712. A Serious Flanders (Part One)

Original airdate: November 7, 2021

The premise: In a parody of prestige crime thrillers, Ned Flanders finds an incredible amount of money and donates it to the local orphanage, which ultimately puts him in the sights of a ruthless debt collector who will do anything to reclaim his cash.

The reaction: It’s difficult to judge a two-part episode on just its first half, but this episode is definitely a much different animal than “Warrin’ Priests.” Right from the start, opening with a streaming service menu selecting “A Serious Flanders,” to the grisly cold opening depicting the Rich Texan’s death (and later graphic dismemberment), this show is a genre parody of modern day serialized thrillers, most specifically the Fargo TV series, as made clearest in the opening title parody of the “This is a true story” bit. The attempt at riffing on this source material is admirable as a change of pace, I suppose, but I felt like the attempts at parody were similar to past examples where they’re mostly just playing tropes of the source material straight with characters commenting on it. Cutting from the Rich Texan’s bloody post-mortem to the main bad guy breaking apart his pomegranate (“Its juices remind me of the bloody profession I’ve chosen. No, I agree, it’s not subtle.”) The assassins commenting on the eclectic soundtrack underscoring a dramatic moment (“How come every song you play has to be so kooky and obscure?”) All of these bits feature the writers holding giant arrows to the common trappings of these types of shows, but they don’t do much to actually play with those ideas or subvert them or make them overly comical in any way. The premise of the episode itself is played just as straight. Ned Flanders donates to the orphanage, but does it in his grandfather’s name, which is also his own (Ned Flanders the First), as we see he clearly has a big problem with pride or accepting any kind of accolade that might elevate himself. This mostly likely will culminate in something in part two, but as for now, it’s really all there is to hold onto that could be somewhat interesting. The bad guy and company are legitimate threats, killing multiple characters in a horrific, almost beyond-Treehouse of Horror-level violence, but that threat doesn’t really amount to much when not only do you know no harm will come upon our main characters, but this episode clearly isn’t canonical to begin with. They clearly worked very hard emulating the dramatic tone of these types of shows, but ultimately I don’t care about any of that if there isn’t an interesting story to go along with it. Also, jokes, which the episode also kind of put by the wayside for the most part. This certainly isn’t the disaster that “Warrin’ Priests”s first part was for many reasons, but I’d still chalk this one up as an ambitious fumble. However, we’ll see how next week’s part two might change my perspective.

Three items of note:
– Also in this episode is Ned pursuing a romance with Barb, the director of the orphanage, voiced by Cristin Milioti, who played Betsy Solverson in the second season of Fargo, with the character clearly modeled on Molly Solverson, that character’s daughter, from the first season. This semi-plotline ends with the twist that Barb is married to Sideshow Mel, who are in an open relationship, which turns real weird real fast. Again, I don’t know if anything will come of this in part two, but I kind of doubt it. I think it was just supposed to be a gag ending representing this good thing for Ned blowing up because of his guilt over the other events of the episode, but it just felt weird seeing Mel walk out with that Xbox controller totally cool with another guy about to bang his wife in front of him. Also, we’d seen Mel’s wife, also named Barb, in a few episodes in the past, and she looks nothing like who we see here. I don’t really care about the continuity of it, but it’s a strange coincidence they gave Mel an all-new wife and gave her the same name. Or maybe they actually did look up and see her name was Barb, but wanted to redesign the character to resemble the kindly Midwestern Molly character, and just said fuck it.
– This episode actually pulled off a pretty clever plot turn: the assassins are given Ned Flanders’ address, but accidentally lose it. They know it’s 74-something Evergreen Terrace, and immediately train their eyes on the Simpson yard, which is littered with items with “Property of Ned Flanders” labels on them. Even on Homer’s person later, they find credit cards and IDs on him, all with Ned’s name. Wow, taking a long-running joke and utilizing it in a new setting with an entirely different tone, in that Homer’s rampant “borrowing” could have resulted in his own death… I have to give the writers credit for that, I actually enjoyed that bit. I wish the rest of the episode was able to blend Simpsons staples with a dramatic twist like that.
– The episode ends with the bad guy taking out Fat Tony and the rest of the mafia, as well as Disco Stu, in an absolute bloodbath. I was unsure of this episode being non-canon based on the Rich Texan’s death early on, but this ending certainly cinched it. Especially when Mr. Burns randomly walked in with a “Free Donut on your Birthday” sign and got his head blown up. Now, I really don’t know why Burns would be at a Lard Lad Donuts in the first place (“Dough-nuts? I told you I don’t like ethnic foods!”), or why he would care about getting something for free… I guess both of those could just be the joke? It just felt bizarre, even more so that his head just bursts open like it was made in pottery class with no blood, which stood out even more considering we just saw the bad guy use Disco Stu as a human shield, getting riddled with bloody bullet holes. What a hilariously violent ending! I guess the bad guy turning Fat Tony’s head into a donut (off-screen) is meant to be funny, but it all just came off as very uncomfortable. Like it was just straight-up violence, not exaggerated Treehouse of Horror-style violence. Again, it’s trying to replicate the sensationalized violent scenes from these types of shows, but it ultimately comes off as jarring when it’s done on the goddamn Simpsons with no winking twist to soften it. Snake appearing to rob the place afterwards and being horrified at what he sees I guess is an attempt to do that, but it felt like too little, too late.

13 thoughts on “712. A Serious Flanders (Part One)

      1. Matt Selman’s been showrunning for a while now, but this season will be the first where he runs a majority of it either solo or sharing with Jean.

  1. I have yet to see this episode due to a medical emergency, but tomorrow I’ll tune in on Hulu. Doesn’t sound like I’m missing a whole lot.

    1. Not really. Just like with The Last Barfighter unless you’re familiar with the source material that’s being parodied (which is the Fargo series) than most of the episode is gonna fly right over your head as it constantly references it. Though even if I was, the episode still isn’t very good because it’s boring and like a lot of Selman episodes largely laugh free.

  2. Is it me, or has Matt Selman been the showrunner for almost every episode this season? Maybe Al Jean is finally slowing down and can’t handle the pressures of the job like he used to.

    I’ll give the show credit, I was actually interested in what was going on and it felt like I needed to pay attention. Usually, Simpsons episodes are just background noise and I can barely understand what’s going on. But between this and “Bart’s in Jail,” this season at least has episodes that can entertain me.

    Also, there’s something wholesome about Mike praising modern-day Simpsons in any way. That’s happened maybe, five times in the last couple years?

  3. DAY 6

    Feeling nostalgic of the days when The Simpsons actually nailed parodies

    I feel like these two-parter episodes have become a new habit that Zombie Simpsons has developed in recent years. We’ve already gotten three of them within the past five years and I feel that their only purpose is to pad the episode count so they can reach the 22 episode amount with less effort. This has gotta be one of the most violent episodes in recent years and I’m impressed that Zombie Simpsons was able to make the leap from when Homer bled profusely after hitting a record player in Season 13 to now this. And the fact that they’re briefly killing of these regulars like Dr. Nick in the movie? How is this not a TOH segment? Oh boy, I can’t wait to see what other characters they decide to kill of for Part 2! But honestly, as stupid and dumb as this episode is, it’s a thrill ride compared to the Empire episode and Pete Holmes episode. Then again, so is “Marge’s Son Poisoning” and absolutely nothing happened in that episode. Wait, I just realized that episode will be celebrating its sweet sixteen this week, I most certainly hope that episode can get its drivers permit! Ah, old ZS episodes… You grow up so fast! But you know, I’m totally expecting “A Serious Flanders Part 2” to have an extremely dumb and lazy twist ending that physically grabs the viewer’s head and bashes it against the TV screen. I just know it’ll happen. And I’m ready to suffer it. Come at me, baby!

    P.S. I wish this two-parter was the official finale of the show. I also wish I had six more arms.

  4. I’m probably in the smaller majority here, but I really enjoyed this episode. With Modern Simpsons, I’d rather take a good story over jokes, and that’s what it delivered here. I’ve never watched Fargo, and I didn’t feel like I had to understand the story. Sure it has a lot of flaws, but no episode is perfect especially in this era.

    1. I agree completely with what you said, and I too enjoyed this episode more than I could have guessed. Most episodes these days have few laughs and a weak story, but at least this one had a pretty compelling plot that kept your attention. Glad I’m not the only one who liked it!

  5. Well this was….boring. Not that I’m surprised.

    Also, they missed a perfectly good opportunity to reference Hilda when they were parodying popular Netflix shows.

  6. I cringed really hard at the dismemberment scene. Even in an episode like this it felt a little graphic. Same with Tony’s death, which wasn’t even shown on-screen.
    I do like the gag with Flanders’s stolen stuff but that’s honestly the one thing I think I actually liked in here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s