After last week’s epic fail its nice to see The Simpsons rebound with a pretty good episode. As in sports, the marker of a good team is how it bounces back after a rough loss. Interestingly, it’s one of the show’s side characters that takes centre stage. Although, judging from the first few minutes it looked like the show was going in a different direction.
The only puzzling bit of the episode was the opening, where the credits were ditched in favour of setting up a plot about Bart getting a violin. Bart torments Homer with the prospect of having to pay for a damaged instrument. Homer ultimately can’t take it anymore and destroys it himself and then uses that as an excuse to head to Moe’s. It was all rather elaborate and to be honest unnecessary. Homer never really needs an excuse to go to Moe’s and this storyline never comes into play in the main one.
Which is a shame because this intro was actually quite funny. The bits where Marge imagines what types of pranks Bart could do with the various instruments were spot on; As were the bits where Bart was taunting Homer with the violin. This could have easily been an episode on its own, but oh well.
What we actually get is a surprisingly nice story about Moe, his father and his family. Now, Moe’s backstory is one that the show has never really gone into. We’ve had bits and pieces but no coherent storyline. He’s either been a Dutch immigrant, an Italian immigrant, one of the original Little Rascal’s, born out of a Voodoo curse and even the son of a Yeti. So it kind of makes sense to want to create a singular backstory however, piecing all of the above would be nearly impossible. Since The Simpsons have already eschewed continuity this season its not surprising that they did away with all of the above for a more human retelling.
In King Leer, Moe confronts his scumbag businessman father, Morty, (played brilliantly by Ray Liotta) for abandoning him years ago. In a flashback we see Morty involving Moe and his brother and sister in the business of mattress selling. When Moe is old enough his father says he needs to sabotage the competition by infesting their mattresses with a jar of bedbugs. Moe can’t bring himself to do it and their competition infest the Syzlak’s instead. He get’s kicked out of the house as a result.
Marge tries to help mend the relationship, “There’s no reason for this to come to shoes!” I laughed that Moe and his family’s go to fighting move was a shoe attack. The dinner Marge plans goes terribly but its revealed that Morty is retiring and wants Moe back in the business. Moe reconciles with his father and accepts but only later to be sabotaged by his siblings who want him out. When this is revealed Moe’s disappointment is so real that you can’t help but feel sorry for him. Marge even offers him some “platonic physical comfort” but she can’t bring herself to touch him in the end, and Moe’s appreciative, “You got closer than most” doubles down on the pathos.
The best bit though comes when Moe decides to get revenge and we get a montage of Moe and his siblings going back and forth trying to out do the other all the while some epic classical music plays in the background. My favourite was when Moe tossed the porcupine in the store rupturing the waterbeds causing a huge wave to come crashing out. Moe’s bloodlust escalates uncontrollably and decides that the final nail will be to infest his sibling’s mattress supply with bed bugs. The twist comes at the end when Moe is about to do it and Morty reveals that this was his plan all along: to pit his children against each other and for Moe to “finish the job, like he should have done all those years ago.”
Human decency triumphs and Moe decides not to go through with it. Marge applauds the decision and gives him the physical contact after all. Unfortunately, Moe accidentally drops the jar of bedbugs causing everyone to flee out of the warehouse trying to get the bugs off them.
Throughout the show’s history Moe has been defined by damage, isolation, low self esteem and intense anger. All of that was on full display in this episode and credit should be given to Hank Azaria for portraying that complex roller-coaster. Yet Moe is also capable of showing compassion; if you recall he reads to the homeless in the local soup kitchen and to children in the hospital, has a distaste for cruelty towards animals and has helped communities ravaged by forest fires and floods. Here, family triumphs and while Moe may not be perfect he’s not beyond love.
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