Overview (Spoilers Below):
American Dad kicks off its 300th episode with some standard Roger shenanigans that finally push the Smiths to their breaking point and mark a schism between the alien and the family. Roger’s separation from the Smiths happens to occur at an unfortunate time where the alien’s past comes back to haunt him in a very substantial way. A Golden Turd, a lost relic that’s frequently skirted the sidelines of American Dad, threatens to be reunited with Roger. It’s an act that doesn’t just pose grave consequences for Roger, but one that puts the fate of the entire planet at stake.
The crown jewel of American Dad’s weirdness is the running “Golden Turd” saga that’s been over a decade in the making and started back in the series sixth episode.
For an episode that’s as big as “300,” the first two acts feel surprisingly predictable, even when they go to wild places. Thankfully, the episode’s last act is where “300” really steps up its game and goes for broke. The Golden Turd’s allure consumes Stan and he becomes corrupted like so many others have. The episode jumps to twenty years in the future to properly illustrate just how isolated he’s become in his paranoid Turd-centric life. The same ultra-artistic cinematography and stylized structure of previous Turd segments are used to give extra weight to these seemingly mundane events and help increase the tension as the tide begins to turn.
This material isn’t just monumental, but it’s also entertaining to see how everyone’s lives have changed in this twenty-year span, whether it’s Stan’s deadbeat and rundown nature or the fully-grown, yet fragile, look at Steve. There’s some appreciated attention to continuity here as American Dad turns the clock forward. These older character designs are consistent with the grown up or “future” versions of the Smiths who have appeared in past episodes.
This concluding chapter is easily the best part of “300” and really what makes the episode come together. A ton happens in this installment, yet all of this would play even better if it reached its dark conclusion closer to the episode’s halfway point so it has even more time to play around with the trappings of this stylistic shift and how lost the Smiths have become during these twenty years. It’s a minor complaint, but one that really just speaks to the strength of “300’s” final act.
It also may or may not be intentional that a storyline that revolves around recovering a precious gem-filled item would involve mucking with the timeline, a la Avengers: Infinity War, but regardless, it works as well here as it does in the Marvel film. It could have been fun to see American Dad visit repeated moments from its past and go even further in this regard, but it still is able to tap into this energy and cover a lot of new ground at the same time
“300” is a wild and entertaining episode of American Dad that feels like it’s more for the hardcore fans of the show than a casual viewer. This installment is certainly accessible to someone who’s never before watched the program, but it pays a lot of service to odd corners of the series’ past. The episode’s writers, Joe Chandler and Nick Wegener, face a tall task here, but they mostly succeed. “300” ultimately feels a little less epic than the 100, 200, or 250th episodes, even if this is an installment that changes the landscape of the world and briefly kills not only Roger, but the entire Smith family. It’d have been interesting to see American Dad attempt to stick with some of these decisions for a longer span of time, but it’s not really necessary. This is an episode of television that’s much more funny and ambitious than any 300th episode of a series deserves to be, but it still somehow feels like it could have done more.
With this episode, American Dad is now the 25th scripted primetime television series to celebrate 300 episodes. That’s not just animated shows, but all of primetime television. Many series can go off the rails, lose their passion, or begin to phone it in after that many episodes. American Dad is a rare exception where these writers and the production team are still obviously so in love with these characters and this universe. This is a show that absolutely deserves this milestone and it’s incredible that at 300 episodes American Dad can still be just as fresh and funny as when it began. Another 300 episodes is likely asking for too much, but hopefully American Dad can still stick around for a few more hilarious years.
There are still a lot more costumes for Roger to try on and Johnny Q. Mind and Jimmy Boombox are still out there. Somewhere…