Episode 13: Fulgencio
By: Carlos Uribe
Modern Family is a show about three branches of a family.
Can we all just admit that the ending to this episode was basically genius? It was not only a great homage to the Godfather, it wasn't just hilarious, but it was just plain awesome. The suggestion that Phil becomes the Godfather while Luke becomes his enforcer is not only inventive but simply executed perfectly. The homage is alluded to in the beginning of the episode when Claire misleads the audience by telling Phil they're not going to do the Godfather. It allows the very idea of Phil becoming a Godfather to disappear from the mind of the audience only to be surprised when the show does do it. At Fulgencio's christening, the series masterfully does a homage to the christening scene from the Godfather where Phil promises to rebuke the devil while his son is solving all their problems. That one of this solutions just happens to be putting a stuffed zebra head into the kid that was mocking him is just another reference that the show got right. Of course, it doesn't just end there. It continues to mirror the end of the first part where Phil tells Claire to not ask him about his business while Luke closes the door. It is frankly one of the best moments that the show has done. What's better is that this genuinely feels like something that could have fit into the creative energy of the first season. There have been many Godfather homages in television comedies but Modern Family manages to make it work by building up to it rather than building around it.
So how did it do this? When Claire isn't around when all the kids (and himself) happen to have problems, Phil promises to solve them all with kindness. What are these problems? Balloons are covering a billboard of Phil, Haley accidentally ran into a lemon tree while doing a favor, Alex is facing the conundrum of a classmate whose hosting a party with the same theme as her own, and Luke is being made fun of by a kid when he accidentally called his teacher 'mommy'. Phil tries to solve each of them in ways that make sense for his character. He talks to the guy who owns the balloons and even catches his kid from a fall. He invites over the lady who owns the lemon tree over for food while accidentally insulting her and he tries to be a “cool” dude with Luke's bully. He finally and creepily talks to Alex' classmate. These solutions all fail as they don't solve anything or it makes it worse. Phil decides it's time to take things matters on his own hands by allowing Luke to do the dirty work. Luke shoots the balloons, he releases rats into the cool party, and he removes a block of cement from an RV so that it backs into the lemon tree. For his own bully, he puts the head of the stuffed zebra while the kid is napping. That Phil was driven to this after trying to be a nice guy happens to mirror the protagonist of the Godfather's gradual descent from being a stand-up guy into taking over his father. This plot worked the best simply because it just worked wonderfully on every level possible. It was funny, it fit the characters, it fit the show, and it offered something new by just how far it went. Overall, this plot on it's own would have made the episode amazing.
Of course, the other characters have to be a part of the show somehow. Cam and Mitchell's story is a pretty decent one but it did have a major weakness. I generally don't like to criticize really young actors for their lack of talent because they haven't had any real chance to develop it. The thing is that this week's plot was completely based on Lily's successful ability to deliver snark. The lines were good but Aubrey Anderson-Emmons was not up to the task of being able to sell them. It really takes you out of the show when it really does feel like she's trying her best to rehearse her memorized lines. This does lead to some good jokes between Cam and Mitchell but it wasn't until the ending that it really salvaged itself. The reveal that Lily was getting her snarky attitude from Claire made complete sense. Overall, it's not the best plot this show has done but it's passable.
This was an episode that revolved around the christening of Fulgencio. Who is Fulgencio? Gloria and Jay's baby of course! Jay doesn't want to call his son Fulgencio but his mother-in-law is pressuring that they use the name of her late husband. This leads to a revelation where Jay finds out that he's the Phil of Gloria's family as his mother-in-law has never liked him. Jay surmises that the reason he's never liked Phil much is because his son-in-law tries too hard to get his approval. When Phil stops trying, he's able to be a real person and Jay is able to tolerate him. So what does Jay decide to do? Prove that he's a normal person by trying to connect with his mother-in-law. This goes just about as well as you would expect as trying to be a normal person is basically what Phil does. Jay does end up naming his son Fulgencio but it's referenced that he'll never actually be called that. This already busy episode adds on top of all that by including sibling rivalry between Gloria and her sister. While this does create a perfect comical storm at the church, it would have been nice for the show to stick with one conflict and stick with it. Still, it was a good plot that did provide a lot of laughs-even if some of the jokes were more offensive than normal.
Fulgencio was an episode of Modern Family that is worth watching just because of the Phil plot. It really does make this episode great. This excuses the barely acceptable Cam and Mitchell plot and the rather busy Gloria and Jay plots. Fulgencio instantly moves up to the top half of season four episodes-although it's numerous problems with anything not having to do with the Godfather drags it down from being at the top of the series overall.