"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Family Guy: Lois Kills Stewie

After years of pondering, I finally find out what the planet would be like if Stewie Griffin ever realized his dream of world domination. As President of the World, the matricidal Griffin child declares the kind of laws I'd expect from an evil genius, including a decree that all of the nation's milk is to be supplied from Hilary Swank's breasts, and that anyone who sees Peter Griffin should throw apples at him. Maybe Stewie as President wouldn't be such a bad thing after all. He'd also ban "straight to video" Disney films.

This results in a fantastic awkwardly long vignette where I see a scene from a future Aladdin installment where Jaffar is getting an eye exam. It's so inane and absurd that I couldn't help but laugh, and it's something that I did throughout this entire carefully crafted episode of comic brilliance.Not only does this episode feature plentiful laughs, but - like the last episode - tells an actual story. Stewie's escape from the courthouse is followed by a memorable family hostage moment where the evil child holds a gun to his family and escapes the house with Brian in an aim to infiltrate the CIA and take over the world.

It all leads to a Matrix-inspired climactic battle sequence in the White House between Lois and Stewie. Not only was the fight choreography fantastic, but it contains some of the most visually stunning animated imagery I've seen in the series. If I thought the violent nature of Lois' "assassination" was shocking, then the sight of Stewie's bloody corpse could be seen as being downright disturbing.

While some fans might groan at the "it was all a dream" ending, the handling of the denouement was faultless and the sheer brilliance of the storyline more than makes up for it. The tongue-in-cheek conversation between Brian and Stewie followed by the spoof of the Sopranos finale was the final exclamation point in this fantastic episode.

Additionally, a slew of celebrity cameos help make this second half of the Family Guy hundredth episode celebration one of the best outings I've seen in years. Patrick Stewart reprises his role from sister series American Dad, Willem Dafoe shows up as a man who lives under Stewie's bed, and the entire judging panel from American Idol makes an appearance as Stewie auditions for the show in a flashback sequence.

It's great to see the homicidal evil side of Stewie again. Even if it was just a simulation, the moments where he held his family hostage, or made Peter comment on his "macaroni owl," or how he made Brian speak to Joe at gunpoint serve as reminders of how fantastically entertaining Stewie can be when written correctly. The desperate closet homosexual version of Stewie that I see all too often in more recent episodes is only fun in small doses.

With the writers' strike in full effect, it seems that this might be the last new episode of Family Guy I'll be seeing for a while. It's a bittersweet way to end the abruptly short season as the quality is reminiscent of the series' brilliance from the early years and it seems like the show was really starting to hit its stride for the season. Hopefully the series will be able to live up to the high bar set by this two-part classic upon its eventual return.

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