Happy New Year, and welcome back to another week of Lifetime of Simpsons. We have a big week ahead of us, with the end of Season 27, the beginning of Season 28, and by Friday we’ll be talking about the 600th episode of the Simpsons. By the gods! But, that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Today we’re just talking about the season finale of Season 27. And before we get into it, I just have one question. Do you remember the Season 4 episode “Marge in Chains” where Marge has to go to prison and has a surprisingly good time there? Well, today’s episode is just that again.
Things start off at the Nuclear Plant at quitting time. Homer gives Marge a call to tell her that he’s out the door and will be home momentarily, even though she’s hesitant to believe him that he’ll be home quickly. Homer reassures her that it’ll be fine, and then things immediately go wrong. Because Homer gets caught by Mr. Burns and Smithers, who need him to hold up one corner of a poster that’s covering up some nuclear waste. And, unfortunately, Burns is using some ancient machine that make sure the poster is level, and it’s going to take hours to calibrate.
Meanwhile, Marge is home, trying to get everything ready for the evening. She has dinner ready, and is just about to pop open a bottle of wine when things start going wrong for her. Lisa comes in complaining that Marge made a mistake on her seahorse costume for a school project, because she’s supposed to be a male and doesn’t have a pouch. Maggie then starts throwing food everywhere, and when Bart offers to help clean things up he just makes things worse and manages to melt some of the kitchen floor.
Bart then loses all interest in helping out Marge, and just heads outside to go play at a playground instead. He walks on over himself, and starts hanging out, until Martin shuffles up to make small-talk. And, as soon as Martin starts talking his mother comes up to encourage him, and talks to Bart a bit too. Which is when things get really bad. Because Martin’s mother is baffled at the idea that Bart would be here unsupervised, and makes the completely logical decision to call the goddamn police! What?!
Yeah, the cops have been called, and when Chief Wiggum shows up at the playground and confirms that Bart is there unescorted, he tells Bart that things look bad. Apparently kids aren’t allowed to go anywhere by themselves anymore, so something has to be done. Which means that Wiggum is going to head right over to the Simpson’s house, and arrest Marge in front of her children! And, to make it even crazier, Homer gets home right as she’s being arrested, and gets to helplessly watch Marge get arrested for child endangerment as well.
Marge is then immediately brought to court, as is customary in the Simpsons, and she tries to explain how insane this case is, and how it makes no sense that kids are supposed to be prisoners of their homes at all time. Judge Snyder does seem to think that this is all pretty crazy, but still finds her guilty of child endangerment and ends up giving her ninety days in prison. Yep, this all makes sense, perfectly logical sequence of events.
Marge ends up being sent to a woman’s prison and she’s immediately intimidated by her fellow inmates, specifically her cell-mates. She’s incredibly worried that she’s going to be too timid to survive these ninety days. But then something odd happens. While she’s trying to hide in the library, reading a book, a group of women show up and start bullying her. So, Marge decides to hit the biggest woman in the head with the book, knocking her out. And, just like that, she has enough cred to stay safe.
While Marge is in prison though, Homer and the kids have to figure out how to survive without a competent adult in the house. Luckily, the community comes together and arrive to give them food and support, primarily because they’re all worried that if half-assed parenting becomes a punishable offense, everyone in town will be in trouble. Well, except Ned. He’s there because he in particular knows what it’s like to lose a wife/mother, no matter how temporary, and wants to help them. And, Homer and the kids certainly have to problem exploiting Ned’s sadness to their own gain.
Back in prison, Marge actually seems to be doing on. No one is messing with her, and she’s finding that she enjoys the regimented life that comes with prison. And, when she starts to get some rather obnoxious calls from the kids where they just ask her for favors instead of appreciating the horrible situation she’s in, she decides that she enjoys the ability to shirk responsibility. So, she enjoys her time in prison, she gets popular, she gets a lot of relaxation, and she doesn’t have to worry about mothering people.
However, Homer arrives for a visit one day with bad news. He’s hired the Blue-Haired Lawyer who has found a loophole that can get Marge immediately released from prison. And she’s not ready. So, she decides to grab the guard’s gun and fires it into the ceiling, earning her more time on her sentence. Homer is pretty baffled by this behavior, but Marge doesn’t care, she’s loving the fact that her incarceration is earning her a modicum of freedom from her family.
Homer is rather depressed by this development, since it basically confirms that Marge would rather be in jail than with him and the kids. So, to help the situation, Homer decides he needs to be a better parent. And, in doing this, he figures that he needs to become a housewife, and even has a fantasy where he’s a housewife in a 50’s sitcom. And to accomplish this he offers to start watching all the other neighborhood kids now that all parents are on lockdown to avoid jailtime.
And this is where the episode starts to get really wacky. Because while Homer is out taking care of the kids, Bart decides to lead a revolution. He thinks that all of this extra attention is ridiculous, and convinces the kids to ditch Homer so that they can go have a good time by themselves. And, at the same time that this is going on we see that Marge has started to get depressed and misses the family. But, when she talks about taking a break in prison, her words are misconstrued, and she accidentally starts a prison riot because they think there’s a prison break happening.
This isn’t the only problem though. Because over at the playground all the kids are frolicking around, only to find a tornado arrive. They end up panicking, since they don’t know what to do on their own. And, the tornado is also affecting Marge’s prison, which is turning the riot much crazier. Homer ends up showing up at the prison for some reason, dressed as a guard, and he tries to help Marge. Marge then forgives Homer, and apologizes for staying in prison. She’s then randomly released, the kids are returned home safe but rattled, and everyone has a newfound appreciation for Marge.
This is a very strange episode. Like I said earlier, the central concept of “Marge gets sent to prison for an insane reason and actually ends up enjoying it while Homer and the kids struggle to survive without her,” has literally been done before. Granted, it was done twenty-three seasons ago, but it’s still weird that they just made the same episode again. Plus, the inciting incident is even crazier. The idea that letting your kid go to the park by themselves is now child-endangerment is completely ridiculous, and by having the episode continuously follow back to that plot thread just makes it weirder and weirder. It’s also bizarre that the episode just kind of went insane at the end. The tornado comes out of nowhere and doesn’t have a lot of consequences, Marge starts to feel bad about her decisions for no real reason, and I have absolutely no idea why Homer was suddenly a prison guard other than to streamline the plot. It just felt like one of those episode where it meandered around like crazy in the first act and then had to rush things in the third. Not a great end of a season frankly. It’s also bizarre that the episode was named after a popular show about women in prison and then didn’t capitalize on this to feature cameos or even more parody. It seemed like a ripe potential that they just side-step to do a plot that they’re already done. Just a bundle of weird choices.
Take Away: Don’t smother your children.
“Orange is the New Yellow” was written by Eric Horsted and directed by Matthew Faughnan, 2016.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons