Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bob’s Burgers: “Purple Rain-Union”

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It was all but guaranteed that I would love “Purple Rain-union.” I mean, it’s Linda-centric, it’s about rival all-female bands, and it features a bunch of new songs. What else could I possibly want? I’ve expressed my concerns about Linda before. She’s a great character but there was a time early in the series (and even as recent as the end of last season, to be perfectly honest) when she worried me. Linda is rarely the center of an episode. She’s the least developed of the Belcher clan (though I suppose I can make the argument that she and Gene are often on the same level) and this only stands out more when you compare her to just how developed the rest of them are. But she’s been getting her dues more and more as the show goes on and, as a result, she’s been slowly crawling up my personal Bob’s Burgers character rankings. I’m never disappointed when she’s on screen. The key to Linda is to take the few character traits that we do know about her and find an appropriate storyline where these traits can really shine, a storyline where she ramps up the craziness and is propelled forward in the show’s world.

“Purple Rain-union” shows us the Linda who existed prior to becoming a Belcher. She was the front-woman of a not-exactly-great band called The Ta-Ta’s and is still haunted by the time when she botched a show. It’s a great Linda story for a number of reasons. Because it mostly separates her from the rest of the Belchers, it allows her to exist in a world that’s independent from her family—this is also why “Lindapendent Woman” worked so well—and we get to see glimpses of what she’s like when her focus isn’t entirely on them. The story plays on her endless determination and her obsessive tendencies while also introducing us to a Linda that’s fierce, jealous, and angry—the opposite of her usual sing-songy optimism—but in an understandable and still fairly soft way. Also, there are ‘80s clothing and fun songs. It’s perfect!

Although I’ve had some trivial gripes about Linda’s lack of characterization, I do give the show credit for how strong bits of her personality are. The reveal that she was once in a band (and especially an all girl band) is so natural. It’s not so much a new invention to her backstory that we have to accept as it is a “Yeah, of course she was in a band” moment. Usually (and wonderfully) when Linda gets frustrated, angry, or goes off the rails it’s because Bob is being annoying or she’s protecting her family but this time it was all about her. I love the Linda that existed tonight, the way she fumed and couldn’t bring herself to even say her rival’s band name (“Bad Hair Day”), how she got caught up in feeling jealous and seeking revenge (if I’m ever in a riot grrrl band, you can bet I’m naming a song “Lean, mean, mom-jeans revenge machine”), and how she allowed herself to be angry and to uncharacteristically shut down Gayle (a world away from the Linda who once forced her husband to pretend to have an affair with Gayle). But what I loved most was how this all fit with Linda already—she throws herself headfirst and 100% into everything whether it’s working at a grocery store, selling sex toys, or playing music—so it makes sense that she won’t always go the nicest route.

Linda never strays too far from who she is though, so it’s also makes sense when she decides to let Gayle sing her song—even though this is the result of a funny conversation with Jen that doubles as a pep talk and an admission from Jen that she’s a horrible babysitter. It doesn’t matter why this change of heart occurs as long as it does occur because oh man, the sexually charged song is absolutely hilarious. I’m always a fan of the songs on Bob’s Burgers but I don’t think anything will top “Won’t you enter my Acropolis and make my yogurt Greek?” Tina definitely takes after Gayle, huh?

“Purple Rain-union” was undoubtedly Linda’s show but the rest of the Belchers were in fine form tonight, too. The children were stuck with terrible babysitter Jen and this especially annoyed Tina who had gotten used to her role as babysitter. That montage of the children punching each other so they’d all get black-eyes (what perfect/destructive childhood logic!) interspersed with Bad Hair Day’s rock n’ roll performance was an episode highlight. Meanwhile, Bob’s pimple has him regress back to hating high school but in the adult world—or really, the dermatologist world—the pimple makes him oddly popular and he ends up enjoying the reunion he dreaded going to (the alcohol helps too, I’m sure). That shot of him cheering for Linda was very sweet; I love when Bob’s Burgers shows how endlessly devoted Linda is to him and I love it even more when it’s Bob’s turn for a similar gesture. And Linda definitely deserved it.

Stray observations:

  • “High school is horrible. I mean, it’ll be fine for you.” — Bob, reassuring Tina.
  • Gayle’s speech impediment combined with her penchant for writing sexual songs resulted in “G-G-G-G-G-Genitals,” a song that I really hope ends up on a Bob’s Burgers soundtrack someday. Also: I need a Bob’s Burgers soundtrack ASAP.
  • On the Bob’s Burgers Relatable Characters Scale, I’d say tonight I fall somewhere in between Jen being so ticklish that she throws a punch and Gayle dumping cupcakes into her fanny pack.
  • Favorite Tina moment: her mocking the babysitter and then saying “I’m mocking you.”
  • “This Ta-Ta’s been a real boob.”
  • I’m sure you all know that The National (once again) covered the Thanksgiving song from last week but now it has me thinking of dream bands that I want to hear cover the songs from this week. Any ideas?