Son Of Zorn has been gradually building up to an episode like this. “The War On Grafelnik” is ridiculous, taking a fairly mainstream sitcom plot and pushing it in extreme directions. It contains a number of darkly hilarious jokes, some of the show’s most ambitious animation, and the most outlandish plot developments that we’ve seen so far. The cast is a far cry from their original, bland conception, embracing the sillier plotting and setting into something delightfully off-putting. The acting has… plateaued in some ways, but technical elements have improved considerably, with some nifty camera angles, clever editing, and excellent uses of musical cues. Whether you celebrate Christmas of Grafelnik, there’s a treat here for everyone.

Zorn crashes into Edie’s house ready to celebrate the Zephyrian holiday of Grafelnik, a revenge-based holiday which origin sounds similar to the plot to Taken. I like the throw away line about how Zorn took up celebrating again after splitting up with Edie. It suggests Zorn continually trying to find ways to connect with his past within his lonely life, as John Hugar graciously pointed out last week. He does get to spend the early part of it with Alan though, who enjoys tossing ground beef at a restaurant in revenge for serving him the wrong burger. Zorn even gets to exact his “revenge” by sending Alan to a dank alley in a questionable neighborhood, because he cried on all those flights as a baby. The first act isn’t particularly relevant to the plot. It’s just there to provide flavor and context to the kind of holiday Grafelnik is, the comic bits given extra heft via framing and sound. Holiday music is played in the background as Zorn describes how Grafelnik was conceived; Dutch angles are used to capture Alan’s confusion in that creepy alley. Average gags are made stronger by outside improvements.

The weirdest, and funniest, moment comes as Craig sits Edie down and tells him the story of why he’s afraid of Santa. It’s a ridiculous phobia made more absurd and dark as he recounts his father, dressed as Santa, beating down the person who his mother was sleeping with–told over childhood drawings of that very incident. Something about this just destroyed me. It was a fairly bold creative choice, executed with the ironic use of Christmas music and visual haze, and represents the most “Adult Swim” moment I’ve seen from the show thus far. This B-story doesn’t really go bigger than that–Craig just tries to confront Santa every chance he gets but still remains terrified of Saint Nick–but it’s just absurd enough to garner laughs without taking up too much time, or feeling like its padding.

The A-story kicks into gear when everyone discovers Grafelnik takes place on the same day at Christmas. First, Edie and Zorn talk about guilting Alan into choose one parent over the other in a nifty cross-cutting segment that not only showcases Son Of Zorn’s improved visual prowess, but also shows how mischievously alike the two really are. (We know Zorn will use people for his own selfishness but we got a taste of Edie’s manipulation skills in “A Taste of Zephyria.”) Then after Craig inadvertently drops the idea to Alan, he starts to pit Edie and Zorn against each other to snag the most presents from them. (The show has struggled with Alan’s ”unsavory” side in the past but Kevin Etten’s script make it works the best, primarily by having a very strong story propelling it.) Then when Edie learns of Alan’s façade, she and Zorn team up to scare him in revenge–er, in the spirit of Grafelnik–pretending to get into an epic battle at Santa’s workshop at the mall. It the kind of crazy, go-for-broke ending that Son Of Zorn probably can’t do often (budget-wise), but it was hilarious and audacious. It’s a classic example of “dysfunctional family is still a family amidst chaos” trope that we’ve seen in shows like Married… With Children and American Dad, but Son Of Zorn has found a way to make it specifically their own.


Stray observations

  • Super thanks to John Hugar for covering for me last week! His review was spot on and excellent.
  • If there’s a Most Improved Television Show award out there, Son Of Zorn is a shoo-in. It’s still not a perfect show, but I actually look forward to seeing it now.
  • The Scott/Alan conversations are still a waste though. If we didn’t see Alan pursue various girls in previous episodes, I’d swear Alan was trying to woo Scott. (Also it sounds like Scott has two moms, which is always welcome.)
  • The animation is getting sharper, I think. The side car was cool-looking, and some of Zorn’s movements were really smooth.
  • I sort of love how that, even though Edie and Zorn scarred scores of children and families, and lit a tree on fire, the mall “people” didn’t press charges or force them to pay for anything since they, too, celebrate Grafelnik. It’s such complete nonsense of an explanation but the show knows it is, which just makes it even funnier.