Warning; this review contains spoilers.
Back when The Simpsons first began Bart was the original focus of the show. This was due to a lot of different factors but it was mainly to do with the fact that Bart was Matt Groening’s representation of himself in the show. Move along a few years and the producers realised that they could have a lot more fun with the character of Homer so they quickly shifted the spotlight onto him. This was clearly the right decision and one that lead to building the reputation the show has today but it is always nice to see Homer’s character take a step back. Week after week we get a look into Homer’s world but it does sometimes make me wish for more episodes centred around the “supporting cast”. Bart and Lisa are the centre of attention for this week’s episode but that alone is not enough to win me over.
Paths Of Glory
Some of my favourite Simpsons episodes as a kid revolved around Bart and Lisa’s relationship. I much preferred the episodes where they would get along and go on adventures together. These kind of stories are where some of that The Simpsons warmth and charm can be found. So you can imagine my joy when it seemed as if this week was going to be another Bart and List escapade to add to the list. Alas I was wrong yet again and it’s not six minutes before the two go their separate ways. They even swapped Bart out for Milhouse for a little bit. Lisa and Milhouse, euch.
Paths Of Glory is very much a two story episode. Lisa is out to discover more about Springfield’s finest inventor, Amelia Vanderbuckle. A female inventor that was commited for thinking as a woman in the 19th century. Tying the plots together a little awkwardly is Bart’s story of mental wellbeing, when Homer and Marge suspect that Bart is a sociopath. It’s a shame that these two stories were not fleshed out fully in separate episodes because if they were given a little bit more time they may have worked a lot better than they did here.
Lisa’s story is the first we see on screen and we are led to believe that it is the main story until Bart’s plotline kicks into gear. I don’t know if the writers knew which story to headline with and Bart’s storyline gets in the way of Lisa’s towards the end. Unless it was their aim to share the airtime equally, in which case they failed miserably with this idea. We all know that Bart is clearly a sociopath or at least has some behavioural problems already so I wasn’t really that interested in Bart’s story anyway. So when the story took over from Lisa’s I got a bit annoyed and it felt like important parts of Lisa’s story were cut out for Bart’s, such as the discovery of Vanderbuckle’s machine.
In 2015 the ignorant men laughing at a female scientist felt a little bit dated and it was like I was watching a classic Lisa story from the nineties. Classic all the same, if given more time and possibly written by an actual woman, rather than Michael Ferris I think story could have been much better. It was also very predictable, pulling out all the old Simpsons traits. No one listens to the little girl, she goes on a big mission to prove everyone wrong and then does just that. Surely everyone in Springfield must know that Lisa is incredibly intelligent by now. The same goes for Bart’s story, Simpsons clichés. Bart’s behaviour gets him into trouble, there’s a small misunderstanding, the adults take action, they are proven wrong and we all learn a heart-warming story in the end. Boring.
The joke count was a little flat this week and one line from Marge was even a bit confusing, “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to this family”. Now was that a joke or just a stupidly written line of dialogue because it’s clearly not the worst thing to have befallen the Simpsons. If it was intended as a joke then it was very poorly executed which I don’t normally expect to see on this show. Over on the other side I really enjoyed this line from Homer after Marge asks him if what they’ve done wrong as Bart’s parents, “I don’t know sweetie, I don’t know, we did everything we could for him during the commercials”. There’s a running theme through all of my Simpsons reviews if you haven’t picked up on it yet, the background jokes never fail. Unfortunately this week like all the rest of the humour, the background jokes were a little lacking but since it is The Simpsons there was still this cracker.
I really wish these two stories were spread out over two episodes because they did have the potential to be much better. Lisa’s more than Bart’s, although there was a good point raised about how the effect of video game violence DOESN’T have on children. So as the least funny episode of the series but with the best combined plotlines I am going to rate Paths Of Glory a 2.5 out of 5 stars.