Lizzo Assists The Simpsons Season 34 Finale With a Dark Twist

The Simpsons’ 750th episode, “Homer’s Adventures Through the Windshield Glass,” is an ambitious ride with a skid too many.

THE SIMPSONS: Time stands still after Homer crashes his car and flies through the windshield. As his life flashes before his eyes, a magical friend (voiced and sung by Lizzo) helps Homer learn the secret truth about this marriage in the "Homer's Adventures Through the Windshield Glass" season finale episode of THE SIMPSONS airing Sunday, May 21 (8:00-8:31 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Guest voice Lizzo. THE SIMPSONS
Photo: 20th Television

This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.

The Simpsons Season 34 Episode 22

For their 750th episode, The Simpsons pulls out all the stops, and adds a dangerous curve, but never quite gets in full gear. “Homer’s Adventures Through the Windshield Glass” is ambitious, cramming 750 characters into the opening sequence, jamming with Lizzo to the beat of a slap-happy Homer in the end, and spending the creamy middle somewhere between heaven and hell. It is a very creative episode, teasing a glimpse of paradise which turns into the purgatory of a lukewarm season finale which was cooked on all burners.

While couch gags can foretell mediocre episodes, the full opening sequence, complete with a chalkboard gag, is always a welcome sight. The cramming of all the Springfield residents, characters, and celebrity guests, is expertly layered. Even Homer’s crash through the garage reveals greater wonders as Fat Tony and Mr. T can be seen through the splinters. It foreshadows what Homer sees in the shards of glass which propel the story.

The episode opens in a mystery, Homer leaves a bank because “rage belongs on the road,” and then tears through Springfield bemoaning something awful Marge did, which the audience doesn’t know. He crashes his car, and is led through the last moments of his life by Maggie’s toy elf, Goobie-Woo, voiced by Lizzo. She will reveal all truths, and replace outer rage with inner peace. Lizzo is a calming, empowering, reasonable presence as Goobie-Woo, which is too much to do for the comic balance.

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Just when you think Homer’s worst troubles would be the trauma of losing a John Travolta-shaped potato chip, an extreme twist in the plot turns the episode very dark. The image of Homer’s accident is quite frightening, and the line about how Ralph will always be seeing it in his dreams would be extremely sad, if it weren’t Ralph saying it. His character is a long-standing enigma, with mysteries buried deep within his shallow understandings. The idea that he knows about Homer’s trip to Hell and back ties in with some of his other visions from past seasons. But Ralph, as the epitome of innocent childhood discovery, is equally useful delivering a punchline no one else could pull off.

Production-wise, the installment is worthy of a landmark episode. The animation to Lizzo’s song is an extreme departure from the standard, adding whimsical flow to the movement in particular. The artwork in general makes for some very classy comic cinematography, though I still prefer my Simpsons more raggedly rendered. The sequence in Hell is an extremely detailed, gag-filled trip further into Homer’s subconscious. It has all the usual suspects, plus Frank Grimes.

Homer skips the five stages of grief for the seven deadly sins, and takes the highway to hell, only slowing to wait in line for his eternal-burning-in-a-river-of-blood punishment. The gag about waiting in line, along with having to walk with his father-in-law, as proof of being truly in hell fits perfectly with Homer’s character. Homer’s learning that “other people have points” is an old adage, repurposed one too many times. At least his number on line is 666.

The exchange program between Heaven and Hell is a masterful morsel of cultural commentary: New sins for old on an express train with two stops. Shakespeare is newly charged with using blackface in Othello, but his admission of never having written his own works is the kind of confession which would have gotten him condemned with laughter all the way back to 1989. It is a tried-and-true traditional recurring through line in The Simpsons’ version of Hell, like Richard Nixon having to be reminded of “all those things he did” to be sentenced there.

Marge’s dad, Clancy Bouvier, becomes a villain, scapegoat, and a canon-killer, which is the major problem for this reviewer. It is good to get a fuller picture of the Bouvier family matriarch, especially as he chokes down a check-cashing scam appetizer in hell, but it throws so much of the Simpson family’s past into order when it’s always been about chaos. The only possible clue we may have gotten to this came from the very first episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” In that Christmas extravaganza, we see that Marge does indeed hide a jar of money in her hair, but the family still has to rely on Santa’s Little Helper to lose his way into their hearts, because they couldn’t afford anything else.

The retroactive safety net negates so much about the Simpsons background. From struggling in the bowling alley to underperforming at the nuclear plant, to whatever Homer is doing now, the nearness of financial collapse is a driving force for the show. Taking it away with a trust fund stipend spoils that. It does explain a lot, but it shouldn’t. I hope this is all in Homer’s subconscious and not new canon. This is two weeks in a row The Simpsons has erased family history. It is disconcerting. Marge’s excuse for hiding the money is also a copout.  Homer’s epiphany, identifying through Lisa’s future loser boyfriend, is similarly weak.

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The concept of the episode is extremely far reaching, the plot has a strong promise, but skims when it should dive. The funniest part of the episode is the closing credits, which is sadly, very often the case. Lisa may seem cruel and indifferent to Homer’s woes, but the line about teaching Bart decimal points is classic Simpsons. Written by Tim Long, and directed by Bob Anderson, “Homer’s Adventures Through the Windshield Glass” has all the makings of a classic episode, and takes extreme chances, both in content and in creativity. But for all the exquisite attention to detail in the presentation, the story stays too close to the safety of the surface.


3.5 out of 5