Joey Sack ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Family Guy killed off one of its own last Sunday in the episode “Life of Brian”, and some fans don’t know what to think about the episode’s results. This may be a stroke of genius or another indication of Family Guy’s faltering quality of writing. It’s too soon to tell. It’s up to time and the general consensus of fans and critics to decide the effect of Family Guy’s admittedly risky move.
When it was revealed that Family Guy would kill off one of the Griffins and replace said Griffin with a new character, it was safe to assume that they would axe one of the more replaceable characters: either Chris ( Seth Green ) or Meg (Mila Kunis) . But instead, they went for a kill that probably enraged casual and die-hard fans of the show alike. In “Life of Brian,” Stewie (Seth MacFarlane) destroys his time machine and then Brian (also voiced by MacFarlane) dies after getting hit by a car (what an original way to go for a dog).
Now, they dealt with his death in a very believable way, and didn’t really make many jokes about Brian’s passing. It was heartfelt and actually quite sad. The whole family was in tears, Peter (MacFarlane) gave a touching eulogy at Brian’s funeral, and Stewie was probably sadder than any of them, because he had lost his only constant friend, and he was unable to repair his time machine and save him.
But here’s the problem: even though it was unexpected (for some, at least), that doesn’t necessarily make it a good decision on the writers’ part. Brian has been in every episode of Family Guy, a distinction that not even Peter can claim. By killing off Brian, the writers are trying to replace something that has worked for the show since the very beginning. The biggest problem is that the show has just lost one of the most popular dynamics in animated TV shows today, that between Brian and Stewie. The pairing of these two characters was still working well for the show, with some critics often citing the plots of episodes that involve Brian and Stewie being the parts of the episode that make it worth watching.
One thing that should be mentioned is Brian’s replacement: an Italian-American dog named Vinny, voiced by Tony Sirico, who previously played a role in The Sopranos. It’s an interesting change in the line-up, but it doesn’t seem the same. Granted, Family Guy’s staff wants to stir it up; that was the point of killing off a main character in the first place. But this is a jarring difference. Vinny is a very stereotypical Italian-American, who thanks “the big guy upstairs” and is up to date on all news pertaining to prominent Italian Americans, and after spending 12 seasons and 14 years with a liberal, atheist, martini-drinking, pot-smoking, vacuum cleaner-fearing, Prius-driving white Labrador like Brian, it might leave some fans out in the cold.
This new character gives the writers the chance to form a relationship between Vinny and Stewie that may be akin to the relationship that Stewie had with Brian, but if they don’t do it well enough, chances are good that fans will just complain that it’s not as good as when Brian was around, and lose interest in this new dog-baby duo, and perhaps the show altogether.
However, Family Guy has left the option open for Brian to come back, even if the writers don’t realize this. There are several episodes that have yet to air but have confirmed plots that mention Brian in the description, and there are two upcoming episodes that feature Brian’s name in the title; “Brian’s a Bad Father” and “Brian the Closer.” This may indicate that this whole situation is a joke or just a temporary thing, like when Stewie killed Lois and it wound up being a dream (or a simulation, as Stewie put it). Another way that Brian could come back involves a cutaway gag during this episode: Stewie tells Brian that he went forward in time to around Christmas so he wouldn’t have to wait for all the new toys to come out. Some fans have speculated that Stewie may run into his past self, hitch a ride back in time, and be able to save Brian from his controversial demise. It is a cartoon, after all. Anything is possible.
All in all, the episode “Life of Brian” was a touching episode, and it offers the show’s writers the opportunity to explore new options for the relationships within the Griffin household. But at the moment, fans have yet to warm up to the idea of Brian being gone forever and being replaced by a new dog so quickly. Just like when we waited to see who would die, we’ll have to wait and see if Brian will return, or if the writers can make Vinny a lovable part of the Griffin family, and a welcomed addition to Family Guy’s cast of characters.