It may seem like the classic animated sitcom The Simpsons will never come to a close, but could the show have already hinted at its ending?
It may seem like the classic animated sitcom The Simpsons will never come to a close, but could the show have already hinted at how it will end? Since it began in 1989, created by Matt Groening, The Simpsons has been one of the most influential television series in the history of the medium. At its peak, the show was one of the best things on TV. Understandably, The Simpsons has changed massively in its thirty years on the air, but the charm, wit, and sheer creative verve of the show remain a constant even in its lesser later seasons.
During its golden age (roughly seasons three-twelve, depending on who you ask), The Simpsons was heartfelt, cerebral, witty, scathingly satirical, madcap, moving, and thoughtful all at once. And funny. So, so funny. But many fans feel the show’s once peerless quality fell off as the seasons passed, with even fan-favorite characters like Marge getting worse and worse over time. As the show continues into its fourth decade, the question of how The Simpsons will end is one which the writer’s room is coming closer and closer to reckoning with.
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The unconventional structure of the series may convince viewers that The Simpsons has no clear ending in sight. But if you view the show as Homer’s strange, sometimes surreal, always silly view of the world, it becomes clear that the series could have no more fitting ending than the main character’s death.
Is The Simpsons Designed To Have A Finale?
The Simpsons has been committed to breaking every rule of television conventions for decades. In its long run, the series has abandoned more twists than most shows will ever have the chance to pull off, like the justifiably dropped revelation that Homer was Krusty the Clown. So it’s fair for viewers to question whether a series this bizarre is even designed to have a finale. Many anecdotes about the show’s writing process and production center on how spontaneous the creation of the show is, but it’s worth noting that the genius of The Simpsons also came from careful and meticulous planning on the part of the show’s creators.
According to one of the show’s producers, Al Jean, during its peak each script for The Simpsons would go through so many rounds of rewrites and edits that by the time one first draft joke about the Soviet Union made it to the production process, the Soviet Union no longer existed. So, as random as the humor of The Simpsons often is, it’s hard to imagine a show like that doesn’t have an ending in mind even if, like the show’s first outing, it ends up completely retooled.
The Simpsons Has Always Been Homer’s Show
Despite the surreal chaos of The Simpsons‘ best installments and its sprawling ensemble cast, one thing has always held true. Even though series creator Matt Groening’s favorite character is Lisa, The Simpsons has always been Homer’s show. It is through Homer’s (sometimes fairly unforgiving eyes) that the viewer sees the show’s characters. The extremity of their personalities and behavior is cartoonish because that’s how Homer perceives them: Bart is a brat, Lisa is intimidatingly smart, and Marge is a stereotypical sheltered suburban housewife whose rare deviations from traditional norms always cause something to go disastrously wrong. As for Maggie – well, Maggie is mute because Homer can’t communicate with her. The show has only grown steadily more harsh in its portrayal of Homer over the years, with many fans decrying that the so-called “Jerkass Homer” of later seasons is a far cry from the flawed but loveable everyman of the show’s bygone peak.
But there’s an unfortunate reason behind this shifting portrayal. Homer’s gradually deteriorating character can be attributed to the show’s attempts to appeal to the viewers of Family Guy, American Dad, South Park, Rick & Morty, and countless other animated adult sitcoms that have come into existence since The Simpsons began. To compete with more cynical, edgier competitors, the creators of The Simpsons opted to make their hero a meaner and more self-absorbed figure. It’s an ill-advised move that cost the show its heart and ironically empowered its competitors. Ever since Bob’s Burgers was retooled to be more family-friendly, its protagonist Bob Belcher now resembles the dim-witted, good-hearted, peak-Simpsons Homer more than the current Homer does. So what can the series do to redress this imbalance before the end?
The Simpsons Can Only End With Homer’s Death
With Homer central to the universe of the show, it only makes sense to theorize that The Simpsons can – and should – end with his death. As the character has grown steadily more self-absorbed in recent years, it stands to reason that the series is setting him up for a redemptive end. A return for Homer’s well-meaning but blundering old self would make his death a moving end for the show. Admittedly, such a bittersweet ending may seem uncharacteristic for the series. But The Simpsons has floated wilder ideas in its time, like the original character design of Marge complete with inexplicable bunny ears. And it’s not unheard for The Simpsons to tread into some more sentimental territory, with some of the best outings of the show’s later years leaning into its softer side.
2011’s Christmas episode ‘Holidays of Future Passed’ was written as a potential series finale, and sure enough the episode features a kind-hearted (if oafish) Homer who is easier to root for. There’s no guarantee that this theory will hold, as The Simpsons remains as inventive as ever, and the show continues to flout expectations for better or worse. But despite the show’s constant drive to remain fresh and original, many of its later installments have lacked the heart which made The Simpsons stand out in its early years. Revealing that Homer has been the show’s eyes, ears, and heart throughout its many years could be just the ending that The Simpsons needs to close on a high.
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