739. Top Goon

Original airdate: December 11, 2022

The premise: As coach of a little league hockey team, Moe finds a much-needed ringer for his weak squad: Nelson. He brings him on to be the “goon,” protecting the team’s only good player (Bart), and the two start to form a kinship with each other as mutual social dregs.

The reaction: I’m always in favor of shining the spotlight on secondary characters, and even exploring unexpected pairings and seeing where they lead. Teaming up Moe and Nelson feels natural enough, but the episode plays out in a boringly traditional fashion leading to a completely hollow emotional resolution (par for the course with a Matt Selman show), with the moral delivered by Moe of all people. The episode feels very fast, as we go from Moe’s neighbor King Toot rubbing his success with his sponsored hockey team in his face, then when we see Moe next, he’s a coach, despite it not being mentioned in the first scene. So Moe wants to win at something for once, that’s his sole motivation for this, but it still doesn’t feel like enough for me to believe he gives a shit about a bunch of dumb kids playing hockey. Is he just motivated by spite of his arch rival King Toot? But you can’t even care about that because we’ve only ever seen this character once in what must have been over a decade ago (voiced by Will Forte, who I typically love, but Toot is just a nobody here). Also, remember Moe got engaged last season? Oh, who gives a fuck. He sees Nelson beating up Martin from the bus window, and tries to recruit him, relating to him as a fellow “scuz.” When Nelson agrees, Moe takes him to “Top Goon Academy,” a hockey retreat where he learns the fine art of being a goon, which just involves the coaches repeating “protect your primary” over and over again, which I guess are supposed to count as jokes. Nelson can manage himself on the ice, and he definitely knows how to rough kids up, so this whole section felt ultimately pointless. My guess is someone in the writer’s room came up with the pun “Top Goon” and this was their way to work it into an episode. So anyways, Nelson turns the team around, Bart gets jealous that despite being the one scoring goals, Nelson gets the praise, he pranks Moe, Nelson gets defensive of Moe and accidentally breaks Bart’s arm… yawn. Nelson is cast out by Moe, and goes to Fat Tony to be his apprentice, which he allows for some reason. This is framed like he’s giving into his inner demons of senseless violence, something that Moe needs to stop, which he does, by giving a saccharine speech about how great a kid he thinks Nelson is and holy shit does this just land like a lead balloon. It’s a far enough grasp for me to believe that Moe cares about another human being, let alone would want to curb any act of violence. A story of Moe attempting to be a father figure to someone could work, but I feel like it needs the proper context and motivation, something that was just breezed over here. Like usual, it’s just a cookie cutter bad kid redemption story that the characters get plugged into and we’re expected to care by the end of it. A pretty dull outing.

Three items of note:
– The first scene has some pretty weird looking animation: as King Toot uses a leaf blower on his curb, Moe gets irate and stomps over to him. The cycle of him storming over to Toot feels like it’s at a lower frame rate or something. Then in the two-shot, he and Toot feel almost too fluidly animated. I just talked about this a few episodes ago, and I really don’t want this to come off wrong. Long has there been the complaint about this show being too rigid and under-animated, but in the last few years, there have been these little moments of characters being animated more than usual. That’s all well and good, I’d rather have that over them barely moving at all, but in most of the times they do this, it still looks weird to me. They usually do it in one or two scenes an episode, if at all, so the infrequency of the level of effort makes these moments stand out in a not-so-great way. As for the animation itself, I suppose it’s subjective whether you like it or not, but I tend to not. They just don’t feel like they have really strong key poses, so it’s just watching this super floaty character animation where they just won’t stop moving.
– This episode really just jumps into things without setting things up. When Moe walks in as coach the first time, it really felt unclear if this was his first day or not, but he has a team flag with his face on it, so I really don’t know? Later at the graduation from Top Goon Academy, Nelson is impressed Moe knows the famous coaches, and he explains he used to be a bartender for a hockey team, something that probably would have been better said at the start of the Top Goon section. Also, Nelson is sad that no one’s at his graduation before Moe shows up, but we don’t even see Mrs. Muntz until deep into act three. How do you craft this story of Nelson craving a father figure and not even have him mention his parents at all?
– There’s a dramatic reveal where Nelson, at his lowest point, knocks on some random door, only to have it be Fat Tony. Tony is pleased to see him (“Nelson Muntz. Your reputation proceeds you.”) Why in the love of God would an underworld gangster know about a schoolyard bully? Then he recruits this ten-year-old to work an event for him, destroying cell phone cameras off paparazzi, and eventually preparing to pummel a man hogtied to a chair with a lead pipe. What is going on? Before this point, the episode was just making me think of how much better “Lisa on Ice” is over this reheated bland mush, but the third act jack-knives us into “Bart the Murderer” territory. Fat Tony recruiting this smart aleck kid to work odd jobs at his hideout is somewhat believable, and almost kind of cute as it’s presented in the episode. Fat Tony and his crew standing back, waiting with awe for a literal child to bludgeon a helpless man within an inch of his life is absolutely baffling and disturbing. And for good measure, it’s peppered with the truly awful on-the-noise dialogue that I hate, with Nelson raising up the pipe, saying, “This is all I am” in a monotone before Moe bursts in. “You swing that pipe, that’s your soul on the line!” Moe shouts, in maybe the most un-Moe line I’ve ever heard. Fuck, this ending sucked.

And that does it for yet another year of this crap. By which I mean the show, and this blog. I hope those that indulged in my View Askew retrospective enjoyed it. It actually took a lot longer to write than I had thought, so it was kind of a pain to wrap up towards the end. I’m not too interested in jumping into another side review series at the moment, so I don’t know when the next one will be. The only one I’ll semi-commit to is Futurama‘s return to Hulu, doing a truncated series retrospective of a dozen or so episodes leading up to the premiere, and then covering all of the new ones. But that probably won’t be until later next year, so who knows when the next non-Simpsons thing will grace this blog. I dunno. Ace Attorney? Anyone care about that? I feel like writing about those will definitely be shorter than talking about Kevin Smith movies. But anyway, have a happy holiday, everyone, and I’ll be back to slog through more Simpsons next year. Beyond that? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

8 thoughts on “739. Top Goon

  1. As someone who loves the Ace Attorney games, I’d be really interested. Beyond that, I’d love to see you review the remaining DreamWorks films since you were just about to get to How To Train Your Dragon.

    1. I’m so surprised that people still bring up the Disney/DreamWorks blogs from over a decade ago. I’m not going to restart either, but here’s my truncated DreamWorks thoughts: I never really cared for the Dragon series, but I’m not a big fantasy guy. Megamind, Rise of the Guardians and Captain Underpants are their greatest movies of the 2010s. I really enjoyed the Bad Guys, and along with the upcoming Puss in Boots, I’m very interested in this new radical stylistic look they’re leaning into. Spider-verse opened the door and I’m really glad DreamWorks has just barreled on through it.

  2. This episode (which I’m referring to as Bart Star 2: Top Goon) will go down in history as the episode of the show that finally broke me to the point where I just couldn’t finish it!

    After the one-two shit punch of not only Nelson injuring Bart, but Homer actually being a piece of shit and celebrating this because it means he won’t have to go to anymore games… Fuck off you piece of shit!! This one moment honestly showed Homer at his most hateable since Co-Dependent’s Day! And only in a Selman episode can Homer do this and most will try to argue that this wasn’t him at his lowest in quite some time!

    After that moment, I just simply turned the episode off as I found no reason to watch the rest knowing that it’d likely fall into the stock Selman trap of forcing me to sympathize with the asshole characters (Homer & Nelson, who never apologies to Bart forcthe shitty thing he did) after doing the shitty thing(s) that completely ruins any chance of redemption they have. I normally consider myself a glutton for punishment, but this was one time where I wasn’t gonna drink the poisoned Kool-aid.

    Rest of the episode before that was crap too from Homer’s constant complaining which got old very fast and the Wiggum foot thing which seems like something we’ll be seeing more of in terms of characters having certain pathetic quriks (Wiggum’s foot thing, Mel having sex with an animatronic fox and Milhouse both wearing a diaper and saying he still baths with his mother) for the sake of cheap laughs. And it’s very telling how they’re all from Selman episodes.

    Episodes like this just further convince me that I’m making the right choice with my current plan to no longer keep up with the show regularly after this season. If this is what we’re getting about a season and a half into the supposed Selman era (despite him honestly never really being much better than Jean even when he started), then I hate to imagine what the next 19 and a half years will be like (especially since Selman already reached his burnout point last season with Meat is Murder).

  3. They can have Bart moonwalk, but they still won’t put “Stark Raving Dad” back in circulation. Alright then.

  4. I still think doing a review of Simpsons: Hit and Run could be a good idea. That one is like the unofficial Simpsons movie at this point.

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