We’ve reached the end of another season of The Simpsons, one that was a mixed bag with some very memorable highs and a few instantly forgettable lows, but that’s not half bad for the longest-running scripted series in television history.
And the episode that the powers that be at the show have chosen to close out its 34th season with is an inventive story that almost entirely takes place inside Homer Simpson’s brain as he wrecks his car while driving very angry.
But this installment, titled “Homer’s Adventures Through the Windshield Glass” (a reference not only to Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland stories, but also to a Troy McClure car-safety film from way back in season 4) begins with a terrific, pause-worthy couch gag that crams in 750 characters from throughout The Simpsons’ history– a welcome nod to the fact that this is indeed the series’ 750th episode. After that, we see Homer (voiced, as always, by Dan Castellaneta) angrily storm out of a local bank and into his car, which he drives recklessly through the streets of Springfield until he loses control while sending a furious text to Marge and crashes into a fire hydrant. Then time immediately slows down for Homer, and over the next 20 minutes or so we see him experiencing the crash in super-slow motion, as his head approaches the supposedly shatterproof windshield glass and then breaks through, sending him flying toward a tree.
His only companion on this journey is an imaginary one– one of Maggie’s Happy Little Elf dolls that comes to life as Homer’s traumatic hallucination and starts speaking in the voice of guest star Lizzo (perhaps best known for her role on The Mandalorian… also I think she plays the flute?). Anyway, the Happy Little Elf uses the shattered glass from Homer’s windshield to walk him through the events that led to this potentially fatal accident. It turns out that Homer had been visiting the bank to deposit a potato chip that looks just like John Travolta into a safety deposit box, only to discover that his wife Marge (Julie Kavner) already has a box and has been using it to store her father’s Last Will and Testament, which– to Homer’s shock– bestowed upon Marge the regular sum of $1,000 a month after his death. Homer is so angry after learning about this secret that he storms out on the bank teller who was helping him (another guest star in Saturday Night Live’s Bowen Yang) and recreates the opening scene from Steven Soderberg’s 1998 crime thriller Out of Sight– yes, I got that deep-cut reference, Simpsons animators. You’re welcome, signed late-90s film student Mike Celestino.
Speaking of animation, I think the real highlight of this episode is how nifty and unique (especially to The Simpsons) everything looks during Homer’s journey from car to… well, spoiler alert, he doesn’t die by hitting the tree. He does, however, briefly visit hell where he’s sentenced to an eternity of waiting in line for another eternity’s worth of punishment. But first he gets the chance to make things right with Marge’s dad (Harry Shearer), who shows him that he wasn’t trying to emasculate Homer, just looking out for the well-being of his daughter, who ended up using the stipend to bail her husband out of his frequent scrapes over the past decade of their marriage anyway. Homer has an epiphany, which saves him from eternal damnation (hell apparently needs a two-thirds vote to change that particular rule) and he gets to return to his body, reuniting with Marge and the kids. This isn’t the funniest half hour the show has ever churned out, but at the very least it’s an innovative and cool-looking one, and an appropriate way to put a bow on the 34th season– not to mention a tidy 750 episodes.
The Simpsons will return for its 35th season in the fall.