Episode 5 - Homer Defined
23 December 2010
Synopsis: One Monday the nuclear power plant goes in to meltdown and Homer's terminal is the only one able to shut down the reactor. He has no idea what to do and randomly pushes the right button to save the day. The whole town praises him but he knows it's all undeserved. Meanwhile Bart is crushed to learn that Millhouse's mother has forbidden their friendship.
The Good: The Bart story is very straightforward. We see how much Millhouse actually means to him when he literally has no one to play with anymore. So Marge talks to Luann for him and persuades her to life her ban on the friendship. Marge's defence of her son is very sweet.
Homer's story is memorable in several ways. Homer's lack of interest in his work is a defining part of who he is and here we see the awful consequences of his lack of competence. The build-up and aftermath of the potential meltdown are really well constructed and thoroughly crisscross the whole town's reactions.
Homer is instantly aware of the problem with the praise he now receives and the changing dictionary definitions of him are another good visual. They capture his mood in a neat memorable way and end the episode on a definition which matches his character more accurately: to succeed despite idiocy.
The actual jokes are passable with Marge's trashy TV show providing a smile and news reader Kent Brockman promising to be "more trusting and less vigilant in future."
The Bad: The meltdown story is so thorough in fact that there isn't time to do much with it. Homer is exposed as a fraud at the first opportunity and he isn't fired or reprimanded for his stupidity. Nor does his guilt lead him to seek some training. The fact that he only needed to remember one button underlined how frivolous the details of the story actually were.
Similarly neither Bart nor Millhouse do anything to address their bad behaviour. Luann just relents, that's it.
Best Joke: An 'Itchy and Scratchy' cartoon unfolds as Itchy gives Scratchy some wine which turns out to be acid that burns him badly leading him to run outside and get run over by a tram. Lisa laughs but Bart is too preoccupied by the Millhouse situation to even smile. "Bart you're not laughing" Lisa says "Too subtle?"
The Bottom Line: A fun episode in many ways but it has less humour and substance than you may remember.
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