“Wait, come back! You can’t do this to me! I’m Charles Montgomery Burns!” – C.M. Burns
As an audience member, there are few things more satisfying that a good defeat of a wretched villain. Unfortunately, that also means when things go wrong, when the villain is bland or the ending is weak, it is correspondingly unsatisfying. At the end of the “The Book Job”, Homer and his improbable posse use what Lisa describes as an idea from “every movie ever” to stymie a book publisher who, despite what the music would have you believe, isn’t all that evil. I say “stymie” instead of “defeat” because it isn’t at all clear that what he’s doing is evil or that he’d be in any way displeased with the results; and I say “book publisher” instead of his name because he’s so bland he didn’t get a name. By contrast, at the end of “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”, Marge permanently defeats Mr. Burns’ run for governor with nothing more than her wits and the three eyed fish that was in the first scene.
For a really enjoyable villain defeat, you need to have a proper villain do terrible things so that people really want to see him lose, which Zombie Simpsons naturally doesn’t. The nameless book publisher doesn’t commit any crimes, hurts no one, and hardly seems all that evil. What is his offense, exactly? Editing a book that was deliberately made to be crappy and formulaic? Only on Zombie Simpsons could rewriting mass produced schlock be considered a sin.
The only evil thing about this guy are his fashion accessories.
Mr. Burns, one of television’s great villains, hardly needs describing, so let’s just concentrate on what he’s trying to do in “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”. After his plant miserably fails an inspection, he’s faced with a hefty but by no means ruinous repair bill. Instead of spending money on fixing the plant, his response is to purchase the governor’s office so he can continue running his business in a manner that will one day render the planet uninhabitable. The Simpsons being The Simpsons, it’s played for laughs, but when you think about what he’s trying to do it’s truly despicable. The other guy just wants to sell a few books that, while low brow, don’t harm anyone and actually seem to make quite a few people happy.
Beyond his lack of evil though, the bad guy in “The Book Job” doesn’t actually get defeated. At the end we see that the book, trolls and all, is quite popular. The bookstore has given it lots of shelf space, and kids and geeks are reading it avidly. Since all he wants to do is make money selling books, and he doesn’t care at all whether the book is about trolls or vampires, he’s actually won. The million dollars he paid to Homer’s goofy gang of the suddenly hyper-competent is a small price to pay for the runaway bestseller and budding franchise he appears to have on his hands.
The opposite happens to Mr. Burns, who sees himself humiliated on television and his campaign for governor thwarted on the eve of success. Best of all, Burns is defeated by his own villainy. His disregard for polluting the water is what allows Marge to defeat him.
In short, the nameless book guy isn’t evil and doesn’t lose. Mr. Burns is unlimitedly evil and is utterly beaten. One of those is a great ending, the other is Zombie Simpsons.