“Hey, I like this kid. I can’t believe we we’re gonna shoot him.” – Fat Tony
As part of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that opens this episode, Bart eventually falls down some concrete stairs, only to have a halo of guns surround his head. His ultimate fate is decided in court, on charges of murder; in between he is in various forms of serious jeopardy. But no matter how many times guns are jammed in his face or adults scheme his false conviction, the story is never played for tension or suspense.
This extends to Bart’s nightmare, where he’s haunted by grim, black-and-white imaginings of the many ways his new compatriots may have gruesomely disposed of his principal. But even that turns into less The Seventh Seal and more Young Frankenstein once Reverend Lovejoy and Homer show up to, respectively, tacitly condone and enthusiastically encourage the execution of a ten-year-old. Even in the protected confines of a network comedy, an audience would be expected to blanche at a child contemplating wrongful execution. Yet The Simpsons not only hung their entire ending off of it and made it funny the whole way, they let the real bad guys get away in the end.