Brick Like Me is arguably the most ambitious episode The Simpsons has ever done, but it’s not here by virtue of its high concept alone. While The Simpsons has had success with concept episodes in the likes of The Simpsons Guy and Eternal Moonshine Of The Simpson Mind, it’s also flopped hard with The Great Phatsby and Dogtown. Brick Like Me doesn’t just pull off the concept well though, it manages to reinvent the storytelling of The Simpsons while, LEGO aside, feeling like a vintage offering from the show.
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Written By: Brian Kelley
Directed By: Matthew Nastuk
Brick Like Me is told primarily through LEGO, with the whole town brickified. Early on, LEGO Homer has a flashback to his cartoon self, and begins to suspect that his world is not real. They could’ve gone non-canon with the LEGO and had more freedom with it, but it’s startling how well they managed to utilise the LEGO reality while telling a story which was heartfelt, funny and, most impressively, actually made sense.
In the Futurama crossover Simpsorama, the premise for getting the Planet Express crew in the show was weak, but we went with it because we wanted Futurama in the show. With Brick Like Me though, we don’t have to just go with it. Everything just works.
The humour is a little sweeter and family friendly here to fit the LEGO brand, but it still feels right in the middle of The Simpsons’ wheelhouse. Rather than hokey advertising, the way the Elon Musk & Lady Gaga centred episodes were, Brick Like Me feels like two beloved properties coming together to create something unique.
Writer Brian Kelley has even spoken of the efforts to try and get every character possible LEGOised to make the most of the opportunity. “We pushed as much as we could to get everyone into those pews. We were like, ‘More characters! More characters!’ because we knew our audience would hate us if any of their favorites didn’t get to be LEGOs. You won’t see Señor Ding Dong or the Grumple, but I think we crammed in everyone else.”
The plot itself is built around Lisa and Homer’s relationship, as many of the all time greats are. The reason Homer is in this LEGO world at all is because the real Homer is building a LEGO diorama of the town with Lisa, but she ditches him to go and see The Survival Games, a Hunger Games parody.
His hurt at being rejected causes him to retreat inside a make believe world of LEGO. Here, he has all the time in the world to bond with Lisa, cherishing his time capsule existence. Soon though, he realises that by remaining here, he’ll never get to see Lisa grow up.
The Android’s Dungeon is central to this fantasy, with the real Homer having bought the LEGO set there he and Lisa were building in the first place. In the LEGO reality though, Comic Book Guy is part of Homer’s psyche, and represents the side of Homer who still wants to remain in the LEGO world. It’s yet another brilliant flourish which highlights how well the show folded every character into the concept intelligently, rather than simply doing another Simpsons episode, but with LEGO.
The resolution, revolving around parental connection through LEGO and the importance of letting go does bear some similarities to The LEGO Movie – which cartoon Lisa even references – but not so much that it feels a tired rip off. Brick Like Me and The LEGO Movie were developed simultaneously too, so it’s more a case of great minds think alike… or the fact that it’s an obvious theme for a LEGO story.
Eventually, Homer returns to the real world and takes Lisa to see Survival Games, learning to let his little girl grow up. A lot of Homer/Lisa episodes revolve around Lisa rediscovering her connection with her father, so seeing the relationship develop through the lens of Homer was a fresh idea and made for a new take on an old favourite.
If you’re desperate to point out a weakness, the B-plot of Bart rebuilding the school isn’t up to all that much. Yes, Skinner stifling his creativity feeds into how Homer wants to stop Lisa growing up, but this felt like a time when a full on A-plot would have been enough, especially given that it features the LEGO story and cartoon story.
Bart’s story could have been improved with more space, but that would mean either cutting the church scene with all our favourites, or taking time from the final, imaginative ninja pirate battle with LEGO Comic Book Guy. Neither seem like good choices.
By virtue of its sheer uniqueness, Brick Like Me is a Golden Era Plus episode guaranteed to be remembered when The Simpsons finally bows out for good. Don’t let the gimmick fool you though; few episodes have more heart.