To say that Bob’s Burgers switched it up last Sunday night is a major understatement. The first of the two-part installment, Wharf Horse (Or How Bob Saves/Destroys The Town—Part I), harkens back to the Simpsons’ Who Shot Mr. Burns? episode couplet.
But just comparing it to the Simpsons won’t cut it for me anymore, because with this episode, it seems a major change has taken place in the Bob’s Burgers universe — namely that the universe itself is starting to matter.
From the beginning of this episode, we know things are going to be different. Instead of the usual bright xylophone dings, we get a haunting establishing shot of Wonder Wharf — the central character of this episode. You heard me right, Wonder Wharf is the crowning jewel here. Not Gene’s one-liners, Linda antics, or the usual episode absurdities, all of which are hilarious in their own right. Tonight, Fischoeder’s borther, Felix, wants to destroy the wharf and build condos and a nightclub for his singing, 29-year-old girlfriend, Fanny, but Fischoeder doesn’t want to sell.
So Felix appeals to Bob’s fantasy — Bob’s Burgers on the beach — and all Bob has to do is convince Mr. F to sell the wharf. What follows is a decently funny plot of “kidnapping” Fischoeder, intermingled with Louise’s desire to ride the wharf’s new rollercoaster, and Tina’s need to save her old equine carousel companion, Mr. Goiter. The characters are spot-on — even when Linda is at her worst, she’s still the absolute best. Jordan Peele as Fanny was astoundingly creepy and Felix’s character was way more appealing than his original appearance in “Ambergris.”
So, though everything seemed to be in place, something still felt different. There weren’t as many laughable moments, but the longer the episode went on, I realized that getting laughs wasn’t the point — that’s not all Bob’s Burgers is going for anymore. There was a need to immerse the viewer in the universe that characters lived in.
The whole episode is dedicated to the history of the wharf — each plotline revolves around some aspect of it, and it means something to each of the characters. And I realized, like Dorothy’s beloved Kansas, the wharf had been there all along, another character hiding in the recesses of many of my favorite episodes — “Art Walk,” “The Deepening,” and others. It was clear; Wonder Wharf was becoming the new Springfield.
I started watching Bob’s Burgers only a few months ago, and when I decided to jump on board I was there for entertainment — I wanted laughs. They were delivered, tenderly grilled and severed up on a soft, funny pun. But after a few seasons, I could see that the writers were making me care about the family I was watching. I feel like the dynamic between the siblings got stronger, the plots are more intertwined in the desires of the parents, and I watch them all reach out to each other in very real ways, even if the situations were still insane. But with this episode, I felt the writers saying, “It’s time to go up another level, get to know more about this place, because it’s built to last.”
And with that, I was convinced — Bob’s Burgers is the best animated comedy on television right now. It fills the shoes set out by The Simpsons (who I believe have completely given up, now that they’ve announced a crossover episode with Family Guy and killing off a major character), it takes the regular family formula and goes deeper, and even when it switches things up, it’s definitely tasty enough to go on the specials board.
If you’re not watching yet, who are you? (And you can find the latest episodes on Hulu and past seasons on Netflix).