Maybe other people feel differently, but I feel like The Simpsons' obsession with the status quo is hurting the emotional appeal of an episode like Duffless. There are certainly other episodes that fall under this topic, but Duffless is the one that stands out to me.
I've never really gotten the universal praise for Duffless as an episode because it seems like a very pointless episode in the grand scheme of things. At the conclusion, Homer is supposed to learn that he shouldn't let alcohol control his life, yet he continues to repeatedly abuse it throughout the run of the series. Homer bicycling away with Marge at the end of the episode is naturally a sweet scene and all, but it ultimately doesn't really mean anything... He just rubber-bands back to exactly the same guy he was before. He continues to spend hours at a dank bar, while Marge is home with the kids.
I don't know how fair this criticism is because, no, I don't think Homer should have gone completely sober after that point... After all, we saw what happened with Barney. It's a weird paradox where the audience is supposed to feel good about a character changing, even though the character completely reverts in the next episode. It's almost like the viewers and The Simpsons are in an abusive relationship, with The Simpsons continually professing, "I'll change" and we believe them because it gives warm fuzzies.
After watching 500 episodes of The Simpsons and being used to their status quo shtick, this is probably the main reason why the show lacks a real emotional punch sometimes. Yeah, Moe learns something from Maya when she leaves, but does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? Nah, not really. Moe never references her again, and acts exactly as he did before. It's tough when these changes are "inside" of the characters because, after reverting to status quo again, it's hard to tell if these morals/revelations are still inside of them. In that regard, the show can feel very nihilistic and empty in some ways.
What do you think? Should we just evaluate the emotional appeal of an episode on just its own merits or should the context of the series play a role?