For a couple of weeks now I have mentioned how recent Simpsons episodes have been similar to the great episodes of the past. This week, this trend continues, with poor results.
The reason why it worked earlier in the season was that the references to past episodes were small and didn’t interfere with a new plot that the show was doing. The plots were still relatively fresh and just had small homages to the show’s great years. This week’s “Donnie Fatso” did not do this.
In this week’s episode, Homer gets caught doing some relatively small crimes and is sentenced to ten years in jail. In order to lessen his sentence, Homer works for the FBI and infiltrates Fat Tony’s gang from inside jail. When the group breaks out, Homer follows them and eventually rises high in the Mafia. He is then able to bring down the Mafia king, even though he has some reservations of doing so late in the episode.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it was kind of done before in “The Seven Beer Snitch.” In that episode, Homer is a snitch in jail and rats out his fellow prisoners. I know that it is somewhat different, but it is still too close for my liking. I feel that I’ve already seen Homer in this setting, so why does it have to be done again? I know that the series has been on for over twenty years, but there still has to be some things that Homer has never done before that could warrant an episode.
The ending of the episode also pissed me off. When Fat Tony realizes that Homer is a rat, he dies of a heart attack. Afterward, his brother Fit Tony, a more athletic version, steps in and runs the Springfield Mafia. After a while though, the stress gets to him and he starts eating heavily. He then becomes an exact replica of Fat Tony. This angered me because it brought the show back to where it was before the episode started. I know that The Simpsons have been doing this for years, but this time it really got to me.
When I saw Fat Tony die, I felt like any Simpsons fan had to watch this episode, as Fat Tony is a semi-important character. When I realized the show would replace him and act like it never happened, I thought that this episode was skippable for about everyone, diehard Simpson fan or not. Even Homer was emotionally disturbed by Fat Tony’s death, leading him to sob at his grave. Later in the episode, Homer remarks that Fat Tony was the “Best Boss” he ever had, and I felt like I learned something about The Simpsons universe by watching this episode pre-Fit Tony. I thought that this was an episode that would grow the characters of the series a bit, but alas, it did not happen.
I still remember very vividly the episode where Maude Flanders died, as this was a huge event in the series. I felt the same emotions this episode, albeit on a smaller scale, when Fat Tony died. The feeling of this episode’s importance, however, died quicker than Fat Tony when the show essentially erased this feeling of importance, or the ramifications of the plot. I doubt that either will be brought up in later Simpsons episodes and it will be like this episode never happened. I’m not calling for the show to start killing characters in order to spice things up, but I feel that some major changes would help the series. If it was advertised that a major change was to happen in an upcoming episode and this change was delivered, I feel it would strengthen a show that is becoming weaker and weaker.
I remarked last week about how much I enjoyed that episode because the show did something different. They put the characters into a situation (being puppets) that they had never been in before, and this made what had been a mediocre episode into a great episode. The Simpsons need to do more things like this.
I also must bring up Jon Hamm’s guest role as the FBI agent that works with Homer to bring down Fat Tony. Hamm did alright, but he was completely wasted by the episode. He had to have like 7 lines the whole episode. If I didn’t know that it was him before the episode began, I would never have noticed it. There were no funny references to Mad Men or anything else that Jon Hamm has done. His character could have been easily played by any other person. Along with fresh plots, the show seems to have forgotten how to utilize guest stars.
Even though the plot was old, the episode did bring a few laughs. One of which was when Homer sticks up for one of Fat Tony’s men in prison. The guards drag Homer into the kitchen, while threatening a beating. The guards then start punching a plate of steaks in order to replicate the sound of a body being punched. Homer still yells out in pain seeing perfectly edible, delicious food going to waste. This convinced the other prisoners that he was taking a harsh beating.
Overall, this episode left a poor taste in my mouth. I wished last week’s Christmas episode aired this week and this week’s episode aired never. Now we have to wait until January to see The Simpsons next, with the thought of this episode still in our heads. It will be interesting what side of Season 22 will show up, the good episodes of the start of the season, or the poor episodes that have been airing recently.
To watch clips of this episode and others, or to learn about upcoming episodes, go to thesimpsons.com.