No time for couch gags tonight, crime is in the air and so are the cops. The Simpsons season 26 episode 15, “Sky Police,” takes on three menaces to society: lazy police, religious hypocrisy and how the deck is always stacked in casinos’ favor. The Simpsons routinely makes social commentary in varying degrees of subtlety, but lately they have been painting with broader strokes.
The episode opens with a sniper attack in the warehouse district, which Springfield’s chubbiest, the cowering Chief Wiggum, can’t attend because he’s waiting for a dust ruffle delivery. After packing in two Stuffers frozen lasagnas, he has to make the ultimate sacrifice, get out of the chair and sign for a delivery, but what a delivery. A military issue Skymaster X5000 Jet Pack, which would allow him never to have to get out of a chair again.
Wiggum represents all that is bad about peace officers wrapped in one overstuffed donut. He’s corrupt, prone to violence and applies laws arbitrarily, but it all comes down to his laziness. Wiggum, like most of America, doesn’t read directions. He’s certainly not the type to let forty hours of training get in the way of playing with his new toy. Why, he’s even got a theme song, though the cop used the long fingers of the law to steal the melody outright from the 1926 hit song “Baby Face” written by Harry Akst and Benny Davis. Luckily the statute of limitations ran out on that, like most would if Wiggum were on the case.
The Sky Police imagines himself skewering, mangling and pureeing wrongdoers, eliminating the time-wasting routine of paperwork. The Simpsons is very effective at pointing out the daily callous disregard the law has for assumed and presumed lawbreakers. But I’ve gone on about all of this Sky Police business longer than the episode did. It had the wind knocked out of its ass before the first commercial when Clancy escaped a military maneuver to reclaim the jet pack and takes out the church as collateral damage. The congregation realizes that the church, the bastion of the poor and needy which puts spiritual need so high above material want that currency declares “In God We Trust,” is going to have to go to people for money.
The best Simpsons episodes take quick turns from their set-up scenarios. The most churchgoing Springfieldians, the Lovejoys, Ned Flanders, Agnes Skinner, Sideshow Mel and Marge, find Biblical loopholes to infringe on the copyright of the blackjack movie 21. It’s a good thing Kevin Spacey is too busy gambling his advantage over President Petrov on House of Cards to notice.
Counting cards and shuffle tracking, everyone thinks they are victimless crimes though neither is actually a crime and the victims are more often amateur mathematicians than the house. As Mrs. Lovejoy would say, think of the children … of casino owners. They are the real victims here. Sure, it’s easy to wag fingers and point at deeper sports wounds like the quarterback sneak, but if everyone followed the rules of blackjack, the dealer would go bust.
Breaking commandments, which aren’t commandments, is very liberating for the rapture-waiting baby baptizers. God gave the faithful the greatest gift of all, the gift of rationalization. You can do anything in the name of god and you never even have to show your hole card, unless you want to, like Rev. Lovejoy.
Marge once again proves herself to be the moral center of Springfield. More than even the holiest of the holydoodliest, Ned Flanders, who comes out of this whole ordeal scathed. This is one of the few times Marge lies outright to Homer and she pays with instant karma, which you can get at the Kwik E Mart. Marge is the first to wonder if their scam is becoming dishonest. She is the first to call an early surrender without insurance.
Lisa and Bart, treated like adults for the first time in their 26 years on TV, are more shocked to find that their mother is gambling than Inspector Renault in Casablanca. But, as any long-time Simpsons fan knows, Marge has a gambling problem. It’s one of the reasons Homer drinks, because it gives him a moral excuse. The Simpsons have selective amnesia of their past when it is most convenient. If only Marge could un-see the vision of the Lovejoys making erotic use of their disguises.
The Simpsons made one other, very subtle, religious comment. All the characters on The Simpsons are drawn with four fingers, because it’s easier to animate, except God and Jesus. They declare Apu’s monkey deity, Sri Hanuman, a heathen god because it is drawn with only four fingers. Springfield is primarily a Christian town, so they would agree, but it is a very blatant choice. Hanuman is an incarnation of Lord Shiva. I suppose The Simpsons figured the Hindus wouldn’t notice, but there are 750 million of them, you know.
There are quite a few good lines, no real classic side-splitters and not that many visual gags. Church is reduced to extra boring, no recess dress-up school and we learn that god is like most of us. He gets supplicants’ prayers, but deletes them faster than LinkedIn updates on our email. Apu made enough money as a tantric sex major counting cards to buy fake SAT scores that got him into MIT, where he failed every course. This is in reference to the MIT Blackjack Team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard who beat casinos at blackjack starting 1979 until they went bust around 2002.
The J. Geils cover band would play, what, like three songs? There is also a Casino reference when Homer’s eyes are almost popped out by a Joe Pesci wannabe with a vice, because what’s a casino without a vice?
The Simpsons split tens to deal itself a winning hand from the bottom with “Sky Police,” but they didn’t double down for a real take and pulled in the table minimum. The episode is a push
“Sky Police” was written by Matt Selman and directed by Rob Oliver. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Pattie and Selma Bouvier, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Chief Wiggum, Carl Carlson, Moe Szyslak, and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Harry Shearer is Mr. C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest star: Nathan Fielder as himself.
But It All Went By So Fast: Stuffers Family-Sized Lasagna, You know it’s stuffers ‘cause the noodles are thick. Serves 15-20. Ruffle King Dust Card. Springfield Conglomerate Insurance. Gil Gunderson. Triangle Wars. Bless This Basement. Atheist strip club: Appearing Tonight Crystal Kitchens. La Belle Prestige Casino. Liturgical Digest: Power to the Steeple. Quantity Inn. Bum’s Rush a Tron 2.0.