“Oh no, it’s Gloria Vanderbilt, out for revenge!” – Hired Goon
Near the end of “Chief of Hearts”, Fat Tony and the gang are counterfeiting clothing in the woods for some reason. Homer and Wiggum are there for some other reason. Homer and Wiggum then get thrown in the trunk for yet another reason. While in the trunk, they have an earnest and humorless heart-to-heart moment that finally pushes their earnest and humorless plot line towards the finish line.
As if to underscore how lazy this entire setup is, just about the only stab at comedy in the entire ending is Wiggum’s joke about the tire iron being what was poking him in the back. Except that Wiggum was facing Homer, not the other way around. That’s not normally the kind of thing I give a shit about, but there’s no reason other than sheer apathy for it to have been that way. They could’ve put Homer behind Wiggum in the trunk, there was nothing stopping them. But they didn’t even consider it.
This could not have been more than two script pages from the tire iron “joke”.
Compare all this to the ending of “The Springfield Connection”. Here, too, we have a counterfeit clothing scheme to wrap up the plot. The difference (other than that this one was fresh and Zombie Simpsons was recycling an idea) is that both of the elements that bring the story to a conclusion have been previously established. We know that Homer gambles in the house with Herman (and that Herman ducks out for unexplained reasons), and we’ve seen Marge on the firing range doing target practice. Moreover, even during the “suspense” parts, nearly every line or action is a joke of some kind, from Homer telling Marge to “sell the jeans and live like a queen”, to Marge’s exasperation at her back yard turning into a shooting gallery, to Herman’s “foiled by my own shoddy merchandise”. Everything is played for humor and it all moves on quickly.
Even Homer’s reconciliation with Marge, telling her that she’s a good cop, is played for a laugh when Homer immediately turns on her when he thinks Herman is getting away. Not only does it take less time than Homer and Wiggum’s multiple makeup sessions in “Chief of Hearts”, but it’s done with comedy – not drama – in mind. To top it all off, when things finally do end, everything returns to normal. Marge quits the police (which she’d already grown disenchanted with) because of all the corruption, and no one had to act out of character to get things back to normal. Wiggum and company remain self interested and dishonest, Marge remains incorruptible and upright.
Zombie Simpsons perverts the essence of a long established character, lingers on contrived situations that are played for suspense, and ends with Homer and Wiggum being friends instead of returning things to the way they were. The Simpsons has a long established character explore a new opportunity that fits right in with her personality, has a coherent story that never gets serious, and wraps things up neatly at the end.