“I am-a confused.” – Don Vittorio DiMaggio
Given its manic-depressive pacing and weird four-segment structure, it’s not always easy to tell when Zombie Simpsons is moving from one act to another. It has a tendency to meander and stutter step its way through what can only generously be called a story, tossing off things that may or may not be jokes along the way. For example, take what was supposed to be the second act of “The Falcon and the D’Ohman”.
When we come back from the first commercial break, Jack Bauer is having dinner with the Simpsons at their dining room table. This leads to the extended training flashback, which leads to the Taiwanese CGI retelling of what we already saw in the first segment, which leads to another flashback of Bauer beating people up (in this case, his old boss). That leads to Homer’s flash-forward and Homer inviting Bauer to come and stay with them. Huh? He started the segment at the Simpsons home, and it ends with him being invited back, which means when we come back from the second commercial break the first shot is of Bauer back in the same location he was at after the first break.
Nor is the third segment any more coherent. It ends with Homer being kidnapped by a Ukrainian mob boss we had not seen until one minute prior. The fourth segment/third act is basically an extended action sequence (though they did work in two more flashbacks) to tie up a conflict that had been introduced less than a minute before the second act ended. Again: huh?
Hello. We’re two thirds through this, who the hell are you?
This isn’t Zombie Simpsons rejecting conventional storytelling wholesale to do something completely different. It isn’t even subverting or playing around with the standard three act formula. They have a regular old three act story, they just execute it really poorly. The result is a hot mess of flashbacks and a supposedly main conflict that gets introduced about six seconds before the third act begins.
As it happens, a vengeful mob boss had kidnapped Homer once before. Like “The Falcon and the D’Ohman”, Homer gets tossed in the back of a car so the episode can get resolved. Unlike “The Falcon and the D’Ohman”, the kidnapping was set up right from the first scene of the episode and was integral to its conclusion.
In Season 6’s “Homie the Clown”, the story begins with Krusty having money problems. Not only that, but Fat Tony and his crew appear just over a minute into the episode precisely because Krusty is deeply in hock to them. Krusty’s debt – introduced right there in Act 1 – drives the entire thing. It’s what forces him to open the clown college, which is what allows Homer to become a clown, which is why the mob mistakes Homer for Krusty at the end of Act 2.
So when “Homie the Clown” gets to its final segment there’s no mystery as to who the bad guys are. Even better, they’ve managed to weave in a classic mistaken identity plot, so Homer has a legitimate reason to be there for the final confrontation between Krusty and the mobsters. Everything ties together and nothing gets unexpectedly thrown at the audience.
He’s so nice he even introduces himself.
The same careful construction (Season 6) and lack thereof (Season 23) can be seen in the final scenes as well. In “Homie the Clown”, we meet the kindly “old Italian stereotype” who is Fat Tony’s boss, and he demands that Homer execute Krusty’s stunt of riding a little bicycle through a loop. While we haven’t seen the mob boss before, we had already seen the mobsters, so it’s not surprising. Better, the bicycle-loop trick was established at the beginning of the episode AND we had already seen Homer fail at it repeatedly in the second act. So when Homer has to do the trick, the brief moments of suspense have been lead into by the entire story up to that point.
That confrontation takes place in the mob hangout we’d seen in previous episodes, but the one in “The Falcon and the D’Ohman” happens at an ice rink. Why? Who knows? No reason is given. Furthermore, Homer is frozen into the ice and very disposable mob henchmen are skating around him. No reason is given for any of this either. The mob boss, whom we barely know, has no connection whatsoever to ice skating, it’s just a random place that allows Jack Bauer to kill an absolute shitload of dudes.
As someone who was raised on violent television I’m not prone to complaining about on-screen body counts unless they’re too low. But I’m pretty sure Bauer kills more people on-screen in this one scene than happened in all of Seasons 1-9, maybe even including the Halloween episodes.
In the midst of all this, a bunch of costumed mascot people show up. This makes no sense and, once again, there’s nothing in the episode to explain it. They just thought it would be funny to set one of the mascots on fire. It finally, mercifully ends when Homer disarms the mob boss by tickling him . . . at which point Bauer straight up murders the unarmed man. This is many things, but you’d be hard pressed to call it funny.
Nothing says comedy like smoldering corpses.
To top things off, since that scene had nothing to do with the rest of the story all that violence couldn’t even resolve the plot. Remember that the original reason Bauer was living with the Simpsons and calling Homer his friend was because he got fired and had nowhere else to go. This didn’t address that at all. It doesn’t end until Marge tells Bauer, literally as an afterthought as he’s walking out the door, that as a sadistic government employee he can work at the DMV. She knew this about him from the time he sat down to dinner with them right after the first commercial break, but didn’t say anything until after Zombie Simpsons had slaked its considerable thirst for blood.
Where The Simpsons built meticulously to and ending of silly absurdity (clown trick or die!) for comedy’s sake, Zombie Simpsons flopped down a dull action sequence that was only tenuously connected to the rest of the episode. Don Vittorio DiMaggio was a self described stereotypical mob boss who was willing to kill Krusty and Homer over $48, but was too much of a comedy fan to pull the trigger. “Victor” was a guy we hardly met whose name we only learned in a flashback right before Bauer killed his wife, and who ended up being stabbed in the throat. (Though even that wasn’t the end, the episode had one more pointless flashback in it.) One of these guys had a funny part in a funny story, the other was a lifeless prop in something else.