The Simpsons running its opening credits backward may seem like a bizarre gag to end an episode with, the joke tied perfectly into the outing's story. The Simpsons has been known to mess with its continuity and canon, whether the show is replacing Bart’s crush with a new character or retconning earlier episodes in newer outings. However, it is rare for The Simpsons to do something as outright strange as running the show’s iconic credits sequence backward at the end of an episode. However, that’s exactly what one season 33 episode did, and The Simpsons had an explanation for the surreal sight. The Simpsons season 33, episode 20, “Marge the Meanie,” opened without the show’s typical opening credits sequence, told its story, and then ended with the opening credits playing backward while the closing credits of The Simpsons scrolled on top of the sequence. The bizarre joke didn’t make much sense, but there’s a hidden thematic justification for it.
Episode plays opening credits in reverse, the sequence ends with Bart writing “I will not violate the law of entropy” as one of The Simpsons' long-running chalkboard gags. This line shows that the bizarre sequence is a meta-reference to the plot of “Marge the Meanie,” wherein Marge and Bart bond over their shared love of ambitious practical jokes. After an episode during which both Bart and Marge tried to one-up each other when it came to pranks, The Simpsons itself plays one last practical joke on the viewer by putting the opening credits at the end of the episode and playing them backward. A fun touch that couldn’t come at a more appropriate time since the episode is dedicated to the late Simpsons background layout artist Ian Wilcox. There’s no better way for the show to draw attention to the hard work of its behind-the-scenes team than by messing with the opening credits, leading viewers to see an often-overlooked element of The Simpsons in a new light. Much like The Simpsons’ Ms. Krabappel replacement gave the show a chance to justify Bart’s chalkboard gags in-universe, the prank-heavy plot of “Marge the Meanie” let the show's closing scenes play a practical joke on viewers.
The joke also led viewers to actively watch The Simpsons’ opening credits sequence closely for the first time in a long time, as it is difficult not to pay attention when a familiar sequence is played backward. Strange enough to jar even the most jaded viewer but well-anchored within the episode’s plot and themes, this Simpsons season 33 in-joke proved the show could still pull off weird meta-gags occasionally. While The Simpsons season 33 has borrowed some of its best gags from South Park season 25 in recent memory, this addition acts as evidence that the earlier hit still has some inspired silliness up its own sleeve. Whether The Simpsons can keep up this level of visual inventiveness as season 33 draws to a close, however, remains to be seen.