619. The Serfsons

Original airdate: October 1, 2017

The premise:
In a medieval fantasy world, Marge must face her mother’s impending death. Lisa conjures up the cash needed for a healing amulet, but her use of magic gets her imprisoned by the authoritarians of the land.

The reaction: There’s a reason that these fantasy setting episodes are reserved for three-parters; gimmicks like these tend to grow thin after a couple minutes, and then you’re left with just a regular story that just has different backgrounds and character designs. Even with Game of Thrones wrapping its seventh season, and the show already having recreated its opening title sequence at least twice over the last few years, amongst other references, I guess the show hasn’t glommed onto this pop culture staple enough, so let’s do a whole GoT/Lord of the Rings/medieval fantasy hodgepodge episode, make it the premiere, and soak up some mild press because of it. I don’t watch or know much about Thrones, but to me, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of attempted referencing done here. In fact, most of the story up until the last third feels like it could have been done as a normal episode, and it would have been just as boring. Marge’s mother is turning into a White Walker… err, Ice Walker, and there’s not much the Simp… Serfsons can do about it. There’s a magical amulet that will cure her, but it’s way out of their price range. Nine minutes into the episode, Lisa reveals she has magic powers and turns a nugget of lead into gold, and laments she must keep her powers a secret lest she be imprisoned and exploited by the royal family. Prior to this, we hadn’t seen anyone using magic, or really even seen anything magical, outside of some weird goblins and creatures. As always with this show, it’s tell, not show. There are two “stories” going on, Marge having to deal with her mother wanting to die, and the peasants rising up against the kingdom, led by Homer in the final act. The players storm the gates in an assault that felt like the end of the Futurama movie “Bender’s Game” but worse, and I didn’t care for “Bender’s Game” all that much. In the end, with her daughter’s blessing, Jacqueline Bouvier takes off the amulet, goes full-on White Walker and takes down the dragon and herself. I don’t get why she has such a big role in this. Does this parallel Thrones at all? Whatever. It’s a little weird how much of a failure this one was (well, not really); gimmick episodes like “The Man Who Came To Be Dinner,” and to a lesser extent “Brick Like Me,” removing the characters from their normal setting at least gave way to different kinds of jokes and situations. Despite its fantasy location, this episode just felt very… normal. And normal for this series now is “absolute trash.”

Three items of note:
– Unable to afford the amulet, Homer drowns his sorrows at Moe’s with the regular Joes there. Later, he works overtime at the plant by pushing a wooden power generator whilst being whipped, which we’ve already seen in the “real” world in “Rosebud.” Outside of minor accoutrements like Willie being a Warcraft orc slavedriver and Burns sprouting tiny magic wings (??), the story and the characters feel like it should just be taking place in the real world. The old Treehouse of Horrors, and even the earlier three-story episodes like “Bible Stories” felt like they were different worlds through their tone and framing. This feels like really bad fan fiction or something.
– It’s a bit of a struggle for Julie Kavner to do a consistent Marge nowadays, let alone her much hoarser mother. Jacqueline sounds like Jackie Earl Haley’s villain character from The Tick in this episode (slightly obscure reference, but it’s fresh in my head since I just watched it. There’s a plug, go watch The Tick, it’s on Amazon Prime, it’s great).
– The high elder magicians or whoever thwart Homer from intervening with them taking Lisa by casting a spell on him, making his toenails rapidly grow and wrap themselves around, encasing him in a tangled toenail ball. Gross. This reminded me of an episode of the old Nickelodeon cartoon The Angry Beavers where the titular beavers try to look cool by letting their teeth grow out. The ending involves things getting out of hand when their teeth get exaggeratingly long, with brother Norbert being trapped in a giant toothy sphere. Anyone remember this? Ahh, nostalgia.

20 thoughts on “619. The Serfsons

  1. I recall that Angry Beavers episode! Both brothers end up trapped, animal neighbors passed by and, despite mimicking their long teeth trend earlier on, didn’t give a hoot about helping them because said fashion was no longer in style, episode ends with them still trapped after night and day, it was way funnier than I make it sound.

    From the sounds of it I’d do better to rewatch that short than to give this episode a chance.

    1. I remember Angry Beavers, but I’m not 100% sure I remember which episode you are talking about. I think I do, but I could thinking of a different one.

  2. Well, it was at least better than the the last few season premiers.

    Although that’s basically saying this piece of shit didn’t smell as bad as the last few pieces of shit – at the end of the day it’s still shit.

    1. For people out of the loop, Alf Clausen was fired.

      Here’s an amusing quote: “Clausen said he received a call from Simpsons producer Richard Sakai, who said the show was seeking “a different kind of music.” An exact reason for Clausen’s firing following a lengthy and successful tenure was not given”.

      The show that’s been in a terrible rut for 15+ years is now seeking a different kind of music? Oh please. Most probable reason? To save money. Well done on getting rid of the last decent part of the show (the score).

      Source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/longtime-simpsons-composer-alf-clausen-fired-w500530

      1. “Wouldn’t he have already scored the episodes for 29 and 30 though?”
        I don’t think so. According to the credits, scoring has been taken over by Hans Zimmer and his company. So they probably hired Zimmer then waited until part of the season was finished to reveal it to Alf and the public at large.

      2. Well that’s bullshit. They waited over a year to tell him they were firing him? Good god, the people who work on that show these days has no respect for anyone, huh?

    1. The problem is that Kavner’s regular Marge voice sounds like her mother’s voice from the Thanksgiving episode that was in Season 2. As such, she had to really change up her mother’s voice here, and it was terrible. She needs to just retire.

      1. I think they should not use Jacqueline anymore and stop doing scenes in which Marge cries (there were many in season 27, and in all of them Kavner sounded like she was dying).

    2. Shearer’s characters sound noticeably different from the Classic Era but he still has a voice. The other 4 main actors actually sound not that different from the Classic Era to me. But Kavner’s characterds are just painful to hear.

  3. This episode was god damn f***ing awful. I didn’t laugh a single time. I almost laughed at the part where the Ents appeared and then they were turned into ladders, but then it kept going. The stuff with Krusty was utterly disgusting and not in a funny kind of way.

    What was this even supposed to do? It felt more like the writers were showing their love to the fantasy genre rather than actually satirizing it. What the f***ing hell was this?

    I usually hate it when someone compares The Simpsons and South Park, but this is the only time I will ever say South Park did a vastly superior fantasy spoof because they actually made fun of the genre while showing their love for it. UGH!!! Excuse me while I go rinse my mouth out.

  4. That, ugh, ‘Ice Walker’ vs Dragon bit might’ve been a reference to GOT (specfically something that happened in this most recent season) but I doubt it just due to production time. (Though it’s not like said event was hard to see coming, but that’s beside the point.)

  5. Watch “Fear of Flying,” especially the montage near the end when Marge remembers her grandmother trying to feed her. That voice for Marge’s grandmother is the one used for Jacqueline in this episode.

    I hadn’t read any press leading up to the season premiere, so this episode came right the hell out of nowhere for me. I give them some points for some really nice artwork and some creativity, but there was way too much gross humor (Homer and Krusty, especially) and only a couple chuckles from me rather than laughs.

    Some good moments for me:
    – Like I said, the artwork is very visually appealing. You wouldn’t think such a simplistic art style could work in this kind of setting, but I really liked it.
    – As noted above, the joke with the Ents being turned into ladders was good. It might have been the only genuine laugh from me in the episode.
    – Just like “The Town,” there’s some really great animation when Marge talks to Aslan, oh, sorry, Azzlan. In fact, there’s a couple really well-animated scenes in the next episode, too. It’s like the show thinks that’s the new trick to make us think these are great episodes.
    – Jacqueline’s determined walk right into the dragon’s mouth was pretty damn awesome.

    1. Has Selman taken over as the show’s full-time showrunner? or is Al still there?

      Because Matt’s involvement might explain why there’s some decent animation in these two episodes.

      1. Wikipedia shows the showrunners are both Matt Selman and Al Jean, so I don’t know. I didn’t think the showrunner dealt with animation direction that closely.

        I did notice that the director for this episode was Rob Oliver, who also directed “The Town,” so that might explain it.

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