It feels like Season 31 has reached a point of bafflement here on Lifetime of Simpsons. By and large this whole season we’ve just been given a bunch of episodes that kind of defy logic, some of the strangest and most ill-advised choices you could imagine. Which, maybe tracks for a show this well past its prime. And, that trend isn’t being bucked this week, because we get a whole episode that focuses on Todd Flanders and the power of prayer in our lives!
The episode begins as if it’s an episode of the Flanders’, basically the same as the Simpsons opening, but with a lot more church and a heavenly choir singing a bunch of “doodelies.” And, once that’s done we cut to Ned’s bedroom, where he’s visited by the ghost of Maude. The two then begin kissing, only for Ned to realize that he’s making out with his dog, which seems to be a frequent occurrence.
Ned then begins crying in his bedroom, thinking of his two dead wives, when Todd comes in, curious about why his father is so sad. The two get talking, and Todd admits that the only time he dreams about Maude are nightmares where she’s a faceless ghoul attacking him. Because he apparently can’t remember what Maude even looked like anymore.
So, Ned decides to fix that by showing Todd some old home movies. They watch a sweet one where they decorate for Christmas, only for Grandpa Simpson to come barging in, yelling chaotically. This doesn’t really sate Todd’s sadness, and he begins asking some pointed questions about Maude, heaven, and souls, which causes Ned to start floundering. And, once you start tugging on those strings, Todd quickly starts asking questions about the reality of the Bible, and the nature of faith, which is too much for Ned.
Todd is frustrated by the lack of answers, and ends up praying to his mother, asking her to send a sign that she’s still out there somewhere, listening. And, all he gets is the knowledge that Homer taped over their home videos with a video of him playing air guitar. Which, is a bit of a disappointment.
We then see everyone at church, begging for it to end, only for Reverend Lovejoy inviting children to sit up on the stage and talk about what they would say to baby Jesus if they could. We get some pretty standard “Kids Say the Darndest Things” answers, until it’s time for Todd. He tries to push it off, saying that his voice is too rough from crying all night, but Lovejoy presses him, and he ends up going on a tirade, saying that he would tell Jesus “Thanks for nothing, my mommy is dead and never coming back, and I don’t believe in God anymore!”
Ned, obviously, faints. The Flanders’ head home, and Ned has no idea what to say. Other than admonishing Todd that they’re all going to Hell now, because they’re harboring a sinner. And, Todd responds by talking about how hypocritical the church is, and how they could be doing more to help people rather than hold onto their tax exempt status, which just throws Ned into a tizzy.
Ned attempts to FaceTime Reverend Lovejoy, but he’s too busy to help, so Ned does the next best thing, and prays for God to punish Todd. And, the next morning, Ned continues this behavior by loudly praying over breakfast, hoping to shame him into saying “amen.” But, he refuses, and Ned freaks out, deciding that he’s going to have to do the right thing, and scare religion back into his son.
And, thankfully, he has the answer. Because right outside his window are Bart and Homer, playing some sort of pantsless riddle game, which makes Ned realize that staying with the Simpsons will teach Todd the importance of religion. Ned apparently sets it all up with the Simpsons, and Todd is sent over. They make it clear that it’s going to be a for a single night, but it does seem to stretch over several days.
At first it looks like Lisa is going to bond with Todd, talking about the pressure of giving up on Christianity, but she then immediately pivots to tryin to sell him on Buddhism. And, Todd isn’t into it, saying that he doesn’t believe in any god, including Buddha. Everyone seems rather put off by Todd, but when Marge tells Homer that she doesn’t want to have sex with Todd in the house he decides he needs to get rid of the kid.
Homer’s first idea is to try and fake a miracle with some Jesus toast, but it’s painfully clear that he made it himself, and it doesn’t impress Todd. Oh, and we also get a “Jebus” reference, continuing this season’s trend of referencing better Simpsons episodes. So, a few days later Homer tries a different tactic, and tries to teach Todd about religious apathy, just not caring and pretending for everyone else’s benefit.
But, during this talk they end up getting into the topic of their dead moms, which causes Homer to have vivid flashbacks of Mona and Abe fighting, resulting in him falling to tears. The then runs away from Todd, goes to Moe’s and begins getting drunk. And, much to his surprise, Ned is also there, and the two end up getting shitfaced together. They drink for their sadness, and leave together at the end of the night, where they’re promptly hit and seemingly killed by Uber-driver Hans Moleman.
Homer and Ned are sent to Heaven, and begin chatting with God. Ned’s a little shocked that Homer got in, but apparently because Jesus is now a millenial he has made sloth a virtue, ensuring Homer’s acceptance. But, while God is showing them around he realizes that they have visitor passes, meaning they’re still technically alive. Which, we see as they’re sharing a room in the hospital.
The whole town comes to pray for Ned, and even Bart and Lisa get in on the action, praying for their father. Todd isn’t sure about it though, figuring that no one is listening, but Marge tells him to do it just in case. And, sure enough, when Todd prays he’s able to pull Ned’s soul back to Earth. Bart and Lisa’s prayers are apparently not good enough though, but when Homer has a nice hug with Mona in heaven it’s enough to send him back to Earth. And, just like that, Todd is a Christian again! Yay?
You know, I’m sure it’s a matter of personal preference. But I hated this episode. I’ve talked quite a bit about it over the course of this Lifetime of Simpsons project, but I am not a fan of organized religion, and any episode that leans into their weird conservative Christian messaging just completely turn me off. Todd makes perfectly valid points, and attempts to live his own life, which completely infuriates Ned. Ned straight up sucks in this episode, turning his son away for daring to have a differing opinion than his. He’s the villain of this episode, and it sucks that things end up with Todd deciding that religion is in fact good, when it did nothing for him. It didn’t answer any of his problems, it was just because of guilt. Which sucks. Also, while I totally get that this episode should focus on Maude since it’s weirdly a Todd episode, it’s still weird that they essentially don’t bring up Ned’s other wife, the infinity more beloved Mrs. Krabapel. It’s just a weird, frustrating episode, and I’m glad I never have to see it again.
“Todd, Todd, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?” was written by Tim Long and Miranda Thompson and directed by Chris Clements, 2019.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons