So, two seasons ago, The Simpsons did a two-parter that, well, never seemed to justify the second part. It didn’t feel like there was enough story there to justify a second episode, and I was not overly happy about that at the time. As such, you can imagine my trepidation, hypothetical reader, when I saw another two parter coming up.
And then I saw what was happening, that it was based on the work of the Coen Brothers and the TV anthology series Fargo, and it had a lot of…well, violence and pretention as promised by some signs set up before the episode started. Quite frankly, if Part Two plays out as well as Part One, this one will truly justify the two parts.
And it’s about Ned Flanders.
But really, longtime Simpsons characters die in this one, starting with the Rich Texan (real name: Richard Texan). And not in a gentle way either. He’s dismembered, sliced, diced, and his face is packed in a briefcase by a mysterious collector with a ledger and a birthmark over one eye, a fellow named Kostas Bender (first guest star Brian Cox, so a good night for Cox between this and Succession over on HBO). He has two associates of his own: a chatty Irishman (guest star Chris O’Dowd) and a quieter Frenchwoman (guest star Jessica Paré). Between the two of them, the Rich Texan dies easily (for them) and violently (for the Texan). That means Bender is almost done crossing all the names out of his ledger book.
But there’s one left. Somewhere out there, someone had $172,000 or so in a Pan Am bag, and Ned Flanders found it after falling down a snowy hill and crashing through a old hollow log. Ned was cleaning up litter. Homer was too, but for Homer, it was community service, and afterwards, he also fell down the hill and found nothing, but he’ll spend the rest of the episode mocking Flanders until it catches up to him in the worst way. Now, Flanders doesn’t know what to do with the money, so he thinks back on his first hero, his grandpa Sheriff Flanders (guest star Timothy Olyphant), a kind man of the law who would give a shoplifting hippie some money to buy food in the general store. Following Grampa Flanders’s example, Ned donates the money to the local orphanage, gaining the approval of orphanage matron and former javelin thrower Barb (guest star Cristin Milioti doing a Fargo accent). He donates it in his grampa’s name…and it turns out Sheriff Flanders was also a Ned, so Flanders’s anonymous donation really isn’t if you’re smart.
Bender is smart, and the last name in his book (unrevealed for now) owed that exact amount, so he has one last job before he can retire. First, he sends his two associates into town to rough up the Comic Book Guy for information. Why him? Why not? He’s largely unimpressed even as he’s being threatened and manhandled until they start to damage his merchandise. Then he’ll tell the pair to check the Church. Once they leave, Comic Book Guy calls Fat Tony (guest star Joe Mantegna) to ask what his protection money is paying for. And Fat Tony, he doesn’t like competition.
Barb, however, likes Flanders. They go on a date, and it looks sweet until she gets Ned home and he learns she’s married to Sideshow Mel. She and Mel have an arrangement, but Ned flips out and runs away. By then, Homer has gotten into his own trouble. See, Bender found Flanders and said he had to return the money Ned already gave away. He knows what Ned looks like, and he has a partial address for Seamus and Collette to go get Ned from. Small problem: they go to the house with all the stuff labeled “Property of Ned Flanders” on it, Homer is sleeping on the sofa, and Santa’s Little Helper can lure Homer outside when someone gives the dog a new chewtoy in the form of the Rich Texan’s face.
Wait, how is this not a Halloween episode?
However, Bender knows it isn’t Flanders but sees he has an opportunity to use Homer as leverage to get the money. Either Ned brings the money, or Homer ends up paying. In the meantime, Homer can be tortured…with a Property Brothers marathon since Collette really likes those guys for some reason.
Also, Bender said no cops or else. Flanders is then in an uncomfortable position when Marge shows up asking if he’s seen Homer. So…Ned tells a lie to keep Homer alive. Marge then spends the rest of the episode asking around Homer’s usual hang-outs to find him. That leads to the donut shop where Bender is having breakfast when in walks Fat Tony and his goons.
Um, Bender ends up killing all of them in a violent shootout that also sees Disco Stu used as a human shield until he takes a mess of bullets and Mr. Burns getting his head shot off when he comes in for a free birthday donut. Fat Tony is dragged into the kitchen where his head is apparently turned into a donut (he approves of the creativity), and Bender leaves Marge, who seems to be the only survivor, with a small nod because apparently, she’s got nothing to worry about from him.
Then Snake comes in and sees the carnage and finds it sickening.
So, that’s part one. I think that justified a part two. Plus, did they really kill off Mr. Burns, Disco Stu, the Rich Texan, and Fat Tony and his mob? Well, Fat Tony is apparently coming back for another episode this season, so we’ll see.
In the meantime…hot damn, are we sure that wasn’t a Halloween episode?