Season 31, Episode 19

It’s not everyday that we get two part Simpsons episodes. In fact there’s only ever been two of them: Season 6’s Who Shot Mr. Burns and more recently, season 28’s The Great Phatsby. I don’t know why we’ve never gotten more of these. There are plenty of worthy episodes that could’ve used a second installment. Indeed, the last two seasons have trended this way, with fewer B and C plots and tighter storytelling.

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Warrin’ Priests commits to just one plot and delivers a solid episode that may be low on laughs but is high on life. Pete Holmes guest stars as a young progressive priest (Bode) from Michigan who takes Springfield by storm. This installment sets him up to be almost infallible and always has the right thing to say at the right moment. What I liked was that the episode wasn’t going for overtly cheap laughs and so the humor was allowed to flow naturally. The best example of this is when Bode is sharing breakfast with some parishioners and shares a Chinese parable about people with too long chopsticks realizing they should feed each other in order to eat. The scene is allowed to be what it is, a nice teachable moment.

The other highlight of the episode is when Lisa and Bode meditate together. Bode leads Lisa on an inner journey where she perceives herself in a series of genuinely terrific alternate graphical depictions (3D, black-and-white, cubist, macaroni self-portraiture) until a sign pops up claiming “Animation budget exceeded.” It’s a great moment that’s both cool, and introspective all the while having enough room for a small meta joke at the end.

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It becomes gradually clear as the episode goes on though that not everything is as it seems. Something happened to Bode in Michigan that caused him to move to Springfield and by episode’s end Rev. Lovejoy has figured it out. So while the first installment was spent building up Brode the second half will bring him back down somehow. It will also be telling how they use Lovejoy. We’ve seen him have crises of faith before but those were internal. Here, the threat is external, a different religious philosophy that is not entirely reliant on scripture and is more focused on inclusivity. How Lovejoy handles this progressive Catholicism should be a good character moment for him.

We get a neat ‘preview’ of the next episode which plays on typical TV drama trailers which was refreshing. It’s not everyday that an old show gets to be inventive for a change.