word “widow” where it almost takes on a Smurf-esque polydefinition. It gets to the point where “widow” is nearly every other word that’s being said and it’s just beautiful stupidity. Plus there’s even some poignancy present as the storyline provides some commentary on society’s uneasiness with the bereaving.
So it’s kind of perfect when the realization that Francine’s not-dead husband can actually die while on these missions sinks in and begins to change her devil-may-care, Lambo’ cruising tune. There’s also some stylized fantasy sequences from both Francine and Roger involving loss (tacos, in Roger’s case) that also add a little extra to the storytelling.
The only setback that this episode faces is that its placement is so close to “Anchorfran” but these two episodes really couldn’t be more different. Some heavy Francine plotting is never a bad thing in my opinion, especially when it takes a turn for the serious. So to see this episode morph into a story about Francine attending a widow support group over her very real fears involving Stan’s mortality, it actually stumbles into being a really touching plot. Meanwhile Roger’s wallet stealing antics act as the proper release valve to all of this somberness.
The episode continues to go down a very Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore-like rabbit hole where Francine and Roger embrace self sufficiency and find quaint jobs in case the impossible happens to their significant others. Francine goes one step further from just worrying about this grave possibility to actually living it in order to beat this fear.
Elsewhere, the rest of the Smith family is swiftly dealt with in some very on-point side plotting. There’s something eerily satisfying about Steve confidently striding in full regalia as he barks out, “We’re gonna wrestle in the basement!” to his mother. Naturally, Steve and friends are more interested in the pomp and pageantry of the “sport” rather than actually inflicting any pain onto one another. Also, if you’ve thought that this season has had a lack of Klaus acting as a Michael Buffer surrogate, then this episode will do much to right that wrong for you.
Look, all of this stuff is totally innocent and fun, and who doesn’t get a kick out of Steve “The Total Package” Smith proudly showboating in character? It just doesn’t amount to much more than that. It’s some endearing fluff that had me grinning the entire time, but it’s still just some boys pretending to play pretend. Even when some actual danger is injected into the scenario in the end courtesy of the always-reliable, always-erratic Principal Lewis, it still feels pretty light. That being said, I really don’t care how low impact this is because these boys shrilly barking at each other while Steve audibly rubs the Championship belt is just too much fun. I could have watched an entire episode of this high drama pageantry.
We also learn that Hailey is occupied setting up DirecTV all episode, which is honestly a plot that I could have stood for more interruptions from. Coming in or out of act breaks would have been perfect to gradually check in on Hailey’s growing apathy.
The episode rides out on a pretty messy Mad Men motif that tries to pair itself with Stan’s moment of clarity towards Francine. Enough is already happening at this point that to steep another sort of homage on top of all of this feels quite precarious and as if more material was cut out. In spite of the somewhat complicated nature of this conclusion, it ultimately comes down to Stan just empathizing with his wife (big surprise) to learn how much his life-risking missions also affect her. Then tie a bow on it all with some pretty intense violence and you can call it a day.
“Death is natural. It’s our reactions that are unnatural. That’s true but it’s not funny,” Roger tells us. That might be the case, but “Widow’s Pique” makes a strong claim that those unnatural reactions can at least be funny. The episode balances this dynamic, making jokes and actually having something to say, and is a deeper story accordingly
Now let’s all light up a Blimpie’s and let off some steam.