I knew this day would come eventually, but I didn’t think it’d be so soon. The thing is, this episode is actually fairly important in the grand scheme of Simpsons lore, with more than one important ‘first’ in the episode. But despite that, I just don’t feel very strongly about this episode. It’s not a BAD episode by any stretch – it at the very least holds up to the standard of quality set by the other episodes I’ve seen so far, it just never grabbed me by the balls like so many other episodes have.
So, without further delay, let’s dive into The Simpsons season 1 episode 3 – Homer’s Odyssey.
The plot on this one takes a while to get rolling, but it’s as straightforward as the last few. On a field trip to the nuclear power plant, Bart distracts Homer long enough for the latter to break something and get himself fired. Feeling like he’s reached the end of his rope, Homer decides to kill himself and end it all. His family, in an attempt to stop him, is nearly run over by a car, sparking a change in Homer and starting his crusade to improve Springfield’s safety. Homer’s final target in his quest for safety is the power plant itself. Fearful of his growing power and influence, Mr. Burns offers Homer a new job to occupy his time, and after some bargaining, the Simpson patriarch accepts.
Like I said, this episode is notable for a few firsts. It has the first of many eventual prank calls to Moe’s Tavern this one for I. P. Freely. It also establishes the job that Homer has for most of the series (barring the tens of episodes where he has whatever new job is convenient for that week’s shenanigans) – Nuclear Safety Inspector. Also, before I go any further, there’s one thing that jumped out at me this episode.
HOLY CRAP SMITHERS USED TO BE BLACK! Or at least brown!
I know they were still changing things around and finding their rhythm for this first season, but damn. I didn’t think they sent so far as to change characters’ races. I almost half wonder what sparked the decision, or if it was never really a decision but an afterthought. Or maybe an animation mistake, where Smithers was never meant to be black at all? I guess at the end of the day it’s just one of the many things I wish I knew their thought process on.
But like I said earlier, this episode’s never really grabbed me any of the many times I’ve seen it, and I can’t help but wonder why. Is it because it (kinda sorta) deals with suicide, which is always a very touchy topic? Well, I guess it’s possible, but that just doesn’t really seem like it. After all, there are shows that deal with subjects as sensitive as, if not more sensitive than suicide, and I love my fair share of those (I’m looking at you, South Park). So no, that’s probably not it. I could blame the episode’s placement in the season, and that sure as hell came to mind. After all, it’s only episode three and this is our second Homer-centric episode. I know he and Bart tend to get the majority of the storylines, but part of me had hoped they’d at least take the time to keep fleshing out Marge and Lisa with their own episodes first.
I guess I could blast it for not exactly being a ‘hilarious’ episode, but I didn’t exactly praise the first two for their non-stop comedy. Like those two, this one has it’s moments of hilarity but the episode seems more focused on telling it’s story, which I can’t fault it for. And in reviewing those first two episodes, if anything I was more focused on the heartwarming moments and little nuances here and there than the hilarity. Which I suppose I should rectify now – guys, those two episodes had some damn hilarious moments in them, no lie.
I think at the end of the day, this episode has two flaws that murder it for me. First, even the moments that are supposed to feel big and emotional fall a little flat. Homer sneaks into Bart’s room to steal his piggy bank for beer money. We’re supposed to see a crazed father, someone so depressed and at the end of their rope that they’re willing to stoop to any low just try to make their life hurt a fraction less for only a moment. Thing is, it just doesn’t come off that way. I think in that respect, it hurts that the episode never shows Homer feeling remorse for his actions while in that sorry state. It just sort of brushes past them and moves on, which really detracts from the emotional weight that moment COULD have had.
The other flaw likely isn’t a ‘fair’ complaint to level at this show, but screw it, I’m not here to be fair and unbiased. At the end of the day, this episode just doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot to stick out in my head. I can’t really blame it for that, since I doubt the creative team thought back then that this little show would turn into a generation-spanning behemoth. That said, while I was watching this episode, I got it confused with at least a handful of others where Bart goes on a field trip, or where Homer ends up leaving his job at the plant one way or another. It just doesn’t leave any sort of mark on you, and that is what hurts it more than anything else it could possibly do wrong.
Sorry to end it on a downer note, but hopefully episode 4 picks things back up a bit.