This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 30 Episode 23
The Simpsons, season 30, Episode 23, “Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion,” ends the year with the bland vibration. The New Age movement is a watered down white-lighty amalgamation of esoteric thought glearned by dark occult practitions throughout the ages. While it is certainly ripe for vegan ribbing, it doesn’t make quite a strong enough impression for serious laughs.
We get a sense of this in some foreshadowing when Mr. Burns decides he is going to cut children’s health care for his employees. The Springfield Nuclear Plant lost money for the first time in its corporate history and Smithers explains it is because socially conscious energy providers have gone solar and consciously evil firms are fracking. New Age practitioners usually claim to work in the light. But things are more dangerous in the dark, and also funnier. Making fun of New Age is fun, but it doesn’t last because it’s like abusing a plushy toy. Whereas evil financial wizards like Mr. Burns can call on blessed America and release hounds with little flags on their heads to dispense his employees.
The early part of the episode includes some pointed social commentary. Burns’ cutting of children’s health care couldn’t have come at a less opportune moment. Government healthcare was killed to pay for corporate tax cuts, Homer says, before pointing out how Anne Coulter sounds like Marge with a cold. Blaming Marge’s support is a retread of many Homer’s memory mishaps, but also is a gag on arguments in many homes in Springfield as no one can remember what they thought they supported in whatever political history preceded this one. But it quickly moves into an all-too-short sequence of silliness as Bart starts exhibiting side effects from his new generic ADD medicine, including musical flatulence and something that could only be described as “dolphining.” The Simpsons have used this gag before. Between recurring gag and Dr. Nick’s new offer of cash 4 skin, it appears the episode will follow through on the gags. But no. The cosmos is indifferent to us all.
Marge’s search for an alternative medicine for Bart leads to a cosmic conversation with a new age crystallizer, played by Illeana Douglas. Douglas is a good choice as she hypnotized Kevin Bacon, and most of the audience, in the 1999 American supernatural horror film Stir Of Echoes. Sadly none of the suspense is on display at FAO Quartz. The biggest threat to Marge’s new endeavor is Piper Paisley, voiced by guest actor Jenny Slate, whose Botox hides a wealth of negative energy.
The crystals work immediately. Bart gets As on his tests, shares space on the refrigerator door Lisa’s perennial works. The word about his educational turnaround gets around. Nelson’s mom finally finds an alternative to drinking. After Nelson gets an A on a paper propelled by the crystals she bought from Marges, she decides snorting earth’s little wonders is better than the liquid diet she’s been dipping into. Ned pushes the whole thing off as Pagan hogwash, but is impressed with the results. The Springfield parents find a new fad they can quickly abandon.
I don’t know who else winces during animated comedies, but when the new age clerk Sharpies in the whites of their eyes to join her sisters at the her new cult it is gruesomely funny. She gives up her entire inventory to Marge as her last act of material existence. The order she belongs to turns out to be pretty scary in the coda, offering a side story which might have been more compelling. Marge has run retail before. The Simpson family has already run businesses out of the garage.
The episode also plays some name games. The first thing Marge goes to for knowledge about the mysteries of rock is “Caring for Crystals,” with commentary by Billy Crystal and William Kristel. This is a passing tone gag which ultimately pays off with the advice that Marge be a little less Oprah and more Chopra. Marge’s illegal garage store Murmers casts a truth spell on Chief Wiggum, whose graft has never been so honest.
Lisa of course uncovers the secret to Bart’s sudden illumination. Although, she probably should have been championing the possibilities of alternative cures more than just her susceptibility to singing bowls. She taught him miniature golf using zen thought in the early days.
“Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells is becoming a regular guest on The Simpsons. This episode also brings back the coyote from Homer’s ultimate chili fantasia, who at least brought enlightenment with the condiments. Like the new age movement pales in comparison to real old age magic, the last episode of The Simpsons Season 30 is too balanced to be truly effective. Crystals, singing bowls, dream catchers and Yoni eggs don’t hatch golden gags.
“Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion”was written by Megan Amram, and directed by Matthew Faughnan.
The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Krusty the Clown and Groundskeeper Willia, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Comic Book Guy, Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum, Professor John I.Q. Nerdelbaum Frink Jr., and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest voices: Illeana Douglas as the New Age Clerk, Werner Herzog as Walter Hotenhoffer and Jenny Slate as Piper Paisley.
The Simpsons‘ “Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion” aired Sunday, May 12, at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.