At the beginning of this episode, the clone of Stinkmeaner turns to the camera in a fake cooking-show setting (that doesn’t return throughout the rest of the episode) and says, “We’re gonna do some shit we already did and just pretend you didn’t see that shit the first time. That’s right nigga, we don’t respect your intelligence.” This is, as close as I can tell, the closest thing this season of The Boondocks has come to a statement of purpose, and it’s pretty astonishing that Angela Nissell and the other producers on this season really think we’re dumb enough that they can just tell us stuff like this. That’s a long way of saying another season, another Stinkmeaner episode, and they just keep getting worse.
The first Stinkmeaner episode was a triumph—introducing not only the mythology of the nigga moment, but also the indelible character of the hatred-consumed Stinkmeaner (who is also, notably, at his most human here) and his irrational vendetta against Robert. It gave Huey a beautifully animated, ghostly dream scene fighting a demonic Stinkmeaner in a moonlit forest. And it came complete with the stinger that Stinkmeaner wasn’t actually some kind of savant with his cane—he’d just gotten a lucky shot in on Robert, who’d killed an old man for no reason save his ego. I don’t want to compare this episode to that one. It’s unfair to the new creative team to continually measure their work against that of a personality with such a well-defined voice. But “Stinkmeaner: Begun The Clone War Has” is explicitly pitched as a sequel—a reboot really—of the earlier Stinkmeaner episodes, and references their events. And over the course of this season, the new Boondocks writers have tried their best to mimic Aaron McGruder’s rhythms and concerns and quirks, unlike, say, the fourth season of Community, which was definitely trying to make Community, though a less wacky, more traditional version (something fearless TV Club leader Todd VanDerWerff wrote about a bit at the time). So screw it.
Here we are, confronted with an episode that’s almost as derivative and painful to watch as the Tom-focused season premiere. “Stinkmeaner: Begun The Clone Wars Has” hits pretty much every beat of the other Stinkmeaner episodes and walks right up to the edge of doing something original, but instead is content to do absolutely nothing interesting and, as Stinkmeaner helpfully tells us, insult our intelligence. First, Stinkmeaner comes back, this time as a clone rather than as a demon or (spiritually) his badass old, ’70s-sitcom-aping friends—yet another in a long line of tropes this season has used seemingly for no reason other than remembering that they’re sort of a thing people know about. The scientists who birthed the new Stinkmeaner (and the misused Nietzsche quote that opens the episode) suggest a direction the episode could go that would delve deeper into an insane Stinkmeaner mythology, complete with an army of Stinkmeaners that would be more of a force of nature than a real character—the way he’s been used of late, but in a way that made sense. In the previous installments, Stinkmeaner’s mode of resurrection has said something new and interesting in the ongoing nigga moment saga. But the cloning is just a way for him to be reintroduced, and to give him some better fighting abilities. See, Stinkmeaner has finally been turned into the “blind nigga samurai” that Huey dreamt of all those years ago. This makes sense within the context of the episode (such as it has one), but it also totally blunts the satirical blow of the end of the first Stinkmeaner episode, when Robert kills a blind old man who just got a lucky shot in by accident.
Like that first episode, this one features a bunch of Robert fight training and being afraid of humiliation at the hands of an old man, though he’s more flabbergasted here because, well, he’s killed or exorcised Stinkmeaner a bunch of times. This general incredulity and sense of resignation is the funniest part of the episode, except that it’s also the most cynical and saddest part, as if Nissell felt like she had to write a Stinkmeaner episode and just did the laziest one imaginable. Even the attempt to diverge from the established Stinkmeaner canon, when Robert becomes Stinkmeaner by holding on to all of his hate, is basically the reverse of what happens to Tom during the second Stinkmeaner episode. The idea that irrational hatred turns someone into a Stinkmeaner is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t really say anything new and just gives us the sort of funny image of the Stinkmeaners fighting in the big showdown.
The worst thing about this whole thing is that there’s actually the core of a really good Stinkmeaner story buried deep within it. Though the introduction of the police was a great (and cynical) way to cap the Stinkmeaner saga back in “The Hateocracy,” the rejection of the whole damn thing—what Huey has advocated for all along—is equally effective in theory, if only in a sort of sitcom-type way, except that it still requires Robert to beat the hell out of Stinkmeaner (in a decent fight, to be fair). And Huey is a nag again, but at least here he’s a decent sounding board for Robert’s pride and ego. These are, at best, new ways of presenting the same topics from the other Stinkmeaner episodes, which makes them incredibly boring.
In the last indignities of the episode, the fight scene is a) tied to the Freemans’ financial problems (as are Robert’s attempts at getting fighting lessons) without any indication that the writers care at all about resolving that story or taking it seriously, and b) followed up by a tag in which the Stinkmeaner clone is just hanging around the Freemans’ house for no reason. The endings of these episodes have been a little bizarre, but this one really serves no purpose other than suggesting that maybe Stinkmeaner wasn’t such a horrible person after all? This, again, would be an interesting direction to take the episode if he hadn’t already been established as worse than the devil incarnate. Like the rest of “Begun The Clone War Has,” the tag chews up a bunch of previously established stuff the writers think we will like and spits it back out with nothing original at all. Thankfully this train wreck of a season is almost over.
- Ed Asner shows back up for basically no reason as Ed Wuncler I. It’s cool to hear him, but if they were going to maintain the Freeman’s financial problems, it’d have been nice to have him directly reference “Freedomland” or something.
- The Star Wars stuff in this episode is here for no reason at all. It is dumb.
- The less spoken about last week’s episode, the better.
- “Thank God, the police.”
- A note on grading: I’ve been trying to grade most of these episodes on a slightly lower curve to accommodate the fact that there’s no way the show is going to be as good as it was (and most of the episodes this season have had at least some merit), but this was just insulting.