Last week I begrudged The Simpsons for not following up on the Sea Captain story line so I was a little surprised that this week they actually committed to a side character.
Frinkcoin is about none other than Springfield’s resident brainiac Professor Frink. The episode’s main story sees Lisa choose Frink for her school paper on the most interesting person she knows. Frink has developed a new cryptocurrency (Frinkcoin) and becomes the richest man in Springfield. He doesn’t know what to do with his wealth so Lisa advises that he start focusing on himself and making friends.
In the B story Mr. Burns becomes jealous and tries to make his own currency with the help of nerds to reclaim his title as richest person in town. There’s even a small C story which has Smithers coping with abuse from Mr. Burns. That the writers managed to fit all of this in and make it work is quite the feat. My main criticism from previous seasons has been the show spreading itself too thin with multiple story lines. The show is much better served with a single story line and perhaps a small B plot.
Frinkcoin is a unique exception to my criticism. That’s because all the plots are very much connected. The B plot is a direct response to the A plot and the C plot is a direct response to the B plot. Mr. Burns, in his jealous rage continually berates Smithers to the point that Smithers has to seek counselling.
Reclaiming richest person in town isn’t enough for Burns, he delights in others misery. He confronts Frink and tells him rather candidly that being rich has its drawbacks and that “you’ll never know if anyone truly likes you.” Burns is at once being insightful and true to character. This leads Frink down a path of heartbreak. One by one he figures out that Burns was right. His new friends (the Moe’s tavern crew) were only using him for his money. This whole sequence was quite affecting and showed a different side of Frink.
Lisa too gets a moment of reflection. Consoling Frink, Lisa notes how she’s had to cope with her parents breaking up “nearly a thousand times,” how stories focused on her almost always end in disruption and disillusionment, and how her previous grownup friend is a long-dead jazz man. This was also equally affecting since rarely do our main characters get to reflect on their own circumstances.
In the end Burns ditches his nerds and decides to let the people of Springfield solve the equation that would end cryptocurrencies by leaving the white board in the city’s main square. By morning someone has figured it out but no one knows who. The camera pans out and Lisa reveals that it was Frink who solved the equation. He gives up the money and realizes that true friendship is the key to happiness.
A better than expected episode, Frinkcoin had me laughing and crying in equal measure. Frink would not have been my first choice for a deep dive into a side character (ahem, Sea Captain) but it turned out fine nevertheless.
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