Since the beginning of Son Of Zorn, we’ve watched Zorn struggle with the difficulty of existing as something close to a normal human being. He often seems humbled by the live action world, hoping desperately to return to the animated paradise from whence he came. In “Return Of The Drinking Buddy,” he gets a chance to revisit that past life, with the results only reminding him of far removed from that existence he is, and how difficult it would be to return to it.

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The main plot centers on Zorn’s buddy Headbutt Man coming to town. In a plot we’ve seen time and time again, we see that Headbutt appears to be far more mature and well adjusted than his old friend. We find out that he is dating Edie’s co-worker/friend Lizzie (Alex Borstein) and appears to be extremely happy. He is also stone-cold sober, and appears to be far better off as a result of it. Of course, we know where this is going; Headbutt is, in fact restrained by his seemingly happy life, and is desperate to break away from it by behaving as naughtily as possible, and returning to hard-partying ways that marked his old friendship with Zorn. After it initially appears as though Headbutt has his life together, while Zorn’s life is a mess, we find out the he is just as confused as his friend, and all it takes is a re-introduction to alcohol for that notion to be reinforced. Try and look surprised.

But while it would be tempting to mock this show for relying on an old trope (especially when a huge part of its appeal is how adept it is at rebuking those tropes), the simple fact is that it works. While Zorn and Headbutt initially appear to be at opposite stages in their lives, we realize they are both still adjusting to life outside the universe where they were conquerors, and all that separated them was that Zorn wasn’t as good at covering up his insecurities as his old friend, who is actually having a harder time adjusting. It’s hard not to relate to Zorn’s midlife crisis, especially when it becomes quite clear that Headbutt is going through the same thing, and has merely chosen a different way to ease his pain.

While this is happening, Alan is stuck attending to Headbutt Man’s daughter, as it costs him the attention of his crush. As with the main plot, certain parts of this storyline can be seen coming from a mile away. HeadButt Girl gets mocked for her unconventional, animated physique, and Alan does what he can to defend her honor, despite his obvious disinterest. Ultimately, he is probably the most laudable character in this episode; while he is initially stuck with Headbutt Girl purely for the means of helping his father, and advancing his own romantic interests, he ultimately finds himself actually caring about her.

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The case against ”Return Of The Drinking Buddy” is simple; for a show that has made name for itself by blending fantasy and reality alongside animation and live-action, one could easily fault this show for being too predictable, while another could fault it for not being predictable enough. Ultimately, this episode makes its mark through its characterization. We understand that Zorn continues to long for the life he lived before entering the live-action world, and while Headbutt initially paints himself as the more mature of the two, we quickly learn that he has the same issues, and is arguably more maladjusted because he has been refusing to address them head on, While the pair are unable to solve all of their problems in this episode’s short run time, it is quite adept at showing how friendships struggle to age over time.

Son Of Zorn has made its name due to its innovative combination of animation and live-action footage. However, tonight, it was able to turn in a rewarding episode by handling a plot that we’ve seen dozens of times before, and justifying itself simply by doing it well. While the show’s unconventional premise might have played a role in bringing some viewers in, its skilled handling of a fairly common plot will likely play a greater role in making them stay.

Stray Observations

-Thanks to Kevin for letting me fill in in this week. We’ll be back to your regularly scheduled programming next time.

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“All my closest friends have drowned in pools!”

-Perhaps I should be used to it by now, but watching Alan take his pants off and reveal himself to be half-animated really throws me off. Anyone want to form a support group with me over this?