May 12, 2015

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "Housetrap"

Welcome to TV Recap, in which we look at modern shows and analyze them on an episode-to-episode basis. This one focuses on the cartoon sitcom Bob's Burgers, a very funny show that is capable of rivaling old school Simpsons in terms of irreverent humor and off the wall zaniness. With a cast of modern alternative comedian heroes, the story follows the Belchers as they run a burger joint. Join me as I take part in dissecting the show in its first full season. Check back on Tuesdays for the next exciting installment.
It has been awhile since Bob's Burgers has decided to focus on a story central to the entire family. For the most part, there have two plots competing for screen time, and arguably one has always been inferior. For the most part, "Housetrap" manages to work as a solid investigation into the Belcher family's various paranoia while taking a clever twist on the murder mystery genre. While the ending itself is rather inconvenient and confusing, it does equal up to a nice episode that feels done mostly to baffle audiences and keep them guessing as to the sanity of its central characters. It has been awhile since an animated sitcom has done that.
The episode opens with Teddy (Larry Murphy) announcing that he has to fix someone's roof. He is a little disinterested in doing it, so the Belchers immediately jump on the chance to help him out. As they begin to work around the beach house that they have been assigned to, they begin to snoop inside and discover various things about the recipients. There's a dead husband who remarried and owns a lot of clocks. Linda (John Roberts) raises suspicion that the living wife Helen (Kaitlin Olsen) pushed him to his death. In order to prove this, she pushes Bob (Jon Benjamin) onto the floor, injuring him in the process. Teddy shows up to check on them.
During this time, Helen also shows up. With the family now rooted in their paranoia, they try and make their moves coyly to avoid being potential victims. With Bob injured and on the couch, Helen gets him pain killers. In his woozy state, he spills the beans about how Linda thinks Helen is a murderer. This doesn't go well as Linda emerges and is forced to confront Linda. When they travel to the roof, they have an intense fight that ends up with Teddy slipping off of the roof. He is hurt, but not badly injured. The family leaves, thinking that Helen didn't kill her husband. Or did she?


Rating: 3.5 out of 5


There isn't much really to say other than that this was an interestingly dark episode for Bob's Burgers. Teddy gets badly injured and they suspect someone of being a murderer. There isn't any clear answer, and that may be the best part. Is Linda crazy? While she likely is for falling into her daughter's trap of logic of immediately jumping to blame, it does amount to an interesting dichotomy of ideas in this episode. It turns the murder mystery on its head by establishing Helen as a somewhat regular person who is more the victim of Linda's own slippery slope of thinking. It may not amount to much, but it starts off innocently and for the most part, the Belchers are to blame because they were the ones who broke into the house in the first place.
However, the third act is especially dark and raises the stakes beyond a simple misunderstanding. We see Helen try to reenact the murder on the roof by potentially killing Linda. Her last minute saving is something may seem deranged, but doesn't exactly check out to her killing people. What's even more shocking is that Teddy manages to go through a motive very similar to that of the supposed murder and lives. While it is easy to imagine that he will be going through physical therapy for a long, long time - provided this show even dare adopt that sort of realism - it mostly serves as a pointless plot device meant to make Helen look more innocent. Instead, it makes her look far more crazy.
This is a solid episode because it involves the family working together and thus in the process shows how they relate and influence each other. Everyone gets into each other's psyche, which results in something far more bleak and complicated. What starts off as an innocent entering turns into a foul cry. They didn't necessarily need to be there, but because they chose to things are allowed to go into bizarre and uncomfortable places. Because Bob was woozy and unable to do anything, the story evolves into something more complicated. Add in the tropes of a storm happening outside, and it adds a sense of poetry to the entire thing and makes it seem more disturbing.
It mostly works as an enjoyable episode because nothing major happens nor is there any emotional core to it. Instead, it is a family throwing themselves into an unnecessary hole and not really solving it. The whole idea of a murder mystery is to figure out the culprit. Instead, we get Helen able to weasel her way out of blame through some odd logic holes. She may in fact be a psychopath, but it will be the Belcher's personal secret, given that this plot isn't likely to be revisited. There's very little narrative continuity on this show, which isn't a bad thing. However, this is more of an arbitrary stop in the series than anything else, and it's interesting to see them continue after something like this.

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