OK, let’s say it: this may be the episode that made The Simpsons what it is.
Up to this point, The Simpsons has often been by turns funny and heartwarming, but the show has not really embraced the very fact it is a cartoon in certain respects. I think this episode is the one that does just that.
Yup, we’ve had gay assistants, jazzmen, and trips to France, but this episode has the Springfield Gorge.
It’s not even the first time in this episode where something outlandish happens. Captain Lance Murdock’s tank of water that he successfully jumps with his motorcycle before he unsuccessfully keeps his balance while posing next to has all manner of water-based animals, but also a lion. Truckasaurus itself is just nutty. And the Springfield Elementary school band had cannons and church bells for the 1812 overture.
But then there’s the Gorge, where Homer finally gets through to Bart on the real dangers of being a daredevil before he accidentally goes rocketing down the ramp, flies into the air…and doesn’t make it. Down he goes, hitting just about every outcropping on the way down, only to get smacked in the head with the skateboard once he’s landed.
That’s funny enough… but who seriously expected Homer to fall down the Gorge a second time? I know I sure didn’t when I first watched the episode all those years ago. And that’s what makes this episode such a hoot. They were willing to dispense major cartoon injury on poor Homer and then did it a second time when it looked like he was OK. The first was expected once he went down the ramp. The second was the proverbial icing on the cake. It really seems to have changed the tone for the series as a whole. Even when the characters were injured before, the show never seemed to embrace the fact it was a cartoon until this one came along. The Gorge changed that, and the show even seems to acknowledge that here and there.
So really, you should see this episode, unless you are dead or in jail. And if you are in jail, break out.