Judy’s latest crusade at Sebben & Sebben involves redesigning the can of a beloved soft drink, Topple Popple, but the innocent gesture puts a giant target on the back of the “female CEO.” Many vocal fans of the original Topple Popple can design band together to make Judy feel the wrath of their disapproval and she’s left with little time to develop the proper recourse to appease Topple Nation.
The majority of Sebben & Sebben are consumed with putting out Judy’s fire, but Paul finds himself in a battle with himself–so to speak–when his foreskin returns with a list of demands. Paul becomes a martyr-like figure to a community of powerful foreskin and Birdgirl officially throws all normalcy out the window as it embraces genital-based gibberish.
Change is a force of nature that many people have a difficult time with, even when it’s not necessarily something that’s negative. “Topple the Popple” is an episode that’s all about change. Judy’s mission to give Topple Popple’s classic obtuse packaging a makeover is supposed to bring the whole New Coke debacle to mind, but on some level it also feels like a meta commentary on Birdgirl itself. This new series has messed around with Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law’s classic “packaging” and audiences have been quick to dismiss it and largely focus on why its differences are a negative rather than an asset. Birdgirl effectively explores this idea in an installment that’s strong and unapologetic in a way where it’s the necessary salve to convince audiences that change can be a good thing, just like Judy does with the Popple people. “Topple the Popple” is easily Birdgirl’s weirdest episode and that’s increasingly becoming more of an asset for the fledgling animated series.
It’s hard to say that Birdgirl has a formula, but if there’s any constant to the series it’s that a different corporate problem enters Judy’s crosshairs each week. In this sense, the PR meetings, promotional appearances, and think tank sessions over the Topple Popple dilemma feel on brand for Birdgirl, but it’s hard to classify anything from this episode as “normal.” Judy is usually driven by her desire to please others and prove her worth, but her obsession over Topple Popple seems to conjure itself out of hypnotic nothingness. Judy’s opinion on Topple Popple is completely absent until she’s decided that she needs to save it. To be clear, this isn’t a bad thing and Judy’s ability to suddenly champion Topple Popple for no real reason, especially when it directly opposes her father’s legacy, only feeds into the greater madness of this episode.
Judy meets a determined adversary with Topple Nation, but the severity of their threats never seems to fully sink in for her and instead those around her are left to shoulder the brunt of this animosity and embarrassment. The efforts to protect Judy are entertaining enough and the chemistry between the Birdteam has reached a very comfortable place as the season nearly comes to a close. Birdcat continues to turn everything that he does into gold and even Evie gets to mess around with everyone in an official capacity. It’s also genuinely surprising to get some more satisfying touches of continuity in this episode, chiefly the incorporation of the Internet at Sebben & Sebben as well as Paul’s PTSD over his near-death experiences from “We Have the Internet.”
“Topple the Popple” so thoroughly tries to avoid convention, yet perhaps the most unusual thing about this surreal episode is that there’s somehow a justified method to the madness in the end. Charlie’s creative Internet tactics don’t just resolve Judy’s dilemma, but also interrupts the Foreskin’s sacrifice of Paul. This is technically still nonsense, but Birdgirl at least connects its dots and then proudly acts like it’s a masterpiece as opposed to just leaving the audience with a disconnected mess. All of this connects with the episode’s wildly eccentric energy that’s present since frame one.
Charlie’s original “You’ve Got Mail” jingle, the one overly exuberant crowd member, or the Sebben & Sebben employee that continually hurls office chairs through windows in disgust are just a fraction of the elements that culminate in this avalanche of chaos. Dog With Bucket Hat receives his best material from the entire series, yet it’s a story that stems out of confusion over human-dog histrionics that’s yet another testament to nonsense. “Topple the Popple” begins at 11 and only goes up from there.
Every episode of Birdgirl acts as an impressive evolution of the series’ themes and style of comedy and “Topple the Popple” is among the season’s best episodes, tied with “Thirdgirl.” At this point all of the characters properly function as a team and episodes fly by with no difficulty at filling a full half-hour. Chaos and change isn’t always a good thing, but Birdgirl is the exception and it looks like they’ve saved their best material for last.