Monday, July 18, 2011
Retro Review: Black Widower
Sideshow Bob marries Aunt Selma.
Homer and the kids are watching Dinosaurs on TV before Selma arrives for dinner with her mysterious date, who turns out to be Sideshow Bob.
This is the second Sideshow Bob episode, following season one's "Krusty Gets Busted". It's revealed that Bob has completed his prison sentence for framing Krusty for armed robbery, but he's sent back to jail at the end of the episode for attempted murder. Humorously, as he's being dragged away, he claims he'll be out on the street once the Democrats are back in the White House, and his next appearance occurs after Bill Clinton is elected president.
Frequent jailbird Snake, who first appeared in season two's "War of the Simpsons", gets his name in this episode. He is one of Bob's friends in jail.
Also, this episode is the first time we learn of Patty and Selma's obsession with MacGuyver, and is the first of Selma's failed marriages to a supporting character.
Scenes from Bob's time in prison, and the music in those scenes, are references to the film Cool Hand Luke, while the shots at the end of the episode, in which Bob turns Selma's chair around expecting to find her corpse and seeing Bart instead, followed by Selma appearing in the doorway, mimic the end of Hitchcock's Psycho.
The Simpsons are seen watching a parody of ABC's at-the-time popular Dinosaurs sitcom at the beginning of the episode. The show's writers felt Dinosaurs was largely a knockoff of their show, to which Bart's, "it's like they saw our lives and put it right on screen" line is a reference.
Patty: Aunt Selma has this crazy obsession about not dying alone. So in desperation, she joined this prison pen-pal program. Her new sweetie's a jailbird.
Bart: Coooool! He can teach us how to kill a man with a lunchtray!
Homer: You can't go wrong with cocktail weenies! They taste as good as they look, and they come with this delicious red sauce. It looks like ketchup. It tastes like ketchup. But brother, it ain't ketchup!
Sideshow Bob: Well, Selma, he makes a good case.
Bart: Chief Wiggum, you've been around. You don't trust Sideshow Bob, do you?
Wiggum: Ah, lighten up, son. If he was going to commit a crime, would he have invited the number one cop in town? Now, where did I put my gun? Oh, yeah. I set it down when I got a piece of cake...
Homer: I hate all the programs Marge likes, but it's no big deal. You know why?
Sideshow Bob: Go on.
Homer: Whenever Marge turns on one of her "non-violent" programs, I take a walk. I go to a bar, I pound a few, then I stumble home in the mood for looooove.
I'm a sucker for Sideshow Bob episodes, and this is one of the best (there are two others I enjoy more, but this one is an easy third). In addition to the grandiose, scenery-chewing presence of Bob, two things set this episode apart. One is the fact that the writers specifically set out to tell a compelling mystery story, with clues sprinkled throughout so that viewers could either figure it all out along with Bart or see how the pieces fit together after watching it again, and the end result is an almost Hitchcockian suspense story that holds together surprisingly well for a twenty-two minute animated sitcom. Secondly, the episode cleverly subverts the trope of the innocent child who steadfastly believes the best in someone; as Marge says, Bart saves the day because he never lost his mistrust in Sideshow Bob. It's that kind of cultural subversion, especially in these early episodes, that drew the ire of the show's critics, and the appreciation of its fans.
Sideshow Bob episodes are almost always classics, and this is one of the best.