TV Review / Recap: Moe Enlists Nelson to Join His Junior Hockey Team in “The Simpsons” – “Top Goon”

What’s this? Two relatively solid episodes of The Simpsons in a row? By current standards, I’d say that means season 34 of the long-running animated sitcom is on a roll with tonight’s new installment “Top Goon” (the title of which is a mash-up of the 1986 military action movie Top Gun and the 2011 Canadian sports comedy Goon).

“Top Goon” begins by telling its audience that the episode will be focused on the character of Moe Szyslak (voiced, as always, by Hank Azaria) by changing the opening theme song to his name instead of the usual “The Simpsons” riff as the also-altered title comes through the clouds.

We then see an interaction between Moe and the owner of King Toot’s Music Store (guest star Will Forte from MacGruber, reprising his role from an episode in season 30) in which Moe becomes jealous of his storefront neighbor’s youth hockey trophy. We then get an especially funny montage of Moe ruminating on his failure of a life over the next year, through just about every major holiday from February until October, until hockey season starts up again. At the Simpsons’ house, Homer (Dan Castellaneta) returns home with Lisa (Yeardley Smith) from her final little-league soccer game of the year, for which she won a participation trophy. Homer is relieved to have some time to relax on the couch, but then Marge (Julie Kavner) reminds him that Bart’s (Nancy Cartwright) junior hockey season is just now beginning. Of course Moe is Bart’s coach and Bart turns out to be the best player on the team, so all the other kids are instructed to pretty much just stand aside and let the spiky-haired Simpson boy do his thing. But a problem arises when Bart starts getting beat up by players on the other teams who realize he’s the only asset Moe’s squad has.

Despondent over the constant sidelining of his star player, Moe stumbles across Nelson Muntz (also Cartwright) beating up Martin Prince (Grey DeLisle-Griffin) and enlists him to be the “Goon” for the Springfield Bar Flyers team. At first Nelson turns down the offer, but then shows up at the last minute during a game to take out all of Bart’s opponents. In a very amusing gag, Moe’s team is disqualified because Nelson was wearing cafeteria trays instead of skates– turns out that’s the first rule of ice hockey– so Moe decides to send Nelson to “Top Goon” camp, where he can learn to be a better enforcer. This is one thing that Nelson excels at, so he returns to the game and helps the Bar Flyers win, but at a celebratory afterparty, Bart begins to mock Moe, which causes Nelson to reflexively change his “primary” person he’s defending to the only man who has been looking after him.

Sadly, when Nelson beats up Bart, ending his hockey season, Moe implies that Nelson is only good for being a pair of fists, which causes the boy to run off and become a lackey for Fat Tony (recurring guest star Joe Mantegna) and his mafia goons. The episode concludes with Moe stopping Nelson before he uses a lead pipe to beat King Toot senseless because he owes Fat Tony money, and together they smash the music store window and steal the hockey trophy for themselves. It’s a satisfyingly cantankerous way to end an all-around entertaining episode, with plenty of clever jokes like Homer’s absent-minded choice to watch hockey on his TV after the junior hockey season he constantly bemoaned finally comes to an end. The mid-credits tag, with Homer enduring Bart’s excruciatingly slow physical therapy, is also quite chuckle-worthy. I’d love to see The Simpsons keep up this streak for as long as possible, but considering this is the final episode of 2022, I’ll have to wait until next year to do it! See you in January with more.

New episodes of The Simpsons air Sunday evenings on FOX.