The Simpsons turns 25 this year, meaning if you’re old enough to remember a time when The Simpsons weren’t on TV, you’re more than free to take a minute and feel old. So given that fact, I’ve decided to take it upon myself to review this season of The Simpsons for our humble site, because no matter how you feel about the show itself, and its continued level of quality, 25 years on TV is an occasion that should be marked.
To begin with, a bit of disclosure: I don’t think I’ve watched new episodes of The Simpsons on a regular basis for the last 10 years or so. I’ve tuned in for landmark episodes, the “Treehouse of Horror” specials and the random entry every now and then, but it hasn’t been appointment viewing in a long time. In a sense that’s a shame because in high school, The Simpsons was such a big part of my life, but those were the banner days of the show, and not, what Chris Tuner called in his book Planet Simpson, “the long plateau.”
Still, the series is occasionally given to instances of greatness, and while it certainly isn’t uniformly excellent as it once was, it is still capable of a few surprises.
So is the first episode of season 25 one of them? Read on to find out.
To begin its 25th season, The Simpsons decided to parody the Showtime series Homeland, a TV show positively ripe with potential for a Simpsons takedown, and one from the same producers as 24, which was previously mocked most excellently in the 18th season episode, “24 Minutes.” But “Homerland,” by comparison, was tired, with only a few good chuckles and a lot of Easter eggs and throwbacks that only serve to remind you just how long in the tooth this show sometimes is.
The episode begins with Homer taking a trip to a nuclear power convention in Iowa. At the Boise Astoria, Homer, along with Lenny and Carl, collect all the free stuff they can possibly get before heading to a reception where presumably they drink all the free booze they could drink. At the Springfield airport, Lenny and Carl arrive without Homer. As Patty and Selma ponder the possibilities of where Homer’s corpse might have been hidden, “The Blob,” as they call him, returns home unharmed, stating coldly that he had overslept, lost his cell phone and missed the plane. Has Homer been brainwashed? Let’s answer that with a collage of apocalyptic imagery.
Homer begins to exhibit stranger behaviour beyond just talking in a monotone. He refuses to eat Marge’s Cheetos-dusted pork chops, and he doesn’t take a chance to choke out Bart after a crack about Homer’s girth, apparently that kind of small-scale violence doesn’t achieve anything anymore. Then, later at Moe’s, Homer refuses a beer. Lisa becomes suspicious, “Why is the dad I’ve always wished for creeping me out?” she asks. Marge is happy though because men never change for the better. “He’s like the husband in a widow’s memory,” Marge opines. “Perfect.”
Undeterred, Lisa investigates further after seeing Homer kneel on a prayer mat before studying blue prints of the nuclear power plant. After overhearing Chief Wiggum talking about some intel regarding a potential terror attack, Lisa drops the dime on Homer to the FBI. Agent Annie Crawford (guest star Kristin Wiig) is our stand-in for Homeland’s Carrie Mathison. How do we know? Because she’s clearly paranoid (“Don’t believe what you’ve heard about me,” she tells Lisa), takes a drug called “Lunatrix,” and imagines conversations between two non-existent work colleagues. Or is that Santa and the Easter Bunny. No, it’s a My Little Pony and Papa Smurf.
Annie’s investigation goes nowhere fast, and Homer begins to initiate the plan he’s been brainwashed to carry out. After getting past the unsurprisingly lax security at the power plant, Homer gets ready to stop the plant from doing anymore damage to Mother Earth. Relax though, because the dastardly plan involves stuffing up the plant’s AC unit with spoiled milk and utility grade chicken sold to Homer by Apu. “Just like when I smell up the toilet,” Homer observes, “no damage is done, but no one can use it after.” Despite the attempts of the FBI and Springfield PD to stop Homer, Lisa carries out the plan. Mr. Burns is taken to jail for not keeping the plant up to code, and Moe lures Homer back to beer with some drone equipment that will pay for itself after a night of binge drinking.