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American Dad!, S13E10: “The Two Hundred”

Episode grade: A

Step back for a second and consider this strange little miracle. Who would have thought this show would have made it to 200 episodes? It’s a milestone that the vast majority of TV shows never come close to seeing, and fewer still get there in any kind of acceptable shape. The Fox network teased for years that American Dad! was on the rocks before they finally cut it loose, itching to branch out into new franchises despite continuing to pull decent numbers and retaining a loyal fanbase. Ironically, one of the replacement shows got canceled before it ever aired, and the other (Bordertown) is the kind of lowest-common-denominator humorless trainwreck full of one-dimensional stereotypes, flaccid jokes, and revolting character designs that makes one nostalgic for Allen Gregory. I don’t know how TBS came to rescue this show from cancellation, or how they managed to retain almost the entire production staff, all the original voice actors (including Sir Patrick Stewart, one of this season’s MVPs), and maintain the same level of quality in animation… but I’ve never been more grateful that they did as I was tonight.

American Dad! has never been a show to shy away from deviating from the standard sitcom formula whenever it suited their whims. Supernatural occurrences, space travel, mass murder, and post-apocalyptic hellscapes are by now just part of the overall oeuvre of the show (although the general consensus is that they’re outside the canon, as they kinda mess up any possible continuity). Really, a dive into these alternative universes are almost expected this point, especially with the holiday episodes or milestones such as “100 A.D.”, their 100th episode in which they killed off 100 characters (the vast majority at once in a fiery bus crash) on their way to prevent Hayley from marrying Jeff.

“The Two Hundred” gives us the same kind of outside-the-box, non-canonical insanity at which this show excels. Sequentially dishing out fragments of the story of an apocalyptic event through the lens of Stan’s various body tattoos, we learn that while Stan was away on a mission, some kind of particle accelerator mishap in Langley Falls causes most of mankind to be wiped out, and most of the survivors to turn into cannibalistic monsters. Stan, on a quest to return home and find out if his family was among the survivors, encounters Principal Lewis, now reduced to hunting human flesh to survive, and Greg Corbin, who has been hiding out in his basement and whose lower leg becomes Lewis’ latest meal after failing to heed Stan’s shushes.

Stan learns that his family did actually survive, and sets out with a hobbled Greg strapped to his back to find “New Haven” — not the boring city in Connecticut, of course, but rather a camp of survivors. Everyone they encounter is terrified of something called “The Two Hundred”, though no one seems to know what they really are; foreshadowing the coming episode climax, though first throwing us for a loop when Roger shows up and claims he made up the whole “Two Hundred” thing to scare people away and collect their spoons.

Now teamed up, Stan and Roger (along with a crippled yet improbably ambulatory Greg) make their way towards this New Haven, finding it destroyed and deserted, and getting captured again by Lewis. Stan’s family emerges to rescue our three protagonists, just in time to be assaulted Battle of the Five Armies-style by the now cannibalistic crazed Langley Falls townfolk from one side, and Roger’s two hundred splintered-off personae from the other. Seeing so many familiar faces on both sides (and a joyously triumphant, albeit very temporary, return of such great Roger characters as Kevin Rammage, Zelda Rubenstein, and Ricky Spaaaniiiiish…), was the kind of episode climax over which any American Dad! fan would squeal with delight. Finally free from both Roger’s murderous duplicates and the remainder of the cannibals, thanks to Jeff riding a gigantic mutated Klaus, they’re free to start rebuilding mankind anew.

Somehow, improbably and against all odds, American Dad! has retained the ability to still produce incredibly funny, well-written, adventurous, and artistically beautiful episodes. So many other shows, animated or live-action, lost their mojo well before this mark, even if they continued to shamble on and on despite everyone involved losing interest. Somehow, TBS has kept one of the best sitcoms ever created not only alive, but with its glorious soul intact.

Random observations:

“Where’s my family?” “I don’t know where they are! I swear! To the Old Gods and the New!”

“Ohhh… SEXY.” God I love Principal Lewis.

Klaus fishing in his own bowl… god.

“I can’t look… Did he get me?” [Greg bleeding everywhere]

“What’s this on the back?” “It’s a Greg!”

Ferris Bueller groove. Nice. “Francine Smith. I just want to let you know that my husband watches you from our upstairs window.” [Stan draws blinds]

“You big black bitch!” Greg’s a tough cookie.

“I bet you all think I’m some kind of monster just because I’m a cannibal now!” “That’s what these delicious jerks are saying!”

“Come on man, just a little wind…” [EXPLOSION] “Yeeeahhh!” [Bones collapse into pile]

“Now that we’re reunited, I want to say something I couldn’t bring myself to say before… I WOULD like to see ya… and I WOULD like to be ya!”

“What’s important is that every day, we take a moment, and tell the people we care about… DON’T LET ROGER IN THE HADRON COLLIDER.” “I need to be watched VERY closely!”

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