Back when Disney announced that it was purchasing Fox I had kind of hoped that some of their talent would be used to revive this aging show and truly bring it into the 21st century. As far as I know that hasn’t actually happened and things are pretty much business as usual at Simpsons HQ. Despite this the season has thankfully been not a disaster with a few good bright spots.
Bart the Bad Guy is one of those bright spots. Its no coincidence that the episode borrows heavily from its parent company and the Marvel cinematic universe to craft its own quality spinoff.
The episode revolves around the viewing of the Vindicators Crystal War, which ends on a cliff-hanger much like its Avengers source material. With the sequel a year away the townsfolk are eager to see the film and in a stroke of luck Bart manages to get his hands on an advanced copy of the film. Bart uses his knowledge to take advantage of everyone he comes in contact with until The Russo Brothers step in stop him from spoiling the film (more on this later).
Though we don’t get too much time with them the Vindicators are actually a pretty funny and silly knockoff of the Avengers. There’s Airshot, a drunk Aussie outside of the films, Magnesium Man, whose banter is ‘funny but not too funny’, Chinnos whose power comes from his cell phone, an Aztec Thor, Moby Man, a human whale, Lady Groot, who speaks in full sentences and Black Voodoo who could also pass for a Jazz player.
The episode works because it sees Bart follow his own ‘origin story’ if you will. After he sees the sequel he uses his new found powers for mischief. He cuts in line at the cafeteria in school and gets all the food he wants and bribes comic book guy for all his merch. Homer is the only one immune to his powers because he doesn’t care for the movie but Bart, growing in confidence/strength, uses his powers to benefit his dad by getting all the beer he wants. Then with the impending release approaching Bart makes a last grasp for power by bribing the town to build him a massive treehouse on the city’s oldest tree ‘Old Susie’. Milhouse confronts Bart about his turn to a super-villain “You just blackmailed the whole town to build you a lair!” and Bart acknowledges it but in true supervillain form sees nothing wrong with it.
All of this was done so well and plays up on the best that Bart has to offer as a character. When left to his own devices, completely unhinged and drunk on power, Bart is truly one of the best and funniest characters on the show. Seeing Bart manipulate everyone was fun to watch and it even reminded me of those Sideshow Bob episodes where his intricate plans nearly work.
And underneath it all we still get a bit of a redemption story. After the Milhouse confrontation, Magnesium Man appears and whisks Bart away through a portal and into the universe of The Vindicators. There each member explains to Bart that his actions affect their universe and reveal that Airshot has been killed because of it. We then get the reveal that Bart is in a VR experience by the Russo Brothers with his parents watching from behind the two way glass. For a moment, the show had me going and I was willing to play along when Bart got kidnapped but the twist was equally delightful and kind of sinister on behalf of Disney.
When forced to reveal the ending in exchange for ‘actual’ super powers by Chinnos Bart opts to keep the secret and save the rest of the Vindicators. He then wakes up and celebrates to his parents that he’s changed and that he won’t spoil the film afterall. Then we get the biggest twist of all when the camera lowers to underneath the bed where Disney has planted a bomb as a failsafe.
That the show went this route and took a jab at their new boss as this villainous group was a solid choice. All of this to say that the episode was really good and a much needed breath of fresh of air. It had just the right amount of over the top craziness to make it one of the stand out episodes of the season.
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