[8.2/10] This episode was a little logy with its double-length runtime, but it was also a little epic, so it balances out. It might not be up to the show’s amazing standard for holiday episode, but it’s still an outstanding romp with some wild and hilarious moments in it.
What I most appreciate, and one of Bob’s Burgers strengths, is how solid and well-done the setup is. You have Linda’s dream of a magical X-mas party, you have the detail of the local gay dance club being shut down, and you have the kids’ interest in The Bleaken all parceled out of the course of the episode, before everything’s smashed together in the last act. It’s sound writing that makes the twists and turns in the ending feel earned.
The episode also has a good engine. Linda’s mini-tree (replete with Belcher kid ornaments) makes a fine X-Mas episode macguffin, and Bob and Linda roaming across town trying to track down who stole it provided a good excuse to visit with some of the show’s amusing locals and a few suspicious newcomers. By the same token, Teddy telling the kids about the Krampus-like, eponymous Bleaken naturally spurs the Belcher kids to try to hunt it down, in a characteristic bit of kiddie excitement and adventure.
There’s also tons of great laugh lines in this one. Louise in particular was one fire with her dry witticisms, and Bob’s reactions to his family’s insanity were fun as always. The animation is outstanding, from some creative shots of the kids escaping the house, to the lit up wonderland of the basement rave. The songs were a little hit or miss, which isn’t the best quality to have in a musical episode, but they were pleasant at worst. And hey, we even got a supporting turn from Kylo Ren himself, Adam Driver, showing off the musical chops his displayed in Inside Llewyn Davis.
The episode isn’t perfect. Again, the pacing feels a little off, as though the show couldn’t quite get its hands around the extra runtime. The effort to briefly turn the episode into a horror movie in the back half of the episode feels a little silly, and it’s where “The Bleakening” sags the most. And as Mrs. Bloom pointed out, even if it’s for a rocking party, it’s still pretty not cool to just steal from people. (Plus Teddy’s bit about hiding out in an inflatable Santa, while worth a few chuckles, felt kind of extraneous and tossed in.)
But what I liked most about this episode, and the thing that carried the day for me, is the idea of finding light in dark places, literally and figuratively. I imagine a lot of Bob’s Burgers fans felt a lot like Linda did this holiday season. With so much dispiriting stuff going in the news and in the world in 2017, plenty of folks have found it difficult to gin up the holiday spirit. “The Bleakening” never gets too direct with this, but it does illustrate a sort of blueness that a lot of people feel around the holidays, particularly this year.
And yet, it gives the Belcher family a win, and more to the point, lets Linda find her holiday spirit in the unlikeliest of places -- an underground rave devoted to finding joy wherever and whenever they can. It’s a nice reminder of the open, accepting spirit of the show, where this sort of event can be an odd source of renewal for Linda and for her family. It’s that type of weirdness mixed with sweetness that keeps me coming back to Bob’s Burgers, year after year.
A decent episode with some good jokes. If you love the episodes with a lot of songs you’ll like it. I’m not so fond of them so it got a little tiresome. Not my favourite holiday episode of Bob’s Burgers but that’s a high standard to hit.
A decent Christmas episode with some good jokes.