Episode Grade: B-
While it’s not entirely accurate to say that Bob’s Burgers doesn’t do one-off characters, it does feel like any character prominent enough to make an impression in an episode is fair game to make a return appearance down the road. Sometimes this has been used to rehabilitate characters whose first outings were a little shaky (Jairo is my go to example of this phenomenon, but you could say the same for Alex or Courtney, among others) but more often the effect is to make the Belchers’ world feel a little more lived-in, which is something Bob’s has done better than any animated show apart from The Simpsons. The criteria for who gets brought back and who doesn’t is a bit of a mystery, since there are fans who have been waiting almost six years for another Jessica appearance (though it appears your wait is almost over) while Galye and Hugo tend to be greeted with trepidation, the show’s creators almost always manage to make returning characters feel like old friends, even if they’re antagonists.
All that said, Shinji “Koji” Kojima presents a particular set of challenges, albeit ones relating less to the character and more to the last episode he appeared in. The penultimate episode of an almost flawless season five (seriously, go check out the episode list), as well as likely the most emotionally resonant episode the show has ever done, “Hawk and Chick” casts a long shadow. Bringing back Koji runs the risk of inviting comparisons even a great Bob’s Burgers could struggle to live up to. Basically, the show has two options here: one would be to try and match that prior episode’s emotional depth (unlikely), the other would be to steer hard in the other direction and trust the jokes to carry the day.
“The Hawkening: Look Who’s Hawking Now” wisely takes the second approach, and is most successful in its earliest scenes which mostly consist of the Wagstaff crew being delightfully themselves. Jocelyn, Tammy, Zeke, and Rudy are all typically on point, and Louise’s frustration trying to sell her classmates on the Hawk & Chick screening comes across as amusing in the beginning. Had the episode continued in this vein (and maybe shifted a bit more focus onto Rudy and his cast) we might have had a real winner here.
Things get a little shakier once the screening is threatened and the episode takes on a bit more of a dramatic tone. Part of the issue is that we never get a great sense as to just why this screening is so important to Louise. We’ve seen her in maniacally determined mode plenty of times before, but between ignoring her best friend and committing fraud/stealing from the family, this felt like something else. While Hawk and Chick ended up revealing that Louise’s determination to reunite Koji and Yuki was rooted in her fears of one day drifting away from Bob, tonight’s episode revealed no equivalent motivation, which leaves her actions looking more reckless and selfish than they might have otherwise. It’s hard to imagine someone as self-contained as Louise being that desperate to share her movie obsession with other kids. There was just something missing there tonight. As for Koji himself, he gets off some funny lines early, but his role here is mostly to just put the deposit in jeopardy, which felt like kind of a waste.
Overall, this was an enjoyable enough episode, but it felt oddly disjointed and didn’t really hit all the emotional beats it reached for. Similar to a couple episodes from last season, it seemed like the Rudy-plot and the Koji-plot were conceived separately, then mashed together when they needed to fill out an episode. Still, an uneven Bob’s is still a pretty good 22 minutes.
- Question for you all: who’s your favorite Bob’s one-off character who has yet to make a second appearance? I’m gonna go with Big Bob, who I think is way overdue to show up for a Thanksgiving or something. Then again, we haven’t seen Mickey for a few seasons, so it might be that Bill Hader’s been busy.
- Storefront: Penny For Your Tots Daycare. Exterminator: Bohemian Rats-Squishy
- “Poor Rudy, our wounded dove. It’s just not fair, oh God! How’d it happen? How’s the other guy look?” “It was two hits: my dad getting me a bunk bed, and me hitting the floor.” Zeke and Rudy are a seriously underrated comic pairing.
- Really, Rudy was pretty much the MVP tonight. He and Koji bonding over injuries and mine was another highlight.
- Gene’s not-so-tight five: “You two! How’d you meet? At a striped-shirt convention?”
- Pretty quiet night for the rest of the Belchers, though Linda, Gene, and Tina’s theories on the missing scene were delightfully bizarre.
- Seems like they’ve really scaled back Teddy’s role this season. Even in the episodes he’s been in, he hasn’t really had much to do.