Well fellow cartoon Christmas enthusiasts, we’re in a new and interesting place today. We’re coming in for the second part of a two-part story we started looking at yesterday. In the first part of “The Bleakening,” the Christmas special from Bob’s Burgers which originally aired in 2017, the children of Bob and Linda Belcher were out hunting for the mythological being known as The Bleaken. It is he whom the children have accused of stealing their mother’s dainty little Christmas tree, which was once the top of their regular sized tree, which had been on display in their restaurant for a Christmas party. More important than the tree though, are the ornaments that were on it. Handmade ornaments from the kids which had become precious to Linda disappeared along with the tree. Despite a few leads, the adults were unable to determine who stole the tree so it befalls the children to do something about it.
Louise (Kristen Schaal), despite being the youngest sibling, is often the de-facto leader for these expeditions. She has convinced her brother Gene (Eugene Mirman) and sister Tina (Dan Mintz) to sneak out of the house on Christmas Eve to chase down a lead they uncovered from the police station earlier in the day. Louise thinks she knows where The Bleaken is hiding out, and she’s determined to find out. Because if they fail, her mother will lose her Christmas spirit and without that, well there probably won’t be any Christmas presents.
The episode picks up right where the prior one left off. There are no opening credits, probably because this one originally aired back-to-back with the first part so there was no need to interrupt it, though it does feel a little jarring if you happen to catch it without the first part in syndication. The siblings are walking in the dark down a snowy road as Tina is the apparent guide. She is also reluctantly on this mission with her brother and sister which was really only hinted at in part one when she forlornly looked up the stairs to their apartment as the three made their escape. Louise is trying to reassure her siblings that they’re doing the right thing. Gene is mostly fine, though he warns he’s running out of walking cookies, but Tina is not onboard. She doesn’t quite reveal that to her sister, but she does slyly use the family emergency cell phone she brought with them to dial their mother. When she places the phone in her pocket, she speaks rather loudly so she can be heard and announces the street intersection and what’s going on while making it sound like a conversation so as not to tip-off Louise. She’s rather clumsy, and also makes sure to let her mom know this isn’t her idea, but Louise doesn’t pick up on it. At the Belcher home, Linda (John Roberts) is freaking out hearing all of this on the phone and wakes up Bob (H. Jon Benjamin). She apparently doesn’t consider that her daughter would be clever enough to fake call, but make it sound like a butt dial, because she tells Bob that Tina butt-dialed her and she can tell they’ve snuck out.
The kids continue their search until they make an important discovery – one of Gene’s ornaments is found in the snow! Emboldened that they’re on the right track, the kids press on, but black feathers in the road portend something ominous. The Bleaken is real, and he really did take their mother’s tree! Louise is determined to find the rest despite the obvious concerns her siblings are sharing. As they walk, Louise and Gene start quietly singing that The Bleaken is going to wish he had never been born, though they aren’t convincing in their threats. Tina just hyper-ventilates to provide a beat for their walking music.
Meanwhile, we check-in with Teddy (Larry Murphy) who was last seen constructing some sort of Santa monstrosity in his basement. It turns out the monstrosity is just a Santa inflatable decoration and he fashioned a crude window in its mouth so he could hide inside. The Bleaken didn’t just take Linda’s tree, it’s also been taking decorations off of the sidewalk and Teddy is determined to find out who is responsible by using himself as bait.
This kids turn down an alley, but a crater in the road would indicate they can’t continue down the alley they’ve found, but Louise quickly determines it’s not a crater, but an elaborate mural painted on a wall! Gene is correct to make a Wile E. Coyote reference at the sight as his sister inspects it further. She soon uncovers a door, behind it they find a chilling stairwell. At this point, Louise informs her siblings she’s armed, but the choice of weapons is not too comforting: a ruler and a keychain. When Louise introduces each, she has clever suggestions for how they could be used as weapons while Gene makes helpful, non-violent, suggestions like how rulers can be used for measuring. When Tina asks if she has anything better, she deadpans that she has a knife and some mace, but she’s hanging onto those so Tina takes the ruler leaving the keychain for Gene. The kids descend the stairway only to find they lead no where. Tina, suspecting another false wall, walks into a very real wall and lets her siblings know it hurts.
Bob and Linda are driving around trying to figure out where the kids were when Tina called, but it turns out Tina is bad at directions and the intersection she referenced doesn’t exist. Linda is freaking out and is not particularly helpful, but to Bob’s credit he’s always so patient and tries to assuage her, even when he can’t. He points out two stray dogs “playing to the death” as evidence that this part of town in the middle of the night isn’t dangerous, but thankfully, Linda is more preoccupied with freaking herself out than truly paying attention to her surroundings. They eventually figure out the street intersection Tina must have been referencing, and Bob justifies her getting one of the names wrong on the fact that they haven’t bought her new glasses since she was 6. They get out of the car and soon find the trail of footprints and cookie crumbs and follow it. Meanwhile, Teddy is still in his Santa disguise when a neighbor walking a dog stops near him. The dog defecates at Teddy’s feet revealing to him who is never scooping their dog’s waste, so tonight won’t be a total loss even if he doesn’t find the thief. The smell of the dog poop works its way into the Santa inflatable though causing Teddy to gag.
Louise is certain this is The Bleaken’s lair, even though they can’t find a way out aside from the way they came in. Soon someone enters from above and Louise determines there’s no way out because this place is designed to trap people for The Bleaken! The kids brace themselves against the wall, and when their would-be assailants approach they pounce! Of course, it’s just Bob and Linda who are forced to curl into fetal positions on the stairs. Bob is his ever calm self and doesn’t seem too angry with his children for sneaking out, though he does ask if someone hit him in the face with a ruler. Linda is relieved they’re okay, while Louise wants to know how they got there. They don’t tattle on their daughter, but say someone butt-dialed them. Tina fesses up, but Louise hardly needed her to. Louise doesn’t want to leave though and insists they’re onto something, and it’s actually Tina who makes the important discovery. She notices the stairs shaking and the family lifts them up to find another secret staircase underneath. The kids convince their dad to go along and find out who stole the tree, while he insists The Bleaken isn’t real. Louise produces the ornament they found and references the police map, but Bob doesn’t want to spend Christmas in a creepy tunnel. Unfortunately, he’s married to Linda who isn’t leaving until she finds her ornaments. She tells Bob to take the kids home, but he’s not leaving her so he agrees to press on. He needs a weapon so Tina hands over her ruler. Just to make sure he knows it can be used as a weapon, she strikes him on the head with it. Very helpful.
We check back in with Teddy whose eyes are scanning the area around him and his pipes are singing a delightful holiday song. To the tune of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Teddy sings about finding the jerk whose gonna get a fight. He sings over the Belcher family searching the catacombs below, but their trek is interrupted when they see The Bleaken! He disappears as quickly as he appeared and Bob wants to go back, but Linda declares this place is like Ikea and there’s no going back.
The family presses on until Bob finds a door. He tells his family to stand back as he takes a peek, but then looks over his shoulder to see they are indeed standing very far behind him. Bob then cracks the door open and tells the family it’s not what he expected. When they open it they find it’s a secret, underground, Christmas rave! A bunch of people dance in a large, crowded, room while a DJ spins records from a platform at the other side. And there, on top of the speakers, sits Linda’s beloved Christmas tree and all of its ornaments! She’s more angry than anything upon seeing it and declares they aren’t leaving until she gets her friggen’ tree back!
The family notices some other decorations that were stolen as the DJ ramps up the volume. Linda orders Bob to get her tree while she plans to give the crowd a piece of her mind. The kids watch Bob try to climb up the speakers and let him know that not much of his butt crack is showing (they’re so supportive) while Linda is able to reach the DJ’s platform and steals his microphone. He puts up a fight, but she wins out in the end. As he searches for the kill switch on the mic, Linda starts speaking to get everyone’s attention. She scolds the party-goers for having secret tunnels and being thieves. One of the men in the audience informs her they have all of the protections in place because they’re unlicensed as this is apparently where everyone who normally parties at The Wiggle Room for Christmas has gone. If you forgot, The Wiggle Room was forced to close as recounted on a new broadcast the family watched in part one. Another raver then shouts they aren’t thieves, but she tells him to go “play Ping Pong with your ding dong,” and points out her tree, which Bob has reached. She tells them she’s taking back her ornaments, but what she can’t get back is her Christmas spirit!
She is then interrupted by a performance from the newly Christened Miss Triple X-Mas (Todrick Hall), formerly known as Cleavage to Beaver, who performs a saucy number to mark the fact that it’s midnight. The Belchers watch the performance of “Twinkly Lights” with awe as Linda notices Marshmallow and some of her other friends while the kids see The Bleaken dancing around. Louise interrupts him and asks him to confirm that he’s just a guy in a costume, which is the case. She insists they could have taken him, though.
Linda interrupts the music by grabbing the mic again to reveal she is understanding, and a little embarrassed, but also to apologize because she called the cops! The crowd is upset with her, but they also insist no one stole her ornaments. That’s when Art the Artist (Adam Driver) comes forward. He was at the Belcher Christmas party and was a suspect in the case of the missing tree, but when Bob and Linda spoke with him during one of his nude modeling sessions he convinced them otherwise. It turns out, it was him as he was put in charge of decorating for the party. He didn’t have any money though, so he “borrowed” a bunch of stuff from around town. And to successfully steal the little tree, he first took it and then went out the back door of the restaurant and hid it in the dumpster there while he went and did his session. When the session was done, he came back for it. He goes on to explain the Wiggle Room party is normally so well decorated, and he didn’t want to let everyone down.
Linda realizes that she and Art shared a dream – the perfect Christmas party! And Art realized it with some help from her tree. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that the cops are outside. Everyone is upset, but Bob has an idea that may help them avoid getting shut down. He feels like they owe it to the ravers, though he points out he would have never called the cops and it was all his wife’s doing. The only thing he needs is the The Bleaken costume that guy is wearing.
Bosco (Gary Cole) and another cop are driving around searching for the secret entrance to the club when they encounter Bob in the middle of the road dressed as The Bleaken. He flaps his “wings” and gets the pair to chase him. Despite them being in a car and Bob on foot, he manages to get away and runs down a street that just so happens to be Teddy’s street. He collides with his friend, who had been struggling to stand up after falling down earlier, and is still hiding in the Santa inflatable and tells him he needs to hide. Teddy says he has just the place as we see the lights from Bosco’s cruiser appear on the street. They drive by and pay no attention to the Santa inflatable and there’s no sign of Bob so Bosco decides he’s had enough and suggests they get some Kung Pao Chicken. When the cops drive away, we find out Bob is hiding inside the Santa suit with Teddy. He thanks Teddy who remarks that he told Bob there was room for both of them. Bob politely disagrees as he’s clearly uncomfortable being smooshed up against Teddy’s back. He then starts to question why they didn’t just go in the house, but Teddy keeps shushing him. When he finally demands Teddy tell him why he keeps shushing him he remarks he thought he heard something, but it was nothing. Bob then tries asking why they didn’t go inside again, but Teddy keeps shushing him some more until Bob gets fed up and leaves. Teddy is upset and tries to get him to stay shouting this could be the best Christmas Eve ever!
Back at the club, the rave is back on. The kids are seated on the edge of the stage with their mother’s tree reflecting on the past few days. Louise seems disappointed there was no real Bleaken, but the kids find comfort in the return of their mother’s Christmas spirit. We then see Linda cutting it up on the dance floor as she screams, “I love Christmas!”
The image then locks on Linda in a triumphant pose and fades to the next morning. The family is back home reunited with the tree and the ornaments and Linda is still dancing, just now in her pajamas. Louise asks how much sleep she got and her dad tells them she never went to sleep. Linda explains someone at the club gave her something which made her feel great, but then finally says she needs to lay down. She faceplants onto the floor and Bob assures the kids she’s fine, though he needs to check her pulse. As the camera moves outside of the apartment to linger on the restaurant we hear Bob confirm she’s fine. Merry Christmas!
The second half of “The Bleakening” is quite different from the first. Part one is definitely a mystery story, while the second part is more about pay-off. It introduces a few twists and some intriguing moments, but it’s mostly concerned with just answering the lingering questions from part one. The real star of the show is just the cast. It’s never easy to tell how much is ad-libbed and how much is scripted, but there are some great exchanges in this one between the kids and pretty much anything Bob says. There was also never a ton of mystery to begin. Any veteran TV viewer could assume that one of two characters introduced in part one were the thief: Art or Dalton. The fact that Art was voiced by probably the biggest guest star of the episode was all the confirmation one needed. It just became a question of “why” from there and it was hardly surprising it had something to do with the club that got shut down, because why else would we be privileged to such information as an audience?
It’s still a fun journey though, even if the threat of a Bleaken was never a real one. It was still going to be interesting to see how that part would be continuously sold though. The B-plot involving Teddy wasn’t great as it merely existed just so the two could intertwine at the end. On the other hand, it’s always fun to see Teddy in a ridiculous situation, by himself, where he constantly talks to himself. He’s a good character, even if this wasn’t the best use of him, but I enjoyed his awkward exchange with Bob at the end.
And speaking of the end, this one does end rather abruptly. It’s a bit odd for an oversized episode like this one to run out of time, but then again, Bob’s Burgers isn’t the type of show that’s going to spend much time watching the family have a happy Christmas morning. There weren’t even any presents under the tree. It wants to show us the weird parts, the awkward parts, and then get out before things can get sentimental. As a result, if this one doesn’t make you laugh then it probably won’t entertain you as a Christmas special. There’s just not enough there, but what is there is relatable if you have a mom who loves those crappy ornaments you made for her as a kid or if you yourself are a mom or dad who loves that stuff. I am a dad that does enjoy homemade ornaments from my kids and I do like these two episodes. Are they my favorite Christmas episodes from this show? No, but I’m not going to turn away. Especially during the holidays.
If you would like to catch “The Bleakening” this year then like all shows that air on Adult Swim you need only keep your eyes out. It will be aired or has aired and likely more than once. Bob’s Burgers is also syndicated now and can be found on several other cable and broadcast channels and all are likely to air the Christmas episodes between now and the actual holiday. If streaming is more your thing, the series can be found on Hulu and you also have rental options in other places. Like American Dad!, this is definitely a show that’s worth stockpiling Christmas episodes on your DVR all month and then having a nice binge at some point. There isn’t an arc or anything that ties them all together like there is with American Dad!, but they are all pretty funny!
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