– [Strider] Howdy. Let’s talk about modern “Simpsons”. As mediocre as some of the new episodes can be, modern “Simpsons” has certainly had its share of pretty dark, sometimes unsettling moments. And honestly, some have even given “Family Guy” a run for their money in just how much they’ve shocked me. – Your nightmare begins. (button clicking, Lisa imitating thunder) – [Strider] And as of making this video, the 31st “Simpsons” season will be upon us. So since it’s now looking like “The Simpsons” will be around until the sun explodes, let’s make the most of it and have some dark fun with “The Simpsons”. Let’s dive into The Top 6 Darkest Modern Simpsons Episodes. To qualify as “modern” for this list, an episode has to be season 10 or later, so as much as they qualify, we’ll be skipping over episodes like “Homer’s Enemy”. I’ll also not list any “Treehouse of Horror” episodes since these episodes are specifically designed to spook us. So without further ado, onto the countdown. (electricity buzzing)
Number six… “Whiskey Business”. (curtain sliding)
“Whiskey Business”. – Yeah, not bad, not bad! – [Strider] Moe has never been a stranger to being used for some of the show’s darker sense of humor. With his self-deprecation and suicide tendencies, nothing ever seems to go right for Moe. Though there have been times where things have gone better for him, it usually ends with Moe right back to where he started, thanks to “The Simpsons”‘s negative continuity. Interestingly, even the subplot in this one with Bart, Lisa, and Abe is a little more dark and more mean-spirited than usual. The episode starts with Moe fortunately asking for help from Homer, Lenny, and Carl when he’s about to commit suicide. When he sees a poster for the Suicide Hotline and contemplates calling, only to end up accidentally getting stuck in the noose. – Eh, maybe I should call. Give one of the new kids a chance to talk to the legend. (beep) – [Strider] Unfortunately, the hotline is false, and after a prank phone call, he almost ends up succeeding only to be thankfully saved by Homer. After this, Marge suggests a road trip for the four of them. However, Moe also insists on bringing his noose. Throughout the entire episode, Moe really struggles to just take pleasure in anything. Even once they get to the actual city. – All I see is two million people happier than me. – [Strider] But he does perk up a bit once everyone pitches in to get him a new suit. The suit even gives Moe the confidence to open up the Tavern and try again. This even attracts the attention of some new clientèle. But, of course, they eventually dump him once they see him back to his old outfit after something rather bad happens to the suit. So thanks to the ever-more-dated unnecessary “Simpsons” need to keep the status quo, we leave watching Moe once again contemplating suicide. Eugh. – Not today, old friend. But don’t worry. Holidays are just around the corner. – [Strider] While the episode does try to lighten things up with a subplot about the kids and Abe, even that plotline is pretty dark, with Bart having injured his grandfather and hiding him in the basement. Most of the episode hinges on the… “joke” that Moe is suicidal. A joke that, even as a teen, I personally never found particularly funny or clever. It’s certainly an episode that addresses some dark subject matter with some not necessarily clever, but dark humor. And the fifth-darkest modern “Simpsons” episode is… (electricity buzzing)
– [Marge] You guys need jackets? (electricity buzzing)
– No, we’re fine. – [Strider] “Lisa the Drama Queen”. Man, this is an episode that has stuck in my memory for years now in just how uncomfortable, bleak, yet realistic it feels. I think for people who struggle making friends, being isolated, or sometimes gotten a little too lost in fantasies, they can be hit pretty deeply by this one. The show’s referenced movie plots before, such as “Cape Fear”, and a good majority of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes are whole movie stories. – Heeeeere’s Johnny! D’oh… – [Strider] However, this episode takes a different route by basing it on the film “Heavenly Creatures”, which in turn was based on a true crime that involved murder. Though the actual episode doesn’t go quite that far, it does really go out of its way to show that continually living in a fantasy world can be unhealthy, as tempting as it can sometimes be. We see Lisa’s slow, progressed descent into a fantasy with the influence of her, uh… vividly imaginative new friend, Juliet. The episode begins with Homer forcing the kids to take classes at the rec center. It’s here that Lisa meets a girl named Juliet, and they bond over their shared interests, such as Josh Groban. Together, they create the magical world of… Equalia. – Equalia. (pen scratching)
– Equalia. – [Strider] For some reason I’ve just always hated that name. “Equalia”. Bleugh. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue right. At first, things go well, and it’s always nice to see Lisa make a friend. However, the descent subtley begins as Lisa soon starts acting… strange. And she becomes increasingly entranced in this magical world at the expense of everything else, and I think there’s some relatability in that. And after a dinner with Juliet’s family, things continue to become more uncomfortable and unsettling. – Don’t you see them? – Juliet, you’re scaring me just a little. (flute music) (orchestral music, ground rumbling) – [ Strider] Juliet eventually convinces Lisa to run away to their “Equalia”, but in reality, their “Equalia” is a ramshackle mud hut of nothing. The lines of perception, fantasy, and reality are bent in very uncomfortable ways here. But soon, Jimbo and his friends capture the girls, leaving them caged up, their only escape being their fantasies. This is probably what I consider the most bleak moment of the episode, where Juliet encourages Lisa to fall into their fantasy within the chains of their appalling environment. – Shut your eyes, and you’ll be in Equalia. – Equalia is not real. – Maybe not, but it’s better than this. (orchestral music) (Lisa sighing) – [Strider] Juliet and Lisa do manage to escape, but the story does leave us with a rather bittersweet ending. – Cuckoo. – [Strider] This episode has always reminded me that for all the appeal and beauty of a fantasy, the connections we make with real people in real life are far more important. Number four… “Alone Again Natura-Diddily”. This one got suggested a lot and understandably so. As far as I can tell, it’s the first permanent killing-off (impact, screaming)
of a major character in animated sitcom history. – Oh my lord, she’s dead! (gasping) – [Strider] “The Simpsons” has never been a stranger to death, but generally, these are confined to “Treehouse of Horror” segments. But apart from Bleeding Gums Murphy, “The Simpsons”, up til this point, had never permanently killed off a main character. And despite how suddenly and seemingly-randomly it happens, there’s a deep seriousness to the death simply in how grim and senseless it is. The episode starts off innocently enough with the Simpsons family out on a hike and ending up at a racetrack. They have a good time at the race until t-shirts start getting shot at Homer. He bends down, though, and Maude gets shot instead and falls to her death. (dramatic music) Yeesh. It’s a scene that could have easily been another throwaway slapstick joke, yet it’s elevated to something so game-changingly serious for Ned and the Simpsons in general. Suddenly, the show was acknowledging yes, the status quo can change. And yes, people can die permanently in “The Simpsons”. And the rest of the episode is Ned dealing with the death of his wife. And while there are funny moments here and there, we are shown a very realistic portrayal of grief and sorrow. Admittedly, as an audience, we really don’t know much about Maude. Reverend Lovejoy even lampshades this in his eulogy. – [Lovejoy] In many ways, Maude Flanders was a… supporting player in our lives. She didn’t grab our attention with memorable catchphrases. – [Strider] But we do know just how much she meant to Ned, so we know Ned is suffering and grieving. He even expresses guilt that his last words he ever said to her weren’t something more meaningful. At one point, Ned does something I never expected from him. He loses faith in his God. And I like this because it actually makes him look like a more multi-layered character who has his limits in devotion when pushed enough. To Homer’s credit, he does try to help Ned in his own awkward way. He even signs him up for a dating service. While it’s not what Ned needed at that moment, at least Homer’s trying. He even takes some measure of responsibility of what happened to Maude. It’s nice that even Homer acknowledges the gravity of the situation here. Sure, he’s often saying the completely wrong thing, – Oh, wake up, Ned! You think Maude isn’t dating in Heaven? – You think she would? – How could she not? – [Strider] But you can tell at least he’s trying. At the end of the episode, Ned does meet a new woman who seems to share some of his interests, and that is nice, but the episode also acknowledges that he’s still suffering, and I like that. It doesn’t pave over the deep loss. But it doesn’t paint a complete picture of despair either. It’s multifaceted, like you and me. And the third-darkest modern “Simpsons” episode is… “Co-Dependent’s Day”. (wild laughing) – Mom’s not gonna like this. – [Strider] Alcoholism is an interestingly-treated subject in “The Simpsons”. On one hand, it’s treated in a pretty joking manner with Homer. But on the other hand, alcoholism is never painted as a good thing. It generally leads Homer or Barney to disappointing people or doing stupid things. Often in hilarous ways. I mean, one of Homer’s defining characteristics is that he’s constantly drinking his Duff beer, so it’s interesting to see the show take on a more realistic approach to alcoholism. In a more similar vein to, say, “Bojack Horseman”. The episode starts innocently enough with a light ribbing at the “Star Wars” prequels via a parody. Bart and Lisa, not happy with their movie, even go to lodge a complaint to the director himself. George Lucas. You, uh… might have heard of him? – My characters are getting better all the time, now that we’ve perfected digital eyelash rendering. – [Strider] Meanwhile, Marge and Homer go to a vineyard across the street, and it’s there that the real plot of the episode begins. Throughout the rest of the episode, Marge and Homer bond through drinking, and in the beginning, things seem fine. In fact, up to this point, I don’t think we’ve ever seen Homer and Marge spend so much time together in shared activities. – Hey. As long as they’re not hurting anybody. – Uh-oh. (Homer and Marge laughing)
– [Randall Curtis] Woah! Ow! I’ll… I’ll give you money! – [Strider] They seem to have a healthier relationship and they’re shown to be happier spending time together. In perhaps their ultimate bonding step of all, Homer even takes her drinking at Moe’s. How weird is that? Marge drinking at Moe’s. It still feels so surreal to me to see this scene, but also really nice at the same time. However, as the episode progresses, we do see that the binge drinking begins to take a toll on Marge. She even gets a pretty hefty hangover at one point. And this leads to probably the most reprehensible thing Homer’s ever done to Marge. Homer crashes his car while drunk driving, and he frames Marge for it. WOWZERS, that’s bad. Marge is sent to rehab and even ends up taking the blame for what Homer did. In fact, no one besides Moe ever actually finds out the truth. And then the episode ends on this weird, unearned high note, because apparently Marge realized that she enjoyed drinking because she was together with Homer? And that’s enough to make up for the fact that he framed you for drunk driving and got you sent to rehab? This is such a muddled ending that it inadvertently ends up feeling very dark and uncomfortable, like we’re watching the continuation of a damaged relationship with no chance of it ever getting better. Homer apparently promises to give up clear liquid alcohol. And that’s apparently a good enough compromise from framing his wife. Maybe this is actually a dark cautionary tale of a damaged relationship of continual broken promises. Or maybe it’s just late-season weak writing. Because Homer and Marge are shown to be a healthier relationship than other episodes. I’ll go with the weak writing on this one. ♪ La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-line… (hanging up) – [Strider] And the second-darkest modern “Simpsons” episode is… “Dial N for Nerder”. Bart and Lisa think they’ve killed Martin and try to cover it up. Yeah… what the hell, man? – I can bike away much faster, and ring the bell to drown out bad thoughts. (bell ringing) – [Strider] JEEBUS, the jokes in this one are bleak. (Strider sighs) I just don’t get these writers. They devote an entire episode showing that Bart’s apparently not a psychopath. Yet then we get him callously disregarding a murder without a second thought for a cheap, crappy two-second joke? – You’re right. We have to do something. Let’s watch TV! – [Strider] Anyway, in earlier seasons, Martin himself started off as a simply-written pseudo-rival for Lisa. But as the show’s progressed, he’s become a much more multi-layered character with his own unique traits. And I think that’s why “Dial N for Nerder” felt pretty jarring to me. Look how callous it is towards Martin being dead. (choking) – [Wiggum] Tragic. Just tragic. You think this would fit little Ralphie? – [Strider] Even the subplot with Marge and Homer feels kinda bleak, with Marge putting Homer on a diet and he immediately begins to cheat on this diet, with it being made to seem like he’s cheating on Marge. (dramatic music, cloth flapping) – Mmm, lamb… – [Strider] While there are a lot of complaints about this scene in particular, I personally have never been outraged by it. Sure, it’s not funny, and it’s kinda gross, but it certainly doesn’t insult me like cruel modern “Family Guy” jokes do. No one’s being hurt, and it’s a freaking piece of meat. I mean, I do this and worse to two stir-fried chickens every night. I personally think people tend to overreact when it comes to scenes like this. Anyway, back to the main story. Bart and Lisa go for a bike ride and come across Martin, and a prank goes wrong and quickly causes Martin to dangle off a cliff. Lisa then prods him off the edge of the cliff, ensuring a more bloody, deadly fall. Bleugh… (repeated loud impacts) The rest of the story is Bart feeling guilty of the crime and Lisa immediately trying to keep him quiet, something that’s actually pretty out-of-character for her. I really was expecting it to be the other way around. I guess they’re still trying to prove to me that Bart’s not a psychopath. – “I’m going to Martin’s house “to end it all”?! (gasping) – [Strider] What’s interesting here, though is we get Nelson of all characters trying to investigate the truth of what happened to Martin. For all the bullying he’s done to Martin, he’s shown to have principles and stand for what he thinks is right. In fact, it’s like he’s the only one that’s really concerned about what actually happened to Martin. When he investigates to try and put the pieces together, he turns out to be a great protagonist. I do love the trope when bad guys become good. In Nelson’s case, it’s happened gradually over 19 seasons. And eventually, our now-hero, Nelson, uncovers the truth of the dastardly… main protagonists of the show. – You almost got away with it, but here’s where you got sloppy: shouting out that you did it! (click) – [Strider] Obviously, it’s not completely black-and-white for Bart and Lisa, either. Is it worth them potentially losing their own prospects in life for the truth? While I’d hope most people would tell the truth, I wonder. Would you? I don’t know. Only you and I can answer that question for ourselves. Unlike “Treehouse of Horror”, there’s no sense of fantasy to the characters here. They really are covering up a murder, and no one in the town except Nelson seems to care much that Martin’s dead. Go get ’em, Nelson! – I never let you cherry-bomb my Malibu Stacy. I’ll let you do it now! – Save it for the warden. – [Strider] And before we get to number one, let’s go through some dark Honourable Mentions. “Frying Game”. This ending moment before the fake-out is really, really black. I specifically remember being horrified, but then faked out by the game show ending. After Homer and Marge are accused of a murder they didn’t commit, Homer almost ends up getting the electric chair. While it has clever writing and an interesting story, “The Frying Game” has a twist that’s certainly out of left field, and I can see why some people would feel a bit disturbed at the ending. (electrical buzzing) (screaming) (applause) “The Scorpion’s Tale”. The concept for this one is very honest about some elderly struggling to find happiness late into their lives to the point that, apparently, every elderly in Springfield is willing to drug themselves with experimental opioids even if it means their eyeballs pop out. And my jaw drops every time I see these eyeball scenes. It’s just… bleugh. – And I never will be again, thanks to your wonderful, wonderful– (popping) – [Strider] “Paths of Glory”. While I hope this doesn’t sound egocentric, this episode almost felt like a nod to my Worst Simpsons video question. The writers addressed my question: “is Bart a psychopath”? And apparently, no. Based on previous seasons, you could definitely have fooled me. But I think as of this episode, the writers cooled their jets a bit on just how callous Bart can get to the suffering of others. Bart’s basically put in a ward for child psychopaths and is encouraged to kill soldiers in a war shaped as a video game. Unlike the other psychopaths, though, turns out he’s not interested in killing people. Well, I’m glad to hear it. “Boys of Bummer”. I talked about this one before on my list of Worst Simpsons Episodes, and it’s indeed one of the darkest “Simpsons” episodes. And in my opinion, also one of the worst. Just seeing how cruel everyone is to Bart throughout the entire thing is pretty unpleasant to watch. Bart takes part in a baseball game, and after missing the ball, he ends up costing everyone the game. For this and this alone, the town begins to ridicule him, mock him, and shame him to the point that Bart becomes suicidal. As I’ve said, “The Simpsons” is no stranger to dark humor. But I personally never found anything funny or clever about this episode. It’s mostly just cruelty for the sake of… bad writing, I guess? – Right? (crowd muttering in agreement) – [Wiggum] Jump! …w-who said that? – [Strider] Anyway, onto number one. And the number one darkest modern “Simpsons” episode is… “Flander’s Ladder”. This episode is all about death. Plain and simple. – That’s right, boys. Think about your possible deaths as you go to sleep. – [Strider] It’s just a completely unique standalone “Simpsons” episode. It’s not quite a normal episode, and it’s not quite a “Treehouse of Horror” episode. And there are moments that make my jaw drop for good and bad reasons. But we’ll get to that. After Bart is struck by lightning and falls off the roof, he falls into a coma. (metal rattling) (Bart struggling) (thunder, electricity buzzing) While he’s in this comatose state in the hospital, Lisa utilizes her understanding of the subconscious mind to purposely give Bart nightmares. What. The hell. There is something just so messed-up about this scene. – Your nightmare begins. (button clicking, Lisa imitating thunder) – [Strider] For a few hours, I literally ragequit the episode here entirely. Just the idea of Lisa invading the subconscious mind of her helpless, comatose brother just feels so wrong to me. And it just feels so out-of-character for Lisa. Well… in most episodes, anyway. This causes Bart to be trapped within his own nightmares and unable to escape from his own comatose state. resulting in many, many dead people invading Bart’s mind in order for him to give them peace. Apparently Maude’s understandably not too pleased about being accidentally killed by Homer, and has some rather vengeful plans for him. – [Homer] Mmm… …mmm?! – [Nelson] Maude Flanders says hello. – Hello! (firing and impacting) – [Strider] The rest of the episode plays out a bit like a “Treehouse of Horror” episode. Except… well, it’s not. We get a montage of Bart helping the dead people move on as well as him killing his own father after the very dead Maude Flanders orders him to. To his credit, however, Bart does actually feel some remorse for killing his own father. Well, I guess we’re making SOME progress from the psychopath stage, then. He even begs Homer to stay with his family. Meanwhile, in real life, Bart is literally dying. To her credit, Lisa does get genuinely remorseful for her downright horrific actions. And apparently, she didn’t actually intend for this to happen. And then… (sighing) we see it. What we’ve all been wondering for over 600 episodes– well, okay, what I’ve personally been wondering. for over 600 episodes. How will all the Simpsons die? Okay, I gotta be honest here. When I first saw this scene, I teared up. When I saw it again a year later for this review, I teared up again. This is a really powerful scene, yet it’s simultaneously humorous yet real at the same time. What I find really interesting about this scene is that it isn’t painted in a bleak way or just for laughs. It’s painted in a surprisingly peaceful, emotional, yet funny and satisfying way for each character. In fact, I think we get to see a lot of them reach honest, probably realistic ages for our future lives in 2060-2080. Homer probably would die young. Lisa probably would live to her nineties. Death is a subject that passes over my mind a lot, if it wasn’t apparent from some of my videos. And this collection of scenes remains one of my favorite death animation scenes of all time. There’s something about the tone here that says “no, this isn’t just some silly skit. This is how the characters we’ve known for our whole lives die.” And you know, it doesn’t appear as disturbing as I thought. That’s all I’m gonna say on this scene. It’s dark and mostly on the subject of death. It’s at times shocking but also fascinating and even has some moments of real beauty. I personally consider it the number one darkest “Simpsons” episode. – Bart, did you see anything else when you were under? Just how we’re all gonna die. Want me to tell you? – Not really. – Well, I’m gonna tell you anyway. – [Strider] Well, thanks for checking out some of these darker modern “Simpsons” episodes with me. And as for any dark episodes I might have missed, if you think I missed a particularly dark modern “Simpsons” episode, or have any of your own comments on these episodes in particular, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments below. An as always, thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time.