By now you’ve figured out that I love the Simpsons. It’s one of my top three fandoms, right next to Star Wars and pro wrestling. Everyone who knows me or reads these blogs (or both) knows this as fact. I plan to eventually rank every season of the Simpsons at some point, but the show is still going to this day. That makes the task a little harder to complete, but we’re going to keep rolling with each season until they’re all on this blog somewhere.
Until that point, I will rank the earlier seasons – the ones I’ve seen hundreds of times – and the ones that are still the best. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed re-watching these episodes!
RANKING THE SIMPSONS SEASON TWO
Episode Total: 22
Overall Season Opinion: Better than season one. The animation takes a major step forward, the characters develop their personalities, and crowds are full of regular characters instead of random strangers. Similar to the first season of Family Guy, a lot of no-name characters are slowly swapped out for regulars, as the show creates and develops new personalities. This season has a handful of less than average episodes which I put at the bottom, a large number of average but fun episodes, and a handful of really good episodes, which I put at the top.
22. Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish (Episode 17)
Season two’s worst episode is about a political race. Who would’ve thought? Mr. Burns ends up running for governor against Mary Bailey, a character who never gets developed past “state governor of whatever state Springfield is in.” The episode even starts with photographer Dave Shutton, probably the single most underdeveloped “main” character in the show’s history. Bart and Lisa catch a fish with three eyes, swimming in a river fed by toxic waste from the nuclear power plant. This story causes an uproar with the media, and Mr. Burns ends up in a political race for governor, causing a rift in the family Simpson, as Marge supports Bailey but Homer supports his boss. It all comes to a head when Mr. Burns, in front of media cameras, is forced to eat Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish, and blows his campaign by spitting out the cooked radioactive animal. It’s as riveting as it sounds. If you like political based episodes, this one isn’t bad, but if you want a fun and funny Simpsons episode, look elsewhere. This is unquestionably season two’s weakest story. Thanks politics!
21. The War of the Simpsons (Episode 33)
If you’re into stories where Homer and Marge have marital issues, this episode is for you. After Homer humiliates Marge at a dinner party, they go to a marriage retreat while Grampa babysits Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. Homer wants to fish to catch a large legendary catfish, which puts even more rifts into his marriage, and then does the cliche storyline where he throws the fish back to win Marge over. It’s really not a great story, since Marge spends an entire afternoon listing Homer’s faults to the point where you wonder why she bothers staying with him. Not a fun storyline. The better storyline happens with the kids throwing a party and then attempting to make the place perfectly clean before their parents come home. When the secondary storyline is more interesting than the primary one, you’re in trouble. This episode is worth a watch to see Grampa manipulate the kids with tears, and the kids hilarious attempts to clean up (which mostly fail), but that’s really it. An easy episode to skip.
20. Bart Gets An “F” (Episode 14)
Doug Walker, better known as the Nostalgia Critic, cites this as his number one favorite Simpsons episode. Personally, I don’t like it, but I can understand why someone would enjoy the story. It actually delivers a real emotional punch to anyone who can relate to being a bad student, as Bart’s breakdown at the end reflects trying his hardest and failing. It’s really a story of Bart dealing with his own bouts of ADD and trying not to be left back in the 4th grade. My reasons of dislike stem back to when I was younger, and not finding this episode entertaining at all. As an older fan, I can understand and appreciate the message behind the story, but like the Mecha Streisand South Park episode, I can’t justify ranking this episode any higher. The montage of Bart training Martin how to be cool and Martin tutoring Bart is a lot of fun.
19. Principal Charming (Episode 27)
Marge’s twin sisters are opposite in a lot of ways. Selma is stuck on finding true love and starting a family, while Patty is a closeted homosexual (at this point) and closed to romantic relationships. This episode is centered around Homer setting up Selma with Principal Skinner, and Skinner chasing Patty instead of Selma. In a moment that is probably relate-able to anyone with a twin sibling, Patty rejects Skinner in the end because her twin has to come first. The episode has some insight into the Patty and Selma bond as well as a look into how they vastly differ. It’s a fun early episode, but not a particularly interesting one. My favorite joke is Homer’s radar on every potential man for Selma, and how he views Skinner as a “possible Homer Sexual” after Bart’s prank call to Moe’s. Did Moe seriously not connect the dots that Bart called him? Maybe Moe deserved all those calls after all.
18. Bart Gets Hit By A Car (Episode 23)
We really don’t need a Simpson family near-death experience to remind us that Mr. Burns is an evil, uncaring man, but we sure get a major reminder in this story. After hitting Bart with his car, the heartless Burns winds up in court fighting the son of one of his own employees. Burns uses his riches and connections to assemble a crack team of lawyers, while the Simpsons are reduced to hiring Lionel Hutz (an awesome character). Hutz blatantly tries to exploit Bart’s injury, which costs the Simpsons a trial they should have been ensured to win. Marge does the right thing, but she also assists in the family’s loss, which is kind of a confusing angle. Do we like Marge or do we resent her? It’s an episode with a bummer ending, although the Lionel Hutz and Dr. Nick Riviera characters are always fun.
17. Bart’s Dog Gets An “F” (Episode 29)
What’s with all the failures in season two? First Bart gets an F, then his dog? Sheesh. In any case, Santa’s Little Helper is on one hell of a war path. He’s destroying everything, from expensive sneakers to family quilts to Homer’s big cookie. A family meeting is held to discuss Santa’s Little Helper finding a new home, which devastates Bart as the dog is his best friend. The family agrees to send him to obedience school. Naturally, Santa’s Little Helper does as well in school as Bart does. He does manage to come around just in time, and the family remains whole. There is a pretty clever running gag throughout the episode focusing on how Santa’s Little Helper interprets human speech. It’s a clever take on how animals view human speech, although it makes you wonder why he suddenly figured out command words when everything was just ‘blah blah blah.’ Oh well, it’s a cartoon, so it doesn’t need flawless logic, right? Right.
16. Brush With Greatness (Episode 31)
Did you know that Marge is a really good artist? Well, now you know! Marge is generally the least developed of the main characters, but here we finally see her real talent come to light. We also learn about her girlhood crush on Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, whom she sent a painting to years ago and he finally responded. I love how he’s painstakingly answering every fan letter he’s ever gotten. Poor Ringo, I guess he really was the least popular member of the Beatles. The episode also features a nude Mr. Burns with an accompanying painting. Marge paints him frail and naked after walking in on him in their shower, and uses it for artist inspiration. Despite Burns wanting a commissioned painting making him look fearsome, he actually ends up liking Marge’s interpretation. Sometimes Burns can come through despite his heartless ways.
15. Simpson & Delilah (Episode 15)
Homer Simpson has two distinguishing physical features: his baldness and his obesity. In this episode, Homer tries a revolutionary new hair growth product, and his newfound locks gets him immense respect at work from Mr. Burns. Homer ends up getting fashion and career advice from a his new secretary named Karl, who is definitely in love with him. And naturally, the voice actor is Harvey Fierstein. Brilliant casting. Unfortunately, Karl takes the fall for Homer when Smithers discovers that Homer lied on his insurance forms. Karl is fired, and Homer is demoted back to Sector 7-G after Bart spills the rest of his hair formula. It’s a “could have” been type of story had Homer never gone bald, but due to his lower intelligence, may not have made it far anyway. Harvey Fierstein takes what would have been an ordinary and boring episode and makes it really good. Poor Karl, I don’t think we ever see him again.
14. Bart Vs. Thanksgiving (Episode 20)
Bart can be a nuisance of a character sometimes. Sometimes his antics make him pretty intolerable, and this one certainly comes close. Bart ruins the centerpiece for the Thanksgiving table that Lisa spent a ton of time on, and the family accuses him of ruining the holiday. Bart ends up running away from home, and has Thanksgiving dinner with a group of hobos at a homeless shelter. Even though he’s at fault for the commotion, his realization of how good he has it and his apology to Lisa more than make up for his selfishness. Bart can definitely be unlikable at times, but as long as he has true redemption, it can be forgiven. The Simpsons haven’t really done too many Thanksgiving themed episodes (a lot of shows haven’t) so this one still holds up. If you’re looking for a good Thanksgiving story to watch over the holiday, put on this episode and enjoy.
13. Homer Vs. Lisa & The 8th Commandment (Episode 26)
Believe it or not, I actually like the Lisa Simpson character. Sure, she’s bossy and condescending, but she’s by far the most developed of the core family. She might even be the most developed character on the entire show. Homer gets an illegal cable hookup, and Lisa fights the moral repercussions of stealing. At this point in the series, she’s still a Protestant going to Sunday School, so she’s intimidated by violating the ten commandments. Homer’s illegal cable is a direct violation of “Thou Shalt Not Steal” and she really fears for her mortal soul. It’s a look into the deep troubling conscience that is Lisa Simpson. It’s also a good story, and how the town reacts to the cable hookup is pretty funny, especially when Mr. Burns and the cops show up. The ending scene is funny too, when Homer decides to cut the wire once and for all.
12. Old Money (Episode 30)
One of the most interesting characters on the show is Abraham “Grampa” Simpson. He is a World War II veteran and an old coot who was put in a retirement home by his own son. This episode explores his lonely side and how crappy of a home he truly lives in. He meets a sweet old lady named Bea that he falls in love with, and wants to spend all his time around, so of course the family ruins this for him and she dies after they cause him to miss a date with her. Her will leaves all her cash to Abe, and after he has no fun with her cash, her ghost appears to him and tells him to give the money to someone who can need it. Grampa invests the money into his own retirement home to create a better living situation for all his friends. Even though Grampa can be extremely cranky, this episode shows him to have a big caring heart. Too bad future episodes show how much he doesn’t care about Homer.
11. Three Men and a Comic Book (Episode 34)
This episode is the first time we meet Comic Book Guy, who is a great character in his own right. He has a copy of Radioactive Man issue #1, which Bart, Martin, and Milhouse end up buying after pooling their money together. They definitely get more than they bargained for, as they wind up fighting over ownership of the comic book. This leads to the three of them battling over possession of the book in Bart’s treehouse on a very stormy night, resulting in the book’s ultimate destruction. A lot of shows have done the classic “we all went in on it” storyline, but the Simpsons really hits the nail on the head of what would happen if three 10-year-old boys actually did have a timeshare comic book. Credit to Bart for saving his friend’s life (in reality, saving him from getting scraped up). Bart can be a heartless character at times, but when the chips are down, he can come through for his friends. Sometimes.
10. Blood Feud (Episode 35)
As we enter the top ten, we come to the season finale episode. Mr. Burns is hospitalized, and Bart saves his life because they both have the same extremely rare blood type. But what thanks does the family get for Bart – the son of one of Mr. Burns’ employees – saving the rich old billionaire’s life? A card. Just…a card. Homer, enraged, writes a pretty strongly worded letter to his boss that ends up being read in Homer’s presence. Strongly worded, by the way. only in Homer’s own words of course. What makes this episode work for well is that it’s a great example of many of Homer’s defining characteristics. Not only is he willing to be charitable if it benefits him, but he’ll go to great lengths to do right by his family if he feels wronged. And despite his devotion to revenge and reward, he’ll still listen to Marge and try to do what’s ultimately right – getting no reward at all for saving someone’s life. Of course, Mr. Burns does eventually give the family a reward after Smithers convinces him to do so. A gigantic Olmec head named Xtapolapocetl (I had to Google it just to remember what the hell it was called!)
9. Bart The Daredevil (Episode 21)
You all know this episode even if you haven’t seen it in ages. It’s the one where Bart tries to jump over Springfield Gorge on his skateboard. This episode has become synonymous with classic Simpsons moments. The clip of Homer’s failed jump has been played out so much that they’ve even poked fun at it in newer episodes. “Everyone is sick of that clip!” The family go to a monster truck rally and see a famous daredevil named Lance Murdock perform a death-defying motorcycle jump (over a hilarious variety of creatures), prompting Bart to seek out a career in thrill-seeking. Namely, jumping over things with his skateboard. Homer’s failed attempts to rightfully reason with Bart about the dangers of jumping Springfield Gorge can only be proven by his own attempt to jump the Gorge. Hey, he almost makes it too! Bart…kinda sorta learns a lesson here. And we get a classic Simpsons moment that many fans remember to this day.
8. Dancin’ Homer (Episode 18)
One night at Moe’s, a distraught Homer tells the story of how he became the mascot for the Springfield Isotopes, simply because he was drunk and trying to get the crowd into the game. A mascot called Dancin’ Homer was born, and Homer wowed crowds all over until he got his chance to move to the major leagues and perform alongside the greatest baseball mascot of them all, the Capitol City Goofball. This episode is funny, but also has a pretty strong story, told simply because it’s Homer retelling the story from his point of view at the bar with his buddies. It’s a simple plot point of Homer having success doing something in front of a small crowd, only for it to bomb to a larger audience. A true tale of niche and what works in one town may not always work in another. For that reason more than anything else, I rank this episode pretty high for the season. And I love how Homer does a routine to a ballpark organ rendition of “Baby Elephant Walk.”
7. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (Episode 28)
What if I told you that Homer Simpson had a long lost half-brother? Well, it’s true! And Homer meets his brother in this episode. Named Herb Powell, and voiced by Danny DeVito, Herb is a successful entrepreneur in the motor vehicle industry. He invites Homer and the family to stay with him, and even asks Homer to help him design a car. A car designed by the everyman, for the everyman. Although it sounds brilliant, the hideous car design bankrupts Herb’s business and puts him out on the street. Herb vows that he has no brother, but worry not dear Simpsons fan, Herb will return! Well, he’ll return one more time in prominence, and then his voice one time in the future…and that’s basically it. Pity too, because Herb is a great character and we simply don’t see that much of Homer’s extended family that often.
6. One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish (Episode 24)
While it’s a television cliche to do an episode where someone is facing their own mortality, few shows have ever done the angle as well as the Simpsons did back in season two. Homer demands blowfish (or bugu) at a sushi restaurant, but the skilled chef is busy putting his skilled hands to use elsewhere (with Mrs. Krabapple of all people) forcing a more inexperienced chef to make the delicate cut of fish that will be the difference between poison and tasty fish. Kind of makes you wonder why people eat stuff like this in the first place, eh? While Homer does not pass away, he does try to make the most out of his final 24 hours by teaching Bart how to shave, listening to Lisa’s saxophone, making a videotape for Maggie when she’s older, and playing a serious amount of catchup with his dad (causing him to miss most of the list and even end up in jail). Homer lives, everyone rejoices, and the very next clip is Homer eating chips watching bowling on television. A perfect closing gag following his near brush with death. This episode is well written, delivers an emotional and realistic story as only the Simpsons can, and even ends with a hilarious visual representation of Homer making the most out of his second chance at life. Quality endings like this became rare pretty quickly on the Simpsons, so it’s nice to see something like this hold up so well after so many years.
5. Lisa’s Substitute (Episode 32)
I’m not sure if I’ve said it before, but while I can find Lisa to be an annoying and preachy character at times, I feel like she is easily one of the most interesting and well-written characters on the entire show. Lisa episodes come in two forms: an attempt at a message that can be hokey, or a real home-run about the struggles of someone with her intelligence and moral values. This is one of those home-run episodes. Mr. Bergstrom becomes her substitute teacher while Miss Hoover is out sick with Lyme disease. Voiced by the legendary Dustin Hoffman (under a pseudonym) he becomes an idol and inspiration to Lisa, connecting with her on a deep emotional level due to his love of education and carefree attitude towards a life. It’s a far cry from Miss Hoover, who at times comes off as even less caring about her student’s education than even Krabapple does. Bergstrom even gives Lisa a note that simply says “you are Lisa Simpson” to help inspire her. It’s a great Lisa-centric episode in the early Simpsons library, and has one of the show’s greatest one off characters of all time. On the other end of the spectrum is Bart, who leads a powerful campaign against Martin for class president, only to lose when only two kids in the entire class vote for Martin (Martin himself and Wendell) because literally everyone else forgot. Tough loss, Bart. Homer’s campaign poster was brilliant by the way.
4. Dead Putting Society (Episode 19)
A central theme in the Simpsons will always be the (questionably) friendly rivalry between Homer Simpson and his good-natured neighbor, Ned Flanders. Homer is jealous of Flanders because he feels like Ned has everything better than he does. Homer doesn’t like Ned’s bar in his house, his game room, and even how much better his lawn looks. As a result, Bart is forced to challenge Todd Flanders in a miniature golf tournament, with the father of the boy who doesn’t win (worded that way at Ned’s insistence) mow his neighbor’s lawn in his wife’s Sunday dress. The fathers clearly care more about this than their kids do, with Todd getting the jitters over the game and Bart going through zen-like training with Lisa in order to perfect his game. He actually does quite good too, with the kids tied until the final hole, only to admit they’re equally good and stop playing. Thanks to the contract wording, both Ned and Homer lose the bet, and Flanders takes it all in stride while Homer just grumbles on. Not only is this a good story based on the Simpson-Flanders rivalry, but it’s also a good showing of Bart’s early character too. Despite the 1990’s being the bad boy Bart era, he’s proven to be reasonable when he needs to be. Okay, yeah, he tried to jump Springfield Gorge this season, but he and Todd come to an agreement, despite always having a weird relationship throughout the series. This episode is full of laughs, and it’s only the beginning of Homer Vs. Ned. Wait until the left handed store comes about.
3. Itchy & Scratchy & Marge (Episode 22)
This is a great Simpsons episode because even though it aired in 1990, the episode’s message is still relevant in this day and age. What is okay to show on television, and what isn’t? What should be censored and what shouldn’t? It’s a great message and the Simpsons handle it perfectly. Maggie attacks Homer with a mallet, imitating Itchy & Scratchy, so Marge leads a rebellion against the show’s creators and forces the show to change entirely. But when a tour of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture David comes to town, Marge won’t join her own followers in protecting the artwork because she sees it as just that – a work of art. It raises a very smart issue about censorship in America, one that still doesn’t have a defined answer today. It also shows, in hilarious fashion, the kids suddenly going back outside and discovering playing outdoors all over again because their favorite television show isn’t cool to watch anymore. That’s a reality that also manages to hold up in this day and age. In any event, this is a perfect example of timeless and brilliant Simpsons writing. Even though the really smart seasons would come later, this was just a taste of what the show was capable of delivering.
2. The Way We Was (Episode 25)
These days, the Simpsons have done too many flashback episodes, to the point that none of the continuity holds up anymore. But back in the early seasons, flashback episodes gave us some great insights into the past of our favorite characters. In this case, Homer and Marge tell their kids about how they met and fell in love. They were classmates in high school, but from different cliques. Marge was an outspoken feminist overachiever, while Homer was a slacker who smoked in the boy’s room and often got detention. It was through a detention that Homer and Marge met, and Homer tricked Marge into tutoring him to ask her out to the prom. We also meet Artie Ziff for the first time, who had a major league crush on Marge and wound up being her true prom date after Homer upset her. Artie is an interesting character too, because he seems like the loser nerd people would’ve ignored, but seemed to oddly popular at the time. In any case, his busy hands ruin his date with Marge, causing her to regret not going to the prom with Homer. She picks him up walking home in the dark, and it began their official relationship which you all know how it ended. When it comes to flashback episodes, this is one of the best and most revered episodes in the show’s history. It’s a great story showing how Homer and Marge met, and is a fantastic look at the past of some of our favorite characters. Too bad all their flashback episodes weren’t this good. Stay tuned for future season rankings to see where those fall into play.
1. Treehouse of Horror (Episode 16)
It’s probably a bit predictable that I chose this is the best episode of season two, but honestly, can you blame me? Not only is it one of the best Halloween specials the Simpsons ever did, but it’s the original – the one that launched the Treehouse of Horror specials, which became an annual tradition of the show. No matter how bad the newer seasons get, I still go out of my way to see the Treehouse of Horror special every year. The original special has Bart and Lisa telling scary stories in Bart’s treehouse (hence where the title came from) and features three great stories. “Bad Dream House” kicks off with the family moving into a very haunted house that tries to make them kill each other. “Hungry Are the Damned” is about the family being abducted by aliens. And not just any aliens! The official series debut of Kang & Kodos! It parodies the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” except in this case, the aliens really wanted to be nice to the family. Finally, Lisa tells the classic Edgar Allen Poe poem “The Raven” with Homer as the man in the story and Bart as the raven. James Earl Jones lends his voice to three characters, one for each short. This episode became a staple in the Simpsons legacy, spawning one of the greatest annual Halloween events out there, and it’s my choice as the best episode that season two has to offer.
So what did you think of my ranking of the Simpsons season two? What was your favorite episode? What was your least favorite episode? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned for more rankings just like this one!
Quote the raven, “eat my shorts!”