As a kid, Gonzo was one of my favorite Muppets. With this new series, he’s since lost a lot of stock with me because the writers never seemed to know what to do with him. He’s had very little spotlight so far and when he’s been focused on, it’s rarely been good. In one episode, in a huge misstep, they created a plot where the payoff was Gonzo being left depressed and lonely, which just felt wrong. He’s had bits here and there, but for the most part, he’s just a minor supporting character instead of one of the Muppet tentpoles.
“Going, Going, Gonzo” is like the show remembering who and what Gonzo is supposed to be. A musical number between Miss Piggy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes horribly wrong and during it, Gonzo gets tangled up in a rope, which flings him around a bunch and almost kills him (giving us some great puppeteering effects). Gonzo comes out of it feeling alive and we’re reminded that once upon a time, he was a wacky daredevil. He remembers the one stunt that he could never commit to and Kermit suggests that they do it on Piggy’s show.
Piggy isn’t exactly happy with Gonzo, making it a challenge to get her to approve. A normal sitcom would probably make that the big conflict, but it’s nothing more than an amusing roadblock. It instead evolves into something far more heartfelt as everyone shows great admiration for Gonzo embracing his dream. When confronted with the dangerous reality of his stunt, Gonzo has second thoughts, but can’t confide in anyone because of all the pressure.
Meanwhile, Scooter is a bit traumatized by that earlier incident with the rope and realizes that he too could have died. Scooter tries to get out of his comfort zone and live, which gives him a couple scenes with the Electric Mayhem. Honestly, there’s not much that even constitutes a plot in these scenes, but it doesn’t matter. Somehow Scooter and the band have become the two best parts of The Muppets, so just seeing them play off each other is a wonderful thing.
It’s also worthwhile because of a completely hilarious gag about a time machine.
Another high point is the running gag of Piggy Water, Piggy’s latest venture where she markets her own bottled water. It starts out rather innocent enough, but as the episode keeps moving, the “water” sounds more and more questionable, such as when Kermit notices that it somehow has 30 grams of fat in it.
While Joseph Gordon-Levitt kills it in the short time he’s around (even though Pepe comes very, very close to stealing one of the scenes), the other guest star Dave Grohl is what really makes “Going, Going, Gonzo” special. The series has had a handful of musical guests for the sake of playing on Piggy’s talk show, but they always feel tacked on and unimportant. Imagine Dragon and Pentatonix have been completely forgettable because all they do is play music and maybe have Statler and Waldorf nod their heads to it.
Grohl plays “Learn to Fly,” coincidentally one of my favorite songs, and for once, it’s more than just a performance. It works its way into the climax, which is one of the most emotional and goddamn uplifting scenes this series has given us to the point that not only do I love this episode as a whole, but I would recommend it as THE episode to watch to prove how far The Muppets has come along.
I was already pretty into giving this a five-star rating after that, but then the credits sequence hits and…guys, this episode is so amazing.
The Muppets is going to be retooled very soon and time will tell if that’s a good idea or not. It may be a harmful kneejerk reaction that ultimately kills it, but even if it does, it’s okay, because we have stuff like “Going, Going, Gonzo” to look back at.
Gavin Jasper is still giggling about Bobo’s Chicago bit despite the obvious punchline. Follow Gavin on Twitter!