Marge’s former flame, Artie Ziff, has invited the Simpsons to his upcoming wedding. Hoping to leave a chapter of their lives behind them, they agree to attend. However, when the bride reveals herself, she looks identical to Marge. Hoping to settle things, Marge and Homer reach out to Artie and his new bride only to discover that she is a robot. Accepting his flaws, Marge convinces Artie to use his robots and intelligence for good instead of trying to destroy her marriage.
Meanwhile, Lisa is once again required to wear braces. The new hardware makes it impossible for her to close her mouth, which makes her perpetually smiling. Thankfully, the positive feature makes her much more popular. Despite being disgruntled that something so superficial could have such an impact, Lisa decides to use her new powers for good and runs for student body president. Unfortunately, when her braces are adjusted, her smile turns to a frown which costs her the newfound admiration.
The Simpsons has just aired across the span of five decades. Amazing that a show has managed to keep its relevance through generations. As the 2020s emerge, the franchise continues strong despite ongoing rumours of a possible cancellation. At the same time, this particular episode showed no signs of trying to snag a new generation of viewers. In place, we got an episode full of throwbacks and pay-off for a dedicated fanbase. The Simpsons entered 2020 strong, but with memories of the glory days and stories long forgotten.
The first relic to come back from the past is Lisa’s braces. Just saying those words again brings back the voices in my head saying “dental plan” “Lisa needs braces” and “Flintstones chewable morphine”. There was no way of canonically giving Lisa mouth gear again without bringing up the memorable fourth season episode “Last Exit to Springfield”, which could make a case as the most beloved episode of the entire series. Yet acknowledge they did, and Lisa requires metal mouth for the second time before turning nine-years-old. A recycled idea like this runs a severe risk of being disliked by fans. Especially if the story isn’t executed well.
This episode couldn’t be further from the classic Simpsons of yesteryear. This time around there seemed to be zero financial implications, probably thanks to that sweet dental plan Homer fought for back in 1993. Instead, this is a story about Lisa getting an unintentional facelift of sorts and facing the implications of how it impacts her social status. This is a girl we all know not to fall for such vain tidings; therefore, the best thing to do is make her use her powers for good. And, when she loses her great powers and still wants her great responsibilities, she does her best to maintain. Albeit through lying. Ultimately, she loses everything she gained and ends up at even having learned no real lesson. Unless the moral truly was that she should ‘smile more’ because it makes her likeable and pretty. Needless to say, I think they screwed up on the conclusion of this plot.
Our other major blast from the past came in the beautiful manly form of Artie Ziff. Now, I can understand some disgruntled attitudes towards giving Lisa braces all over again. But, when it comes to Artie Ziff, I am on board to have him appear way more often. I have always believed that Jon Lovitz is one of the funniest people on the planet, and his voice alone could have carried his career. The Critic was one of the greatest animated sitcoms ever made, and a lot of that is thanks to Lovitz entertaining dialogue. If everything was right in the world, The Critic would still be on the air, but at the very least Lovitz would be a Simpsons cast member. Regardless, Artie Ziff can be in as many episodes as they can give me.
Aside from the talent behind him, Artie is also one of the more underrated villains of The Simpsons, lost behind Mr. Burns, Sideshow Bob, and Frank Grimes. Ziff’s motives of trying to separate Homer and Marge is the perfect complement to a series that holds family bond so dear. Added to a rich backstory, there is a lot of depth to the character. Making him the entitled egotistic nerd that he is, well that is the tasty icing on the cake.
Where they took this character and this ongoing storyline was even better. Artie, the eccentric billionaire of Springfield, went all out and built an army of robot Marge’s. He, and the writers, went all out with something out of a science fiction book. Maybe flying robots are something we can accept from the show that has taken us to some strange places in the past. But, this was an exciting move for an episode that had remained grounded up unto that point. A wild way to conclude the episode, some of those hybrid Marge robots will be an image in my head for a while.
After all of that dissection, it is hard to see this episode as cohesive. Both plots are attempting the same challenge of reigniting past storylines. Yet, the two different directions offered two opposite results. Giving Lisa braces again feels like a throwaway of one of the all-time greatest episodes, and her only lesson this time around was the same one she was advocating for the entire time. If I could score it on its own, it would be lucky to break past the halfway mark. On the other hand, Artie Ziff’s revival was entertaining and exciting, and I would easily give it top marks. The whole episode is flawed for being so divided, a shame considering the potential of what could have been.