Review: Bob’s Burgers “Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street”

And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!

Overview (Spoilers!)

This Halloween, Ocean Avenue is pedestrian-only. The Belchers are desperate to collect Sticky Sugar Booms, the new “it candy” that’s sweeping Wagstaff. Bob plans to only give out hard candies called Dr. Peter’s Bitter Drops, which are as miserable as they sound. Dr. Yap sends out a flyer—he’s willing to pay kids for their Halloween candy. Teddy bursts into the restaurant, furious that his rival handyman Glenn got hired to decorate the candle shop next door. He asks Bob to let him decorate the restaurant too.

The kids show off their costumes—Gene is “André 3000 the Giant,” Louise is “a dragon with a girl tattoo,” and Tina is “nun of your business.” Teddy installs a giant spider outside the restaurant, but it’s overshadowed by Glenn’s flying mechanical bat. The kids collect candy before running into Zeke and Jimmy Jr., who are planning to head to Mutilation Mansion; Tina is too scared to join them.

Andy, Ollie, Rudy, and Darryl run-up to the Belchers in distress—their candy has been stolen! Louise accuses Zeke and Jimmy Jr. of the crime, but when Gene’s candy is stolen from under his nose, it’s obvious it wasn’t them. Teddy finally gets his spider to move, but now Glenn has created an incredible projected ghost. Teddy is ready to give up, but Bob won’t let him.

After Tina’s candy is stolen, Louise’s bag is nabbed by someone in a gorilla suit. They run after him, but he’s too fast on his electric skateboard. Meanwhile, Bob and Teddy give their spider chainsaws for hands. When they turn it on, the chainsaws destroy Glenn’s decorations.

While Tina and Gene huddle outside, the other kids follow the gorilla into Mutilation Mansion. Finally, Tina and Gene burst in and tackle the gorilla; they discover that it’s really Dr. Yap! He’s been stealing their candy all night because Sticky Sugar Bombs are bad for teeth. Teddy realizes that Glenn admires him and was just trying to impress him. The kids retrieve their candy, returning it to the children who lost it. In the end, Jimmy Jr. and Zeke were too scared to go into Mutilation Mansion after all.

Our Take

Once again, it’s Halloween in the Burgerverse, but instead of a Nightmare on Elm Street parody, this episode reads like like a caper straight out of Scooby-Doo. It’s kind of astounding that, year after year, the Bob’s Burgers team manages to come up with a new Halloween scenario. While sometimes the holiday episodes feel a little repetitive—I can’t imagine what they’re going to do this Thanksgiving—this episode is different enough from the other Halloween specials that it manages to feel fresh. And of course, it’s great to see what hilariously clever costumes the kids have dressed up as this year.

The main problem with this episode is that it’s a mystery story that’s extremely easy to figure out. When Bob mentions Dr. Yap’s flyer at the episode’s opening, it feels so random and unexplained that I was sure it would come back to play a major role in the episode. Once Zeke and Jimmy Jr. are ruled out as suspects, Dr. Yap is the only possible culprit (although it would have been funny if Glenn or Teddy had stolen the candy to somehow advance their feud). So after about two minutes of mystery, the episode ceases to be all that exciting because it’s so obvious what the outcome is going to be. At the same time, the snappy dialogue is funny as ever, and, in a season of somewhat mediocre B plots, the Teddy-Glenn war is actually pretty entertaining to watch.

Some highlights: Edith berating her husband for not making the witch decoration in their window “scary,” until he moves it a tiny inch to the left. Linda’s inability to understand Tina’s costume. Bob staring at the mechanical bat in awe and declaring, “It’s like something out of Da Vinci’s sketchbook.” The idea that “teens are the cause of nine out of ten things.” The bus driver’s refusal to drive them even in an emergency, because “You know what else is an emergency? Respecting myself.” Bob and Linda’s “arrangement” that she won’t wipe him if he loses his hands. Tina and Gene’s awkward small talk outside the haunted house. The incinerator operator not knowing it’s Halloween, because “that’s what six months in a coma will do to you.”

I enjoy that the easter eggs in the intro are actually relevant to the episode this time around. The extermination company is called “Bug-a-Dook” (an obvious play on the horror classic and beloved LGBT icon The Babadook), and the store next to the Belchers’, a candle shop called “Those Who Can, Dle,” is involved in the plot of the episode. Speaking of that shop’s name, I watched the intro, squinted at it, and figured I was missing some hilarious joke. But lo and behold, a few minutes in, Bob tells his family that the shop has a “horrible name. I don’t even understand it.” I love that the stupid title is intentional and Bob shares my confusion—it’s stuff like that that really makes viewers feel like they’re part of the episode. The ending song, too, is delightful. A play on Tina’s costume, the Belcher kids decree that their candy-eating habits are “nun” of Dr. Yap’s business. Relatable and fun, it brings back memories of my child self, who deeply resented any adult who tried to tell me what to eat. Also, this episode made me strongly recall my childhood dentist, who said that she wanted to put “caution” tape around gummies in grocery stores. The militant anti-candy dentist plotline may not be original, but it sure is realistic.

When it comes to animation, this episode is pretty well-done. The lighting on the kids is ambient and spooky, and interesting overhead shots are utilized to show the crowds on Ocean Avenue. But for all this episode’s strengths, the plot just doesn’t come together. The joke about Bob’s terrible candy purchase goes essentially nowhere—I was hoping it would come back at the end in some devilishly clever way. Even the Sticky Sugar Bombs aren’t really plot-necessary. And I have no idea where that incinerator came from—what building does it belong to? Who is the incinerator guy? How did the kids know to go there? It’s just so random.

Lastly, the allusion to Zeke and Jimmy Jr.’s “mischief” made me immediately think of Mischief Night, especially because Bob’s Burgers likely takes place in New Jersey, the chief location where that evening of pranks and mirth is celebrated. But the boys perform their tiny acts of rebellion on Halloween itself, rather than on October 30, and it seems like the reference wasn’t necessarily intended.

Score
7.0/10

Bodie Shanis

Bodie is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. You can often find him in odd costumes, either because he's at an anime convention or performing in a musical. He's currently working on his first novel.

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