“The Talented Mr. Stewie” pokes fun at romance tropes — and a certain 1999 thriller — when Stewie discovers that his teddy bear, Rupert, used to belong to Chris.
This recap of Family Guy season 19, episode 2, “The Talented Mr. Stewie”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“The Talented Mr. Stewie” is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a Stewie-centric episode of Family Guy, which is probably just as well since he stole the show in last week’s outing anyway. As the title also suggests, it’s kind of a riff on The Talented Mr. Ripley, or at least the boat part of it, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
The setup is this: Stewie, while rooting through old photographs in the attic that also contains the Annabelle doll, discovers that his beloved Teddy, Rupert, used to belong to his brother Chris. For the intents and purposes of this episode, Stewie believes he and Rupert are in a relationship, so the entire thing is framed in that way, poking fun at all the longstanding tropes of first romantic comedies and then romantic thrillers, as Stewie tries to grapple with what he’s learned and quickly realizes that he can’t.
It takes a while to get there. First Stewie tries to talk it out with Rupert, which is a problem since he’s a stuffed teddy and can’t talk back, but then again I’ve long-since lost track of who can understand Stewie at this point, let alone anyone else. The premiere was about him saying his “first” word, but in “The Talented Mr. Stewie” he’s already back to threatening to kill Lois and she seems none the wiser. At this point, a talking teddy bear wouldn’t shock anyone.
Nevertheless, all the gags are built around the fact that Rupert isn’t sentient and Stewie is basically just projecting the whole story onto him. He can’t concentrate on reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming in bed because he’s thinking about Rupert with Chris; he fails to get the coveted Busy Bee award at pre-school for the third time in a row and smashes his things up. Eventually, he gives Rupert back to Chris, insisting they’d be happier together, but he wedges a baby monitor inside Rupert that gives him a delayed video feed every time Chris interacts with him. This, obviously, only makes matters worse for Stewie.
When trying to make Rupert jealous with another teddy called Anton doesn’t work – “He’s a male prostitute,” sobs Stewie, “a cheap one!” – he instead goes on a spiritual journey to various far-flung destinations, and that doesn’t work either. When he returns he, in true Stewie fashion, determines that his only option is to kill Chris and Rupert, luring him to dinner, dragging him into a boat, and then beating him with an oar and throwing him overboard. Similarities to The Talented Mr. Ripley are vocalized by Chris himself since Stewie thinks he’s ripping off a Hitchcock movie.
The visual gags when Stewie realizes Chris and Rupert love him after all and has to try and pull Chris back onto the boat are the funniest in the episode; most of the rest are easy riffs on romance media and uncomfortably near-the-knuckle bits about Stewie potentially being gay. Nobody expects maturity or sophistication from Family Guy, of course, but this is the lowest-hanging fruit available, and sort of distracts from the inherent silliness of a baby trying to murder his brother over a stuffed animal because he mistakenly believed they were having an affair. You don’t want that to be too literal; it works best when a kid’s uncomplicated affection for his stuffed toy is being used to poke fun at romantic storytelling tropes.
Maybe in a subsequent episode, we’ll find out where Annabelle went.
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