This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 29 Episode 9
The premise promised (“That can’t be right,” Groucho Marx might say) by the title of The Simpsons season 29, episode 9, “Gone Boy,” would have made for a far more original offering from the series. The book and film Gone Girl was about a missing wife, who lived such a duplicitous double life, no one wanted to believe the most obvious suspect, her husband, was indeed the killer, had only she died. Bart Simpson lives a duplicitous life and everyone would believe his mortal nemesis would have had no choice but to kill the boy. Sideshow Bob was indeed spotted near the crime scene, associating with known rakes, of the boy, Bart Simpson, he vowed to kill. Bart, of course, is a master prankster and we wouldn’t have had that much sympathy for him until he turned up again.
But what we get is the merging of two previous episodes, classic they may be, that somehow misses the magic of each. The Simpsons hasn’t opened with such peril since all of Springfield thought little Timmy fell down a well. When everyone found out it was Bart, no one cared. There is a major difference tonight, as Bart falls down a manhole cover. At least he has a hard landing,
The episode opens with Christmas couch gag. The people of the little town of Springfield are actually Elves, which might explain why Homer is later insulted when a Rent a Dent dealer calls him a “Santa” for bringing back a car with a quarter of a tank more than he left with. Homer would rather burn than turn in anything at a loss and proceeds to siphon the proceeds the American way: on the road, taking hints from Ferris Bueller.
Bart drops into a forgotten missile silo, so old the unidentifiable president on the film reel talks about doing things for the country instead of to it. When all hope seems lost, he finds a crank-phone and immediately makes a crank phone call, because what else would they be made for? Bart makes his emergency call to Moe’s Tavern. Not because he knows Homer can usually be found there, but because he also knows that Moe left his testicles hanging around there somewhere. The phone cord burns out before he can make a second call. When does finally tape up the wires and gets through to Marge, he pauses for a quick wise ass remark which takes just long enough to register for the phone cord to burn out again.
He’s playing to his strengths. Ten-year-old Bart Simpson is a “self-proclaimed underachiever,” according to News Anchor Kent Brockman, calling in the early results on the boy’s demise. Although Bart puts together a fairly ingenious trampoline escape trick, he is undone by poor government workmanship, confirming a short lifetime’s lessons in the futility of success. Even when faced with a lifetime of powdered milk and dried apple shavings, Bart knows in his heart that nothing good ever comes from trying.
At least Bart could rely on his best friend Millhouse. Desperate enough to find the missing Bart on the power of loneliness alone, Millhouse immediately springs into action. He drops and shatters his cellphone and glasses in a passive aggressive gesture of defiance after Bart didn’t complement him on his new haircut. The entire town goes on the search mission until the news call early returns. But once Marge realizes Bart is alive and sassy, the people who mean something to the Simpsons offer the most meaningless help, prayer.
Evil isn’t a choice, It is something we are born with or grow into. One day we’re crooning educational tunes on Zoom! and the next, we can be torturing little blue-haired boys with light operetta. Sideshow Bob has grown a lot in the years since he stuck his big feet in Apu’s Kwik E Mart to frame Krusty the Clown for robbery. He’s tried to kill, save and kill his arch nemesis multiple times, learning a new verse of light operetta for each thwarted attempt. Attempted murder, as if that’s even a crime. A lot of Sideshow Bob’s growth can be attributed to his jailhouse psychiatrist, who is expert at turning psychopaths into sociopaths.
Sideshow Bob is not without non-murderous talents, though he uses them for lethal effect. Only a man with the former clown sidekick’s dexterous physique and shoe size could turn two keys specifically designed to be impossible for one man to turn. I don’t know why he didn’t insert each key into its own sequence-lock before stretching himself out across the missile launcher. He does put a lot of effort into the presentation. There is always a mop in the shape of Sideshow Bob’s hair subtly hidden in these episodes.
Sideshow Bob episodes should be treated with almost the same care as Halloween or Christmas episodes. Kelsey Grammer created a one-of-a-kind, iconic cartoon character, filled with the wit and goofy elegance only he, or maybe John Lithgow, could bring it. The patter should be served like pate. In tonight’s episode Sideshow Bob could have been played by his brother Niles, or even Ted Danson, whose subversive devil on The Good Place could run a shop in Springfield without irony.
Sideshow Bob does get in some in-character quips. He differentiates between The New Yorker and New York magazine by calling one a gossip rag of the glitterati, and the other a dinosaur that hasn’t been relevant since William Shawn’s son was born. Sideshow Bob is sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, but on the bright side, morning psychiatric schedules get cleared out quickly on death row. Ultimately, Sideshow Bob will live out all his lives and retire to a lighthouse where he will be the brightest bulb.
“Gone Boy” brings on silly subtle commentary when hunters go hunting with lawyers. In the beginning of the episode, the hunter spots Homer, wailing for his lost son, but can’t quite get a good shot lined up. Besides, the unidentifiable creature in the woods looks like it’s pregnant, and the hunter’s keen sense hides the sensitivity to wait until whatever it is go give birth so he can shoot the whole litter. A fantasy sequence entitled “Dial T for Therapist” conjures the storyboard openings of Alfred Hitchcock movies, with a Simpsons twist.
The Simpsons must have an eye towards winding down. Last week’s episode saw the day coming when Homer will quit drinking. This week, Sideshow Bob comes to the realization he no longer wants to kill Bart. That is until the next time he wants to kill Bart, because he’s come to this conclusion before. Though some of that might have to do with his regrettable “Die Bart Die” tattoo.
“Gone Boy” is basically the merging of two episodes, when Bart fell down the well, trying to retrieve the lame walkie talkie that caused a great prank and the episode when Sideshow Bob threatened to nuke Springfield unless television was eradicated. Somehow “Gone Boy” only captured the most tepid moments of each.
“Gone Boy” was written by John Frink, and directed by Rob Oliver.
The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest stars: Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob, Shaquille O’Neil as himself, and Valerie Harper.
Chalkboard: Snow angels are not frozen hoboes.