Overview (Spoilers Below):
Bart pulls his best prank yet by pulling the pin of a dull grenade at the school assembly. Destined to be expelled, Ned Flanders stands up for Bart and promises to help him turn his life around. After some bonding, Bart begins to understand his neighbour’s teachings.
Upon seeing Bart’s dramatic change of character, the township of Springfield congratulates Ned. Homer begins to get jealous of Bart’s bond with his enemy. Soon, Homer finds his own young ward in Nelson Muntz, which he hopes will make Bart upset.
After Lisa encourages Homer to go to therapy, which helps him to admit the truth that he was only mentoring Nelson to make Bart jealous. However, when Nelson finds out, he goes into a rage and promises to take it out on the other boy. Homer manages to save his son and find Nelson a new mentor.
With this being the 678th episode of The Simpsons, there have been a lot of relationships developed between characters. Whether it is Moe Szyslak and Marge, or Homer and Mr. Burns. Throughout the many years, there is one relationship that has been fleshed out that is unique from the others. That is the complicated bond that has developed between Ned Flanders and the lovable scamp, Bart Simpson.
We have seen how these two interact on more than one occasion. From Bart spending time living with the neighbours to The Simpsons Movie when Bart and Ned genuinely form a relationship. Multiple times has Ned been able to understand and reach to Bart’s good nature. Unlike his relationship with his father, Bart respects Ned’s honest and wholesome lifestyle. And, this episode revisits that narrative, including Homer’s jealousy towards their unique bond.
Unexpectantly, the episode starts with Bart already doing the kind thing of visiting his grandfather at his retirement centre. Sure, Bart takes his war veteran grandpa’s dormant grenade, but he did go visit which most ten-year-old children wouldn’t do.
Then, Bart does the unthinkable when he uses said grenade to threaten his entire elementary school.
Which is possibly the most psychotic thing that Bart has ever pulled off and would quickly put a child in a mental hospital is attempted in real life. Thankfully, Ned Flanders is there to not only jump on the grenade like a knock-off Captain America manoeuvre but also vouch for the child. Even after everything that Bart has done, Ned still cares for his juvenile neighbour.
Despite the long-running relationship between Ned and Bart, this episode has a different goal.
Instead of finding help for Bart, Nelson Muntz is the true case in Springfield. The poverty-stricken youth of a single promiscuous mother has always been a character of sympathy. In fact, he is another Springfieldian who we have seen develop relationships with the Simpsons before including Marge and Lisa. Though, this time his new friend/mentor is Homer. And, finally, by the conclusion of this episode, Nelson is connected with the apparent figure for his life, Ned.
It’s like this episode was written to put these two characters together so we can stop feeling bad for the poor child. Which was not a bad idea. It is a feel-good moment for a character that we have sympathized with for years.
Unfortunately, other than the heartwarming conclusion, most of this episode is a repeat of old narratives.
As mentioned, we know how Bart and Ned interact, and this story fails to take it anywhere new or unique. In fact, the characters have shared that same scene in the full-length motion picture. Additionally, we have seen Homer take on a mentee by the name of Pepe in an attempt to make his son jealous before. Finally, we have seen Simpson family members try to help the impoverished Nelson on more than one occasion.
With everything about this plot being a recycled Frankenstein of old episodes, there wasn’t much left to enjoy. There wasn’t enough humour or development of these characters to help make the story unique.
It’s not the worst episode you’ll watch, but it does feel like you have seen it before. And, with the knock-out episodes, we have seen this season, this one will easily be considered near the bottom when the finale comes around.