It’s time to give it up to the women of Bob’s Burgers. Not Louise—we always praise Louise—but Tina and Linda. (Of course, it’s odd to call them women, since they’re voiced by men, but we’ll stay within the world of the show.) They are the best part of tonight’s episode, which is somewhat rare given how over-the-top Louise and Gene are—and how over-the-top Bob can be.
Tina has been magnificent in bits and pieces in the past, but she’s struggled to carry her own episode. “The Deepening” isn’t necessarily a Tina episode—it splits between her, Bob, and surprisingly, Teddy—but she’s easily the funniest character in it. Here, Tina forms an emotional bond with a mechanical shark. Tina’s desperate grasping for any kind of connection to understand her puberty has pushed her to try and make those connections with some absurd metaphors, as with zombies early on.
She’s the only person in town who sympathizes with the shark, a prop from a locally filmed 1980s B-movie, after it breaks free and goes on a rampage through the town. The plot of the film, as explained to Tina, portrays the shark as a violent victim, trained by the CIA and trying to protect her children. Tina translates this as “misunderstood,” and considering herself misunderstood, immediately identifies with the shark to the point where she imagines throwing it viscera as it leaps above her, in a Free Willy homage.
This sweet, hilarious confusion helps Bob’s Burgers to operate at the two levels it requires during the course of the episode. The character work keeps it grounded as an episode of Bob’s Burgers. Meanwhile, the monster-movie parody works in large part because, as everyone plays it straight, there’s Tina in the corner, defending a mechanical shark on the grounds that it was used in a movie to depict a confused shark. Bob tries to tell her that she’s wrong by comparing it to a toaster, but Tina’s empathy knows no bounds: “Our toaster is also confused. It doesn’t know why we put bagels in it.”
Linda doesn’t play as big a role in “The Deepening” as Tina does, but by being on the outside, she gets the opportunity to act as a wisecracking weird member of the family. Bob’s Burgers derives great strength from its ability to make its characters, particularly Bob, alternate between crazy and responsible. Linda has been treated better than most TV moms in terms of not being constrained by being The Nag—though usually Crazy Linda happens because of drinking. Here, she’s allowed to simply stay in the background and make jokes. This includes my favorite interaction of the night, when Louise makes a joke at Bob’s expense: “Aww.” You like that, Mom?” “Yeaaaahhhh.” Small wonder the kids are so entertaining, weird, and funny: Both their mom and their dad reward them for clever insults in the way that another family might coo over a piece of artwork.
“The Deepening” also does a far better job of fleshing out Teddy than his first real starring role last month. Here his eccentricity and anxiety are charming and serve the plot, instead of being off-putting and dominating the story. Mort gets a bit more screentime than normal as well, although his floundering stand-up comedy exists only for a few quick gags.
These are good examples of the Simpsons-esque fleshing out of the still-unnamed town the show is set in, something that manifests in a Simpsons-like mob forming to attack the Belchers. “You’re the family from hell.” “They’re destroying the town!” This scene is a bit of a cliché, in an episode that, thanks to its silly movie parody, skirts the edge of predictability throughout. But thanks in large part to Bob’s Burgers’ slightly less-heralded female characters, “The Deepening” stays grounded, and damn entertaining to boot.
- BUTT STUFF UNDERWEAR OUTLET
- “The three-hole standard of excellence.” Ah, looks like Gene and Louise have been watching Misfits (note: video clip utterly 100 percent not safe for conventional work environments. Also, hilarious.)
- “You had me at horse, but, lost me at horse skeletons.”
- “Ah, someone has not aged well. What a butterface.” I’m not certain I’ve ever heard the phrase “butterface” used on television, let alone in such a bizarre yet appropriate fashion.