In my "One Coarse Meal" review, I predicted that Spongebob would eventually kill off a character, implying that that was the only way it could sink lower. I had no idea at the time that Family Guy would beat them to the punch, especially when I flat-out said that Family Guy was the adult equivalent of Spongebob, in my "Seahorse Seashell Party" review. In their latest episode, "The Life of Brian" Brian Griffin was killed. In the meantime everyone has gone beyond asking me my thoughts on the affair, and just flat-out review it as an Animated Atrocity. I will make this clear: just because a character dies does not mean that I'll review an episode. It's all about how they do it, and if they do it with tact and grace it is immune from my scorn. So, does "The Life of Brian" kill him off with tact and grace? No.
The episode pulls out all of the stops to arbitrarily force you to feel for a character that you probably stopped caring about years ago. Lets be honest here, Brian Griffin was probably the least liked character on the show for being a mary sue author avatar that spouted rancid morals and rancid beliefs, such as in "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven" or "Seahorse Seashell Party." I believe that they picked him to make you feel sorry for any scorn lobbied against him. Before I get into the actual meat of the episode, I suppose I should say that it still has Family Guy's usual problems: racist stereotypes that they don't even understand, jokes that grasp way too hard, a story that feels like a game of round robin, the first part of the episode rips off "Road to the Multiverse" etc. If they didn't pull this off, this would have been a mediocre episode at best. It's not funny, even when it's trying to be.
Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about all of the problems with this. This is first and foremost a ratings trap. I said in "Spongebob, You're Fired!" that you've got to make something special happen if you want to make a special. This is the other extreme, where you do something batshit crazy. Throughout the episode, it felt like the writers elbowing me on the shoulder, saying "yeah, we're going all-out with this, no regrets baby!" by destroying the time machine and destroying the guy who makes the parts. Hey guys, if you're not going to make this permanent, then why his name in future scripts as I keep hearing?
I'm going to assume that you knew that Brian was going to die going into the episode. They're not going to do something like this without trying to get some viewership out of it. I didn't know about this because I quit FOX in general years ago. So, the first half of the episode probably felt uncomfortable as you saw Brian be Brian, and get the net that would lead to his eventual demise. And then they ran him over in one of the most brutal displays that I've seen on Family Guy (that's counting "Brian Griffin's House of Payne, where Stewie had his head cracked open"). Once again, they did that to force sympathy. They had everyone act sad beyond belief to force sympathy. I know that sounds grim and dark, but think back to Brian's other appearances as the promos kept showing you, namely "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven." Plenty of people wanted him to be hit with a car after that episode.
Here's another problem: if you're going to kill a character, go all of the way--none of this middle-of-the-road bullshit. So, they've got a new character--Vinny. I bet he can do everything that Brian could do, and be an Italian stereotype all at the same time. If you kill a character, DO NOT REPLACE HIM. That is insulting to the nth degree. It makes the episode, fucking pointless. No Family Guy, destroying the time machine did not prove that you had the balls to do this, but getting a replacement dog proved that you didn't have the balls to do this, and I thought that you couldn't get any worse after "Seahorse Seashell Party."
And if they do manage to bring Brian back, as I'm actually expecting them to do, they will fall farther. I'm not saying that a show can't kill off a character, but it's not a show like Family Guy's strong suit. They are shows that don't have much continuity that are specialized in telling the stories that they want to tell. But, if you're going to kill a character, let things progress naturally. A digression shot should have been used by Brian getting hit. The family should not have been there in the last moments. Stop forcing sadness. They played every trick in the book to make you feel for a character--downplaying his flaws, letting you know ahead of time, beautiful final words, etc.
I've decided, and "The Life of Brian" will replace "Road to the North Pole" this December, as an animated atrocity review. This episode is terrible, regardless in Brian Griffin died or if some other kid's dog died. Speaking of which, that's probably why they didn't kill off one of the kids. The writers said that that would make people too angry. No. You can replace a dog, you can't replace a kid as the show was trying to shove down my throat. I'm pretty sure that they would have wanted to kill one of the kids. They haven't done anything with Chris in years and that would have been the ultimate cruelty to Meg. Yeah, I just thought of something. Try imagining Meg in Brian's place. What would change about the episode?