Editor’s Note: Hey, what comes first, three or four? Well if you said three, you’ve got us beat. We mistakenly published the fourth Welcome to Springfield before this one, which is the third. As a result, all of us at One Of Us will be undergoing a remedial counting training seminar. We apologize for any confusion. On to the article!
Episode title: Homer’s Odyssey
Airdate: January 21, 1990
Summary: While Bart’s class is on a trip to the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Homer crashes a cart into a cooling vent and loses his job. Unable to find other work, Homer attempts to kill himself by jumping off of a bridge. The family intervenes and is nearly killed by an oncoming vehicle. This near-disaster helps Homer find a new purpose in life. He becomes a public safety advocate and petitions the city to put up more signs to make the area safer. His efforts are met with success and local acclaim. Before long, Homer takes on the power plant, one of the least safe places in Springfield, and is offered a job as safety supervisor, which he accepts.
Review: In terms of story, this is one the weaker episodes of the first season. Things start off with promise in the first act. There are plenty of good jokes that stem from the mentality of children, the “cool” bus driver, and ruthless teasing. I still love that Bart doesn’t even try to defend his dad and that the power plant tries to skip around the issue nuclear waste in its film for children.
The second act is where the episode starts to fall apart. When Homer doesn’t have any luck finding a job, the writers rushed him into a state of depression in order to get to the change in act 3. One thing I feel like I have to address is the escalation for Homer. It really didn’t add up to suicide. Yes, he was rejected for a few jobs, but that was it. There were no threats of foreclosure and no overdue bills. Just a few rejections and Homer’s off to kill himself. It’s cheap writing and somewhat offensive.
The third act has a too obvious resolution. After seeing Homer get fired by the safety inspector at the start of the episode, we now witness him challenging the plant over safety. The circumstances of the episode make it so the resolution is quickly telegraphed disappointingly early. It has an average run time but it feels just so very empty.
Take a look at the previous the episode (Bart the Genius) for reference. Even thought it had one story, it had scenes that added emotion to the storyline (Bart and Homer’s relationship growing, the way Bart’s friends treat him). These scenes created an emotional element to the story. Here, there’s nothing of that nature to enhance the main story. It feels like they were rushing to the end.
Another aspect that suggests rushed production on this episode is the animation quality. There’s a scene where Sherri or Terri’s body is missing while her head is clearly visible. And the most obvious error would be the infamous “Black” Smithers.
If there’s an episode to show students of a writing class to give them an idea of what bad writing is, this is it. After the first act, it sticks to the main story without any emotion to support or build it up. The resolution is weak and just brings us back to the status quo, which is like giving a middle finger to the viewer. This is probably one of the weakest of the early episodes, if not THE weakest.
Final score: 1.0/5.0