This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons Season 33 Episode 7
The Simpsons season 33 episode 7 is Uff-da, even if the villain of the episode, Kostas Becker, voiced by Brian Cox, does say so himself. He is not one to get overwhelmed, and has faith in his good book, so we are inclined to believe him. But the biggest proof comes from Chief Wiggum, even if it will do nothing to clear up the case.
Once again presented as a SIMPFLIX prestige crime thriller, “A Serious Flanders (Part 2)” opens in the aftermath of the carnage that concluded “A Serious Flanders (Part 1),” as well it should. Wiggum is beside himself, and gives a one-scene bravura performance being there. He is devastated by all the death which happened in his small, normally peaceful, jurisdiction. He knows all these people, the “Disco guy,” as he calls Stu, and the ancient monopolistic tyrant Mr. Burns, who went up in a puff of dust when the bullet met the bone, so brittle with age. But the chief’s best bits have to do with Fat Tony (Joe Montegna), who was kneaded into a donut before he was deep fried. “Look what they’ve done to my beautiful goombah,” Wiggums weeps, openly, unabashedly, as he swears he can never eat a donut again.
“Satan himself has come to this town, and I’m not man enough to take him on,” Wiggums admits, right after he pushes the last piece of a donut into his mouth. He was chewing it while telling Marge her husband is “probably a cruller by now.” He must have been dunking it in his coffee when he said the line about never being able to eat one again. The scene is a classic in both overt and subtle humor, it has to be seen more than once. It ends with the top cop turning in his badge, jacket, shirt and tie, and telling Marge “If you see Lou, tell him Eddie’s in charge now.” It is an indictment and insightful riot. It also gives Marge time to find the clues which lead her to Homer, cruller or not.
The whole town is rocked by the murders, which anchorman Kent Brockman calls a “grim metaphor for a universe without justice.” The focus then shifts to a nervous Ned, torn between his faith, his duty to his neighbor Homer, and the fierce competition on GoFundMe for kidnap ransom appeals. He is also bound to his oath of humility and justice to his grandfather, who he thinks is a saint, sober and incorruptible. It is a “sterling reputation” which “the town’s favorite sheriff” cultivated carefully, as is the way on shows like Fargo, where nothing is as it seems, except when it seems so only on the basis of it being unlikely. This logic will be further mangled by the apparent supervillain Kostas when he tells Ned to expect his visit when it is least expected … starting now.
“It’s bribe o’clock,” in the barbershop when the Szyslak brothers crime gang, Moe’s family, drop by to take a little off the top. They’ve been made partners with the Capital City mob, and are flooding the streets with amphetamines, aka “trucker’s milk,” “brain-fizz,” and “Texas teeth-looseners.” Given the source material, we knew something like this was coming, but we didn’t know it would be accompanied by the song “Good Time Charlie,” by Bobby Bland, and we certainly had no clue he has a toad-licking habit.
It appears Ned’s “paw-paw,” Sheriff Ned Flanders the First (Timothy Olyphant), really is a ghost of every male law enforcement agent on Fargo. All the square would fall out of Ned’s hair if he really knew. The former sheriff of Springfield actually says, to God no less, “you can only send me to hell once.” The irony of this ideology in Ned’s past is agonizingly clever. His paw-paw had already admitted he was raised in an orphanage, and we know Ned’s parents were beatniks of the most clichéd kind. Adding this explains all the iddlies and the diddlies, and possibly why good neighborino Ned rekindles his love affair with Sideshow Mel’s wife Barb (Cristin Milioti). She rekindles her love of javelins.
This is only one of two hot sequences in the episode. It turns out guest hench-people, the international psychos Seamus (Chris O’Dowd) and his violent femme Collette (Jessica Paré), are a married couple, and we are treated to a wonderfully rough romantic scorcher. It begins when he lays out a trail of rose petals to celebrate their anniversary, and ends in the most crushing of charbroiled embraces. But it corresponds to Marge and Homer’s somewhat chilly reunion. As was noted, she is quite the amateur sleuth in this two-parter, but she’s also a professional-grade disparager, maligning Homer as the most selfish man on the planet.
The FX series Fargo makes exquisite use of the natural terrain and icy winters of the northern states, and The Simpsons mimics its cinematography faithfully. There are whole sequences which work both as comedy and tribute to the camera craftsmen of the suspense series. When Homer has to dodge his incessant pursuer, he travels to Wyoming in a series of more and more outlandish disguises, from a badass biker to a wealthy capitalist who wouldn’t look out of place on a Monopoly board. But it is his “Mariachi on a Rollercoaster” which is his most hysterically appropriate guise.
The episode also faithfully recreates the sense of suspenseful buildups. The music lays a perfect foundation, and the animated closeups creep into disturbingly tight situations. Of course, these perilous takes are undercut by the humorous details, like a dynamite-nunchuck swinging Szyslak cousin or eggs and a Goldfinger derby being tossed into the lethal arsenal, but they are effective and impressively presented. Similarly, Ned’s moral dilemma is expertly captured, but hits levels of high hilarity when he is getting himself ready to steal from an orphanage where the orphans all wear “Ned is #1” T-shirts. Ned also sinfully fast-forwards through the parable of Lucifer and the millipede.
“A Serious Flanders (Part Two)” was written by Cesar Mazariegos, and directed by Matthew Faughnan. It continues the pace and excellence of the first part, which only edges it out in enjoyability because it was surprisingly novel. For a series which has run for 33 seasons, this is an achievement in itself. The Simpsons have been inconsistent in the past few years. They’ve given quite a few excellent episodes, but have been tossing away too many feeble entries, trying to maintain a balance between irreverence and respect. Fargo only changes names out of respect for the dead. This two-parter is a classic, and sets a high bar for the season.