The Amazing World of Gumball Recaps: “The Laziest” and “The Ghost”

The Amazing World of Gumball S01E06 The Laziest… by Yu-Gi-Oh-the-offical

“The Laziest” – C+

I mentioned this in my last review, but The Amazing World of Gumball will struggle mightily with Richard, perhaps longer than it feels like it should. Richard is the early Homer Simpson, the proto-Peter Griffin: the fat, lazy slob who will only push himself when absolutely necessary or confronted with an absolute obstacle. One of Gumball’s smarted, most slyly cleaver developments will be an adjustment of gender roles. Nicole will lean more on the breadwinner, bill-paying, nine-to-five position, while Richard will be the caretaker and the stay-at-home dad (in incredibly broad terms; the show will blur these lines when the episode calls for it). Right now though, Richard is the laziest person in all of Elmore, and he’s willing to stake a WHOLE WEEK OF CHORES on it.

It’s a fine, if weak, character beat to lean on this early in the show’s run. There have been some bits of character ideas and depth even this early in, but “Richard as the lazy and whiny butt of all jokes” is how they defined the patriarchal pink rabbit, and they’ll utilize that characterization for… perhaps a few seasons longer than necessary. Here, after semi-conning Gumball and Darwin to taking out the trash – a responsibility that was given to him by Nicole – Richard begins a series of competition with his kids concerning the extent of his laziness. First they compete in keeping up with Richard’s unwillingness to move from the couch, then they try to recruit Larry to engage in his past laziness to take their father on. And it’s all fine, cute, and occasionally funny. Yet considering what the show will become – and even compared to the few episodes that we’ve seen so far – it feels all so unnecessary, just a series of gags in which The Amazing World of Gumball takes the lazy dad trope to its extreme.

Except it’s really not to any extreme at all (Gumball will try this idea multiple times throughout the run, and I’d be hard pressed to think of any of them that actually works). The only really inspired, and semi-dark, sequence is the extended scenes in which Gumball and Darwin continually berate and annoy Larry into engaging in their lazy-off with their father, if only due to the insane, wildly-cartoonish ways the episode handles it all. Gumball and Darwin appear in increasingly ridiculous places as their cries of “Please do it, Larry!” become a comically hellish mantra, triggering Larry to lash out at a costumer and his wife, costing him his job and his wife (he loses his car when he leaps out if, unable to escape the sights and sounds of the Watterson boys as well). Larry indeed goes back into his “Lazy Larry” state, but is so lazy that he doesn’t bother with helping the kids. It’s delightfully ironic, an entire bit that the show itself basically declare is a waste of time.

The ironic bits are the strongest elements in the episode – including the bit above, and the also the dick move that Richard pulls at the end. He jumps out of his lethargic state right before Nicole comes home, and she blames the kids for overworking the father while they’re the ones that seem lazy. And that’s… fine, but with no other narrative or thematic to hook that twist with, the end just feels like a mean ironic twist for the sake of it. It feels like the episode is just trying to see if they could get away with that kind of twist, but it doesn’t really add to anything, comedy or story-wise. There is one small bit that worth noting though – the two brief bits that “anthropomorphize” Gumball’s insides, when he’s hopped on sugar and when the subsequent crash hits. Gumball will use both anthropomorphism, exaggerated internal shots, and other cartoonishly perfect metaphors to represent the characters physical and mental states, and this is the first of a long line of brilliant visuals that the show will utilize. There’s elements in this episode that work, but beyond that it’s inessential.

The Ghost – A-

I’m surprised that something as wild and dynamic as “The Ghost” appeared so early in season one. I would have thought this was a late season one, early season two episode. The boldness and specificity of the episode is striking. Hints of body image and dysmorphia, of consent, insecurity, and lack of both underline this episode with quiet but startling clarity. It never quite hones in on any of those topics, but it does brush against them lightly, while also shedding some light into Carrie and exploring the extent of the specificities of the characters. It already did this with Tina, a poor girl who is a dinosaur and lives on garbage and lashes out via bullying, and now it’ll do something similar with Carrie, a young ghost girl who never tasted food or even had a body (the show won’t explain how she died, which is for the best). The show’s gradual development and focus on those classmates will continue with some fantastic episodes, but for now, we’re pretty much on Gumball’s second outing on this approach.

But back to the first point, about the body image and dysmorphia, consent, and insecurity: all those elements are there in the inciting incident of this episode. Carrie envies Gumball and Darwin’s ability to eat and enjoy food, so Gumball allows Carrie to possess his body so she can experience taste again. Well, that’s not quite what happens. Really, Darwin for some reason mentions that Gumball would be totally receptive to having his body possesses, and Gumball clearly is uncomfortable with it. This probably the most “antagonistic” Darwin will be portrayed as, in which his general kindness and naivety is forced upon others. It’s a bit of a manipulation, although one Darwin isn’t often aware of: since he’s nice, then listening to him will result in nice things too. Of course, that’s a clear problem here. Gumball doesn’t want to, you know, lose control of his whole sense of autonomy, but he reluctantly accepts under the guises of being Darwin-nice.

What results is some hilarious and wildly insane bedlam. Carrie’s possession of Gumball is both creepy and hilarious, resulting in a wild, Go-Pro-POV, sped-up shot of possessed-Gumball going on a vicious binge of eating endless amounts of food. It’s a remarkable series of animated bit, both exhilarating and disturbing, especially when it leaves Gumball waking up in a pile of trash with hazy recollections of what happened. The Amazing World of Gumball often skirts that perfect line between comedy and discomfort, and it’s fascinating to see the show really working to emphasize this – from Darwin’s misguided understanding of what it means to be nice, to the desperation Gumball goes to weasel out of it (per his father’s advice), and in particular how the most pointed advice – just saying no (per his mother) – grows into legit danger when Carrie doesn’t accept it.

“The Ghost” has a number of various lines that get hit the point with very little nuance. Richard laughing at a bloated Gumball, only to realize he himself rocks a muffintop, cries, “It’s only funny when it happens to someone else’s body!” which is a direct critique of easy weight-related jokes. Gumball voices a sincerity when he mentions Carrie having “a real problem,” and the loss of what to do about this creates a tension that in itself rivals the back and forth that occurs between Gumball and Carrie, both outside and inside his body. Yet as disturbing as all this is, “The Ghost” doesn’t seem to delve into the full, dark, volatile nature of what exactly is happening. It touches upon all the awkward ways people can manipulate and control others, and also how weight, body image, and dysmorphia can be damaging, but it keeps things on the comic side (which is fine, and preferable at this stage in season one), but it never quite brings those two points together. The ending, in which Carrie just possesses Richard instead, undercuts the depth of the topics in the wrong ways, and even though the show is aware of the irony of the ending (Darwin’s “Another happy ending” declaration is clear), the fleeting nature of the humor overpowers the seriousness of the events. No matter. The Amazing World of Gumball is still testing the waters. It’ll be diving into those topics with full force soon enough.


, , ,

  1. #1 by Canais Young on September 18, 2017 - 4:27 pm

    I’m glad you gave “The Laziest” an “okay, not great” rating (C+), because most other sites (specifically TVTropes and Reddit) have branded this one of the worst episodes they’ve ever seen (see also “The Hero” and “The Fridge” from season 2). This is why I like your analyses on this show: you at least try to find the good parts to a mediocre episode (or at least give explanations of why it’s a bad episode that go beyond “It’s too mean-spirited and depressing” like so many other Internet critics have done, like The Mysterious Mr. Enter). As for me, well, I kinda feel the same way about “The Laziest” as you do (kinda mediocre season one episode, but does have some funny parts: the musical numbers inside Gumball and Gumball and Darwin harassing Larry to the point that he loses his girlfriend and his job [which is actually a really bad thing in later episodes, since he’s the only thing keeping Elmore’s economy running])

  2. #2 by Canais Young on October 1, 2017 - 8:32 pm

    >Carrie, a young ghost girl who never tasted food or even had a body (the show won’t explain how she died, which is for the best).

    Actually, they retconned this later on. The season 2 episode “Halloween” had Carrie say she was born a ghost, then the season 3 episode “The Mirror” stated that she is the end result of a mortal man who fell in love with a ghost woman, used black magic on himself to connect with her, became a ghost known as The Snatcher who haunts those who don’t pass his chain email, and is turned back to human after Gumball says his name five times (but ends up a ghost because he tried to hug Carrie, fell out a window, and died). Yeah, I think they could have fixed the writing on that one…

Comments are closed.