Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Family Guy: “Mr. And Mrs. Stewie”

Illustration for article titled Family Guy: “Mr. And Mrs. Stewie”

Though the title of tonight’s episode, “Mr. And Mrs. Stewie,” refers to the married-couple spy-action movie Mr. And Mrs. Smith, I thought it harkened back to “Dammit, Janet” from season two, an episode that I’ve always remembered fondly. Unlike that tale of Stewie’s first love and loss with a daycare classmate who only wants to eat cookies, tonight saw Stewie meet his logical match in Penelope (voiced by Cate Blanchett—Family Guy can still pull in ridiculously high-profile guest stars) a girl he meets at the park who also builds imaginative weaponry and has delusions of serious violence. Brian is usually the character put through recycled matchmaking plots, but this one is strangely refreshing. It goes back to older characterizations of Stewie, when he built ray guns, was hellbent on world domination, and said “Victory shall be mine!,” only to find in the end that he cares about his friendship with Brian more than his thirst for blood.

This episode features the types of gags that frequently work for me on Family Guy: skewering Brian’s snobbery and indulging Stewie’s delusions of grandeur.I always like jokes that show Brian as a dog, so I found Stewie using the spray bottle to prevent Brian from hijacking the reading with his own work pretty hilarious. When Brian takes Stewie back to the college girl’s apartment, and they stay there all night, Brian’s attempt to get back in Stewie’s good graces leads to the park, where Stewie and Penelope meet after another boy pushes Stewie down. She retaliates by giving the kid a piece of taffy laced with super glue, causing the boy to choke. That’s just the first instance of Penelope going too far with her violence. Stewie’s maniacal fantasies have always been thwarted for comedic effect—including his long-standing and seemingly forgotten vendetta against Lois—but Penelope actually killed her own mother, and inspires Stewie to play a randomly determined game of “Who Can Pull Off The Biggest Catastrophic Disaster?” Penelope is an unhinged agent of chaos, while Stewie is evil for outlandish comedic effect.

It’s inevitable that Brian warns Stewie about Penelope’s influence, that Penelope in turn uses Stewie’s affection to order him to kill Brian, and that Penelope fights Stewie in the end. In most latter-season Family Guy episodes that turn to action sequences in the third act, I get bored, but this extended fight reminded me of some of the better-choreographed fights the show has ever done—specifically the long cutaway fights between Peter and Ernie the Giant Chicken. But my favorite relationship on Family Guy is the one between Brian and Stewie, who make a reliably consistent and funny pairing. Seeing that friendship underlined with value—as Stewie jettisons someone who initially seems like his perfect match (but turns out to be even crazier than him) in favor of defending and protecting Brian—makes the climactic fight scene thrilling and enjoyable after a generally funny first two acts.

In the B-plot, Lois is tired of Peter rolling over during the night and crushing her, so she decides they need to sleep in separate beds, like they’re characters on an old sitcom that couldn’t show characters sleeping in the same bed. Peter still wants someone to cuddle with, so he seeks out Quagmire as a snuggle buddy. Glenn agrees that everyone should be able to cuddle with someone, whether it’s a man, woman, or corpse (way to slip in the necrophilia joke, Family Guy). I’m not sure if we’re just supposed to laugh at the idea two straight men cuddling—and for all Glenn’s sexual deviances, it’s difficult to depict him so buttoned-up for innocent cuddling— but this is clearly the weaker story. We don’t get to see Lois’ side of this arc, so her decision that she and Peter can keep sharing the bed is just a gentle reset to the status quo. Nothing changes for any of those three characters, so while the main plot helped make this one of the better episodes of the season, the B-plot and some smaller touches dragged it down just enough to keep it below “Back To The Pilot.”

Stray observations:

  • Unofficial Cutaway Counter: Five, and I’m glad the total was that low, since it gave more time to the Stewie plot, especially the third-act action sequence.
  • Best Cutaway: Peter writing with the big quill, saying “dip dip dip” whenever he had to get more ink, and narrating his old-timey letter with the gourd crop and how “marital concerns continue to bedevil” him.
  • Worst Cutaway: Charles Bronson wanting to cuddle.
  • Another episode of Family Guy, another passing reference to just how much the show hates Meg. Chris only had one line from offscreen tonight, but it’s Meg who gets special ire as the episode cuts out just as she tries to talk.
  • Consuela is one of Family Guy’s most enduring side characters, but I’ve never laughed at any of the stereotypical bits that use her. Breaking one of Penelope’s weapons—then saying it was already broken—is yet another example of the entrenched racist humor on this show.