Dog, Gone?

The news has exploded over the internet, but I’ll fill you in, just in case you missed it. In the sixth episode of Family Guy’s twelfth season, Brian Griffin was violently hit by a car and died a few short scenes later.

The subsequent internet uproar has been tremendous, to say the least, with backlash as furious fans express their disagreement with the decision to kill off one of the show’s most beloved characters.

On the one hand, the choice to kill off Brian might be an act of self-sabotage on the part of show-runner Seth MacFarlane, who has made no bones about the fact that he wants Family Guy to end in order for him to focus on other projects. Maybe the backlash will ultimately lead to a ratings decline and prompt Fox to finally cancel the show for good this time.

But on the other hand, something seems a little bit off about this whole situation.

For starters, the handling of Brian’s demise doesn’t carry the weight that it should. This is the death of a major character, yet he’s dead by the episode’s midpoint, making it feel like a minor plot point as opposed to anything substantial. As a matter of fact, his death scene itself feels like a complication that will be resolved by the end of the episode.

Added to this, Brian is promptly replaced with another dog called Vinnie, voiced by The Sopranos veteran Tony Sirico. But Vinnie feels like such an odd character, a half-thought-out caricature, and it’s really difficult to imagine him actually becoming a mainstay on the show.

The timing is very peculiar too, as we’re months away from finally seeing a Family Guy crossover with The Simpsons. How on Earth will that play out without one of Family Guy’s key characters?

But perhaps the biggest head-scratcher is the fact that there are two confirmed episode titles in this current season that carry Brian’s name: Brian’s a Bad Father, and Brian the Closer. Admittedly, the former might deal with his legacy while the latter sounds like closure on the whole Brian situation, but you never know.

So what is really going on?

Well, there are two possibilities in my opinion.

The first is that this is just a one-off joke on the part of MacFarlane. After all, there’s often very little episode-to-episode continuity in a cartoon series. In this age of Netflix, DVD releases and torrents, it’s easy to follow a cartoon series chronologically, but what if MacFarlane is doing this as a silly gag to poke fun at the concept of continuity in this show, and will simply ignore that anything ever happened? What if, when the next episode airs next week, Brian is alive and there’s no explanation, as if nothing ever happened?

A multiple-episode story arc is another possibility. Family Guy has done these before, but what if MacFarlane is doing something different, by splitting up a story arc across episodes without actually revealing it? Stewie’s time machine is still a possibility. Looking at Brian’s death, the car actually looks a little like Brian’s own car, so a convoluted time travelling adventure might be about to occur. What if it turns out Brian and/or Stewie are in the car?

Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but one way or the other, something smells fishy about Brian’s death. The creators of the show have even commented on the matter, telling viewers to trust them. And hell, can you imagine how many more millions of Americans will tune in next week to see the next episode?

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