This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons Season 31 Episode 18
The Simpsons season 31, episode 18, “The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby,” revisits two tough loves which have served the series since its infancy. Mr. Charles Montgomery Burns, the richest man in Springfield, loves taking candy from babies, and Marge Bouvier Simpson loves giving sweets to kids. Between the two equally weighted conflicts, the entry squeezes a rough diamond of character building and assassination.
Maggie has a playdate with Hudson, her favorite friend. But Hudson’s mom is painful for Marge to be around. Everything Marge has tirelessly done, all her life, because of the traditions she follows and continues faithfully, is burnt under the microscope of the newer generation’s microaggressive passivism. The Simpson matriarch is nothing if not the perfect mother and the younger mom can’t even decide whether Marge’s name is ironic or retro. This keeps the series contemporary while still fighting the oldest battles it’s tackled since it began as the anti-family family show. While the babies are sucking on each other’s toes, Hudson’s mom vets Marge, checking her vaccination and sex history, which is Homer, only Homer.
The opening sequence contains subtle foreshadowing when Homer actually foregoes his usually buttery and syrupy morning pancakes for a grapefruit to go. This is a momentous moment in the household. Lisa didn’t see the moon landing, but watching her father choose citrus over maple is enough to bring tears to her eyes. But don’t fret, Homer barely makes one small step before he gives in to temptation, because with yesterday’s pizza, “extra large” rhymes with “sexy Marge.”
The new park in town is fancy. It uses real shredded Perelli tires as baby mulch. The moms who congregate there have fancy predilections. Hudson’s mom’s lovely home floors are made of a Venetian church she was demolished and reassembled by I. M. Pei. Marge’s patience is tested by the idea of baby-proofing babies for babies, and although Maggie is very happy with Hudson, the entire relationship is torn asunder by white sugar.
Cletus Del Roy Spuckler is a helium tycoon, dealing in “see-through gold, symbol HE,” we learn after a sorry party balloon leads to a brilliant but all-too-short parody of The Beverly Hillbillies theme. Cletus is Springfield’s neighborhood slack-jawed yokel, but he is quite an enterprising hillbilly. He and his family live in the woods, off the grid, free by sovereign domain to make their own hooch, which is probably better than anything Moe serves. He ain’t got book smarts, because you get that at schools and you need school smarts for that. You might think he has street smarts, but his bare feet are not made for pounding pavement. Yet he’s a friend of a friend of some of Fat Tony’s friends and is far more inventive at baby names than George Foreman.
Every financial empire begins with a crime and Burns never met a swindle he didn’t love at first sight. Homer’s appointment as employee of the month contains a great visual gag because he’s the only human on the wall of fame among the hounds.
Burns’ attempt at a backwoods accent is a highlight for a blink of an eye, but the man who can stomach Flint, Mich. tap water falls to pieces under Spuckler’s moonshine. Burns has had quite a few nemeses in his long run as the owner of the power plant. Cletus looks like he is as easy an opponent as Burns thought Homer would be in the first season’s benefits deals. Burns decides it takes an idiot to catch an idiot and doubles down on a plan to get the plant’s coolant for free with Homer as bait.
We get a good look at Burns’ enforcers tonight. They not only torment physically but also mete out derisive humiliation. One likes to beat people up, the other likes to laugh at watching people get beaten up. They are a great combo and should go out on the road. But Burns goes one step further. After Homer has felt both the punch and the punchline on his waistline, he has to endure the promise of future punishments by watching them beat Burns’ faithful assistant, lackey and all-around sycophantic brown noser Smithers. And don’t even think about what’s behind door number two, that’s where they shackle honest accountants.
Burns’ entire operation is commentary on the corporate state. Burns puts it best himself when he says “no one screws anyone over halfway.” But if any business should be run on the up and up, it’s the helium business. Homer and Cletus’ friendship is actually rather touching. Cletus is a cool guy, laid-back, chill enough to be a consistent secondary character. His friendship with Homer isn’t really too far a stretch. They’ve never been great buddies, but there is true magic in that moonshine and you can get higher than a kite with helium.
The episode closes with a second song parody, Homer and Cletus singing their own lyrics to Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” rhyming Homer’s need for a separate sitting stool for each cheek with “let’s pee in the creek” and his love of the methanol from Cletus’ still. The deal ends with one of Burns’ typical changes of mind and a promise to have Burns’ hounds call Cetus’ basset hounds.
Okay, so pre-school Maggie, who can’t talk yet and whose pacifier drove Hudson’s mom to distraction, can read, at least well enough to know Hudson had a birthday party and she didn’t get to go. This is one of the few confrontations between Marge and Maggie The Simpsons has shown. Maggie’s had a mixed relationship with Homer, but her mom is infallible. You’d never think she’d ruin her daughter’s true happiness just because the other mom wears aerial silks. She does Pilates, not yoga.
“The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby” is a light and fun episode with heart. Hudson being buried in the sandbox by two strange children is one of the saddest sights but only Maggie can tweak his nose the way he likes his nose to be tweaked. This is a major move forward for Maggie, who has been stuck as a perennial toddler with little room for growth. She’s been given fantasy adventure sequences and has exhibited a lot of precocious talents, but watching her carry Hudson over the threshold of the playground playhouse looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.