The Simpsons opened their record 32nd season on Sunday. They did it by taking the spotlight away from the family and placing it onto Mr. Burns. A curious move for a season opener but the show has earned the right to take liberties with its presentation.
Undercover Burns has Mr. Burns disguises himself as Fred, complete with a life-like suit and voice changer in order to infiltrate his workers to understand why they hate him so much. What ends up happening is that he becomes friends with Homer, Lenny, and Carl. In order to keep the friendship Fred ‘stands’ up to Burns and gets the workers everything they want (including disposable Vespa’s. The plant starts to lose money and Smithers reveals to Homer who Fred really is and that they could all lose their jobs. Homer outs Fred and Burns, realizing what he’s done, dispose of Fred.
The episode did a good job of showing Burns’ transformation from evil overlord to a caring co-worker. Part of that has to do with the fact that there were no subplots which gave the story the time it needed to develop. Burns is usually a one note character but over the years we’ve seen momentary glimpses into his soft side. On some level Burns wants to be loved but his default is to be feared.
It’s kind of fitting that Homer’s crew is the one to make Burns turn. The group is kind, supportive and humble in their status as low level workers. It’s also even more fitting that Homer was tasked with turning Burns back to his old self. Considering the history between the two, having Homer take the high road by making a sacrifice play just makes perfect sense from an emotional stand point.
The episode wasn’t all that funny but it didn’t really need to be as the story was strong enough to carry it through. Seeing the plant transformed with everything the workers wanted was kind of neat (the lunchroom was turned into a food court). Homer continuously brushing off breakfast and dinner to spend time with Fred was a good recurring gag (Marge even made him a whole Turkey which he refused).
Alex Desert also shined in his new role as Carl. It’s not quite the same but it’s pretty close and if you’re not paying attention you wouldn’t notice. While we still don’t know if this is a permanent replacement he did well to keep the role in my opinion.
All in all, a pretty decent opener which made good use of its time and character development. Make sure to catch new episodes of The Simpsons every Sunday on Fox!