Family Guy Flashback: "Death Is a Bitch" Review
After Peter tries to get out of paying a hospital bill by filling out a form stating he was deceased, he is visited by Death himself, voiced with sarcastic perfection by former Saturday Night Live
Weekend Update anchor, Norm MacDonald. Death injures his ankle during an escape attempt by Peter and is forced to recover at the Griffin household. While he’s out of commission, the laws of death no longer apply, and Peter is forced to take on the role of the Grim Reaper himself.
Norm MacDonald’s ultra-sarcastic take on the Grim Reaper is the highlight of this episode. His high level of ingeniously acerbic wit was never recaptured quite in later voice-over efforts by Adam Carolla, who portrayed Death in his subsequent appearances. His interaction with the entire Griffin family is absolutely hilarious. His conversations with Meg and Chris are particularly memorable, and a scene where Lois starts to undress thinking she’ll have to pleasure Death is another awkwardly hilarious moment. The real groan-worthy uncomfortably disturbing highlight is a flashback sequence featuring Death in his teenage years in the back of a car with a girl named Sandy. Death accidentally kills her, and then states, “I’m going to be a virgin forever… or am I?” It’s around this time that we started to see the gloves really come off from a humor perspective, and when it seemed the writers would really push the boundaries of what they could get away with saying or doing on television.
Death also asks Peter to consider what a world without Death would be like, and this leads to another classic Family Guy awkwardly amusing flashback of what if Hitler was alive and was a talk show host.
Stewie’s excitement of Death’s arrival is typical for the character at this point in his matricidal development. He’s completely enthralled by the Grim Reaper and is the only member of the family who’s genuinely excited about having him around. However, other than a missed murder attempt on his mother (due to the laws of death no longer applying), Stewie didn’t get too much screen time in this outing. Meg, Chris and Brian’s scenes in this episode were also kept to a minimum.
Peter’s faced with a moral conundrum of carrying out Death’s desire to get the world’s attention by killing the kids from Dawson’s Creek by crashing their plane, or be killed by Death himself. The situation is resolved when he refuses to carry out Death’s wishes, not because he thinks it’s wrong to kill, but because if he kills off the kids then he’ll have nothing to watch on Wednesdays. Of course, Peter blunders and accidentally kills the pilots of the plane, causing the plane to almost crash. However the heroic efforts of actress Karen Black, who starred in the a ’70s disaster flick titled “Airport 1975″. The kids from Dawson’s Creek are saved along with the rest of the passengers on the plane. Death also recovers from his ankle injury and much to Stewie’s dismay, leaved the Griffin home to resume his duties as the Grim Reaper, and sparing Peter’s soul.
In addition to the first appearance of Death, this episode also marks the debut of Doctor Hartman, who makes several significant appearances in later episodes in the series.
Overall, this was yet another extremely enjoyable early episode of Family Guy. While it didn’t feature as creatively cohesive a storyline as in previous outings, there are plenty of memorable random jokes and the first appearance of Death alone makes this episode stand up well to repeated viewings.