Original Air Date: Sunday, November 7, 2010
The episode opens with Bart and Homer, sitting outside, carving pumpkins. At one point, Bart gets the idea to carve a face into Homer's pants, triggering Homer's usual strangle, causing Bart to throw a flaming pumpkin onto Homer's head. This all turns out to be presented on a monitor in Professor Frinks house, as he's here to introduce the show. He even goes so far as to greet the people watching who have pirated the episode, as if to say "it's okay, we get it".
When Frink further warns us about the gruesome episode ahead, he suggests fast-forwarding through the scary bits. He provides an example, but accidentally goes through the episode, spoiling things for the audience. He shames himself for it by claiming he's not fit to hold the remote, and fast-forwards his ageing process until he drops dead, forming a cloud of dust that the wind sweeps off the floor, forming the title 'Treehouse of Horror XXI'.
Suddenly, a Frankenstein's Monster comes along saying he's going to watch 'The Office' instead, and compares Dunder Mifflin is just like his workplace. This is followed by an 'Office' opening farce, featuring various monsters, and it's pretty well out of nowhere and feels a bit forced.
'War and Pieces'
In this parody of Jumanji, things open with Bart and Milhouse playing a violent video game. Marge intervenes, and suggests the boys play some board games instead. They eventually give in, and in searching through the pile of unlicensed knock-offs, they come across one called 'Satan's Path'.
When Bart goes first, after a couple of moves, the rejected board games (as well as other things like a Slinky, and various card games) come to life. In order to bring things back to normal, the boys must play the games through to the end. The whole thing gets so rushed, however, the ending is actually a combination of Bart fighting back and setting off the "Mouse Trap". This is one of those concepts that I really like, but the execution is pretty weak. I do, however, give this segment credit for using the games in a lot of imaginative ways.
The only real problem is that there's a lot to cover here and no time to do it in. It makes me wonder how many ideas were bounced around the writing room when it came to using so many different games. I really think that had this been a whole, separate, imaginative episode (it could turn out to be a dream or something) it would be a lot of fun. But this was almost like a test screening of an idea that I can't help but want to add to. It was a lot of potential packed into too tight a window.
'Master and Cadaver'
Homer and Marge rent a boat to take a cruis in uncharted waters for a romantic second honeymoon. This is all disrupted when they rescue a castaway named Roger (Hugh Laurie) who claims that he was knocked out after attempting to stop a poisoning on his former boat, the Albatross. Homer is immediately jealous of the man, but further suspects that he was probably the man who did the poisoning, especially when he offers the couple some pie.
This leads Homer and Marge to take matters into their own hands as this farce of 'Dead Calm' unfolds. It's actually got quite a few laughs, including one visual gag that got me where a shark comes on board the boat, immitating 'Jaws', only to spit Homer out - this is how Homer is introduced in the segment. That shark swims away and is never heard from again. But perhaps most interesting about this one is how it ends. I won't spoil it, but it's gonna be one of those things you'll either enjoy because its imaginative, or hate because it does feel like a bit of a cop out.
I do enjoy the idea of a murder mystery thriller farce for a Halloween show. I often say "just Halloweenish enough", and that still applies here, but the segment is the least thrown-together I've seen for a while. As for that ending, I actually really like it. I won't say much more than this, but it makes us look at Maggie in a whole new light, and it caps things off with a pretty Halloweenish touch of a twist. It's not perfect, but it's still well done, and a breath of fresh air from the mess that was the previous segment.
To this day, I have never bothered with anything to do with 'Twilight', so as a parody, I won't have much to match it to. I did, however, still recognize a few things they were doing here, and the turn it takes is funny enough that the whole 'Twilight' thing hardly enters into it. I can't deny a few solid laughs, even though I haven't seen the 'Twilight' movies for myself.
When a mysterious new student named Edmund (Daniel Radcliffe) comes to Springfield Elementary, Lisa falls in love with him, only to find out that he's a vampire. She's not afraid of this, and the two begin a romantic entanglement. Marge then invites Edmund over for dinner, along with his father, who happens to be Dracula (Dan Castellaneta). When both parents embarrass the young potential couple, however, they fly away, and Homer and Dracula have to go track them down together.
This one has quite a few great visual gags, and once again, it's put together to run somewhat smoothly, not feeling so thrown together. On top of that, it interests me that they got Daniel Radcliffe to play Edmund here when, at this point (at least as far as film goes) the stories were overlapping between 'Harry Potter', with 'Deathly Hallows' right around the corner, and 'Twilight' with 'Eclipse' just out earlier that year. So both were kind of on top of the world at this point, remembering that 'Avengers' was only just brewing. I had fun with this one, and it's so much more than anything just cheesy and romantic.
The thing that stood out to me the most about this episode was the fact that at the end of every segment, a main character (or two) gets killed off. This suggests to me that 'The Simpsons' is willing to provide some new shock value to their work. This isn't a first or anything, but the way the deaths are done are a bit brutal in context. The first segment hangs Bart and Milhouse, the second technically doesn't kill off Marge, but the visual is there, and the third makes Homer plummet to his death and get carried off by Milhouse the Werepoodle (as a farce of Jacob from the 'Twilight' series).
This is all something that I'm not sure whether I like or not. Although it adds to the Halloween feel of everything, all but the final death wasn't entirely creative and just felt like a cheap shock for the viewers. Not funny, really, just sort of cruel. That said, however, the final two segments are a couple of good ones that farce what they're farcing quite well. It's a damn shame the first segment was thrown together into such a mess though. We could have had a very solid Halloween episode here.
Overall Episode Rating: 67%