The Simpsons have never been much for meaningful season finale’s. Considering the way the show operates its no surprise. There’s no story that we follow throughout the length of the season nor is there even a simple thread that lies underneath the disparate stories as some shows do. Instead, we just get another episode without all of that, which isn’t a bad thing but for a season like this one where the quality has been better and some interesting choices have been made it leaves much to be desired.
In CBHP, Mr. Burns cuts his employee’s health coverage which means Bart can no longer take his Focusyn (a nice callback to season 11s Brothers Little Helper). After seeing the warnings about taking the generic drug Marge decides on an alternative remedy: crystals. They work (or so it seems) as Bart begins getting straight As in class. Seeing the benefits and with word spreading around Marge starts to sell the crystals herself and becomes quite successful. A rival from Shelbyville threatens Marge to not enter the market for crystals but Marge is undeterred until Lisa figures out that Bart lied about the crystals and only used them to cheat on the tests. He fesses up and Marge leaves the business.
The episode has a lot of good going for it. The B story with Lisa trying to figure out Bart was good. Bart taunting Lisa over his new crystal aid by telling her “It’s made by your boyfriend, Lis, the Earth” is pitch-perfect. As is Milhouse’s disappointment at the news of Lisa having a boyfriend followed by his quick turn that she might think him mysterious. Marge watching the video on the dangers of using generic drugs and their side-effects was also hilarious.
Then, there’s a very minor C thread where Homer, after seeing Marge’s success, becomes the housewife. The best part here is where he creates a book club with Lenny, Karl and Cletus. None have read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but Cletus meant business and wanted to discuss the book. He aims his shotgun at Lenny and orders him to dig deeper to which Lenny responds that the book shows how Scandinavian neo-noir examines the disparity between rhetoric and practice in Swedish policy. This had me dying.
Even Marge when confronted by the rival from Shelbyville was undeterred and took some funny jabs herself. She enlisted her sisters to take advantage of her rivals free sample creams and her mother to get the rival to inspect some misplaced healing eggs (I’ll let you imagine where they’ve been misplaced).
So the episode wasn’t short on laughs, in fact I found it to be one of the funnier episodes this season. But something was missing. The part where Bart comes clean to Marge just didn’t hit me. I can tell it was meant to be an emotional moment but there just didn’t feel like any weight was attached to it. Marge was initially skeptical of the crystals and even when she was making money she internally questioned whether she should be profiting off of something with dubious qualities. So Bart coming clean really had nothing to do with their relationship and just acted as confirmation that she should no longer be in that type of business anymore.
The other thing that bothered me was that this season Marge has proven herself to be a very competent business person/leader. Yet each time this is shown something happens that denies her the chance to continue with what she was good at. I think its time the writers give Marge what she’s clearly earned this season and over seasons past: a legitimate business venture or leadership role.
This would also fit with another request I have, one I’ve made in the past, which is for Lisa to finally become more militant in her activism for equality. It would have been nice for Lisa to take up her mother’s cause and make some type of statement about traditional work norms.
Anyway, I’ve digressed a fair bit. This was a good episode with lots of laughs but it would have been better had they committed to the decisions they made earlier.
So that’s a wrap on season 30. Verdict? A good year for the show and a nice bounce-back after the sour tasting season 29. We’re not quite in a renaissance but if they keep up the good work then the shows final seasons might just be vindication for those of us that have stuck around.