Duncanville Season 2 Premiere Review


***Spoilers Ahead***

Das Banana Boot/Duncan's First Word

Photo Credit: Fox

Season 2, Episode 1 - Das Banana Boot

In its 11-episode first season, Duncanville felt much like a hybrid between two other Fox animation staples. The series took the grounded, sunny atmosphere of classic Simpsons and fused it with a tamer version of the outlandish shock humor prevalent in modern Family Guy. The result was a clever comedy that never took itself too seriously but still made room for the occasional touching moment. While the first-half of the season two premiere doesn't mess with the established tone of the Amy Poehler toon, it does give the characters a new setting to work off of. Vacation episodes are a staple of family-based cartoons and sitcoms as a whole, with 'Das Banana Boot' not straying too far away from the standard setup that these installments follow. 

The story begins with Duncan being informed by his teacher Mr. Mitch (Wiz Khalifia) that he does not have to go to summer school this year. For the first time in his academic career, Duncan is free to enjoy his summer break once he completes the Presidential Fitness Test. After a humorous first act involving Duncan's attempt at passing said exam, the entire family heads off to their getaway. The main plot centers on Annie (Amy Poehler) and Jack (Ty Burrell) getting away from the kids and finding a young couple to hang out with (Nick & Nina). Annie, being her typical, no-nonsense self, disapproves of the two while Jack, always desperate to please others, becomes infatuated with Nick. Although the concept of a wife and husband attempting to recapture their youth has been done to death, and already tackled in Season 1's 'Sister, Wife', the Duncanville writers throw in a twist that makes the story a lot more engaging. Chaos ensues after Jack & Annie decide to cut ties with their new friends, with Nick & Nina taking away their banana boat in retaliation. The fight that occurs as the family tries to take back the boat is equal parts thrilling and amusing. After that comes the shocking reveal that the new couple has died, resulting in the family frantically trying to cover up their deaths. That's topped immediately after with the revelation that the two deliberately faked their deaths in order to avoid paying for their hotel room. Although Nick and Nina, voiced by Adam Scott and Aubrey Plaza, do drive the story and raise the stakes, they mostly feel pointless in the grand scheme of things. There's nothing particularly interesting about either character, outside of the fact that their get-together with Poehler serves as a mini-Parks & Recreation reunion. 

Even though they receive less screen time than the adults, the sub-plots featuring the Harris children are more engaging as a whole. Duncan spends his vacation heartbroken after seeing his crush Mia talking to another boy. Duncan consults Kimberly for help and hilarity ensues as she throws Duncan at two college girls to snap a photo for his Instagram feed, all to make Mia feel jealous. Kimberly herself undergoes a complete makeover to impress the boys at school but ends up finding a boy that feels like just as much of a social outcast as she does. Meanwhile, Jing, the youngest of the three, spends her stay trying to make a drawing worthy of being hung up on the fridge. All the subplots are driven by the insecurities that the three face, resulting in scenes that feel rather relatable at their core. On top of that, each scenario is mined for just enough comedic gold needed to satisfy viewers. None of the plots overstay their welcome and everyone ultimately gets the happy ending that they longed for. 

'Das Banana Boot' is an endearing and exciting return that delivers a sufficient amount of comedy and action to shake off the formulaic nature of vacation episodes. It's quite entertaining to see the Harris clan in a new environment, and the episode manages to throw out enough bombshells to keep viewers on edge. In addition, the fact that Annie, Jack, and the kids were willing to cover up the death of Nick & Nina gives the events of the episode a bit of a sinister edge, even after it's revealed that the pair is still alive. But, that element only further establishes that Duncanville remains in a class of its own and does enough to differentiate itself from the pack. 

Stray Thoughts

  • The King of Queens references were unexpected but definitely appreciated.
  • The president in the series looks a little too much like Kamala Harris.
  • The use of Alice Cooper's School's Out was very fitting, especially since Cooper voiced himself in the second episode of season one. 

Grade: B+

Season 2, Episode 2: Duncan's New Word

Photo Credit: Fox

Up until this point, the relationship between Duncan and Jack has mainly been played for laughs. Duncan has never had much respect for his dad nor taken him very seriously. It has also been clear that Jack wants to remain in the Phil Dunphy-esque role of being the fun dad who rarely ever raises his voice or makes his kids mad. His reasons for being such a friendly father are explained in a harrowing fashion in 'Duncan's New Word'. As Duncan learns to feel some empathy and Jack taps into his inner-rage, the father and son duo finds some new-found respect and love for each other. 

The episode starts with Duncan being his normal, apathetic self, refusing to properly do his chores and opting to stay out past his curfew with his friends. After Annie tells Jack to stop being such a pushover, he reluctantly goes into the diner to confront his son and is completely emasculated when Duncan drops an F-bomb to his face. As Duncan basks in the glory of being labeled a rebellious hero at his school, Mr. Mitch gives a heartfelt chat that helps him unlock a sense of empathy for his father. The character of Mr. Mitch works well as a comic relief, but it's definitely a welcome surprise when he exposes his more sincere side. Later on, Jack tells Duncan that he respects Duncan for swearing at him, because he himself never had the guts to do it to his father. Even if their purpose is to make the audience laugh, the flashbacks that feature a young Jack being abused by his father are absolutely gutting to watch. This makes Jack's decision to go confront his bitter father in the retirement home all the more satisfying. 

After initially appearing like a nicer guy than before, it turns out that Jack's dad is only kind when he's taken his pills. Despite praising him a few minutes earlier, he reverts to the cruel man he was and begins to belittle Jack for not having the courage to tell him off. It isn't until Jack's father has the nerve to throw a ball at Duncan that Jack taps into his inner-rage and utters the most cathartic line of the entire episode. Words cannot describe how refreshing it was to see Jack berate his abusive father with a simple "F**k you", especially after seeing the trauma he faced at his hands throughout the years. What makes the confrontation even better is that Duncan now has some respect for his father that he didn't before. Jack does not have to verbally-abuse or demean Duncan to be a good dad, but he was also able to channel enough anger to chastise his bully of a father. 

Over in the B-plot, Kimberly and Jing use the window of time where their parents are too focused on Duncan's outburst to do whatever they want. If nothing else, it's pleasant that the two are able to get along despite their age difference. Many animated sitcoms feature brothers and sisters that are far too dysfunctional to have a proper connection while Duncanville generally showcases that the siblings in the series have a fairly tight bond. The two are eventually caught in the act by Annie after they try to ride her old horse/police partner, effectively ending their streak of disobedience. While the main story easily overshadows this more mellow one, it's still a worthy addition to the installment. 

'Duncan's New Word' might very well be the best episode of the series thus far, with the masterfully-constructed storyline making viewers legitimately furious with the way Jack was treated by his father in the past. Considering that his character is simply too nice for his own good, it was incredible that he was finally able to assert himself and stand up to his resentful father. The brilliant payoff scene finally gives Jack a much-needed win and redeems himself in the eyes of Duncan. This outing proves that Duncanville has more to offer than laughs alone and gives their characters more depth than they had before. 

 Stray Thoughts

  • "Peacock & Chill" and "HBO Max & Wax" were two of the best lines. 
  • Mr. Mitch is currently my favorite character.
  • It's nice that Duncan didn't give Jack's dad the pills. It was better for Jack to see that his dad was the same bitter man that he remembered. 
  • From Post Malone to AOC, there were so many hilarious pop-culture references in this one. 

Grade: A


Which episode did you enjoy better?
Das Banana Boot
Duncan's New Word
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What did you think of these episodes of Duncanville? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

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