Throughout its decade-long run, the Bob’s Burgers universe has become widely expansive. With the beloved Fox animated sitcom now in at (Danny Pudi voice) thirteen seasons and a movie, we have met most relatives under the Belcher family tree—all but Bob’s mother, Lily Belcher. Throughout the series, it’s been revealed in fleeting moments that Bob’s mom Lily is deceased. The show hardly explored how it affected Bob and his relationship with his family. This year, though, all of that changed.
Season 12 episode “Interview With a Pop-Pop-pire,” The Bob’s Burgers Movie, and the Season 13 episode “Show Mama from the Grave,” all released this year, explore Bob’s loss of his mom and how he slowly opens up about her memory to his family. As someone who has recently experienced loss with the passing of my father, with whom I was close, Bob’s Burgers’ contextualization of grief in 2022 held a layer of poignancy and maturity that personally spoke to me.
In “Interview With a Pop-Pop-pire,” Tina interviews Bob’s dad Big Bob for a school assignment and asks him what moment in his life shaped him. While they wait for his arrival, Gene, Louise, and Linda take turns making wildly imaginative versions of a specific tree incident little Bob was vaguely told about all the time. Bob is frustrated by his old man’s lack of detail, and he and Big Bob start arguing about it. Bickering is one of the series’s strongest comedic suits, but the raw emotion with which Bob and his father argue not only highlights their rickety relationship, but also resembles reality. The effect grief has on surviving family members, especially an estranged parent and child, can further the distance between them. Every time Big Bob is mentioned or seen through Bob, he isn’t portrayed in the highest of regards due to his tough exterior and masculinity, contrasting Bob’s patience. At this point, it’s transparent how Bob’s perception of his dad has shifted since he hasn’t been as emotionally vocal as Bob is. Tina breaks them up and professionally interrogates her grandfather to further glean the details of the incident.
Big Bob recounts that he and his girlfriend Lily were camping and when she went to use the bathroom, a tree fell on their tent. As he crawled out of the tent, Big Bob started reflecting on how much Lily meant to him and realized she was the person he was going to marry. Bob is shocked to hear this because he wasn’t aware of his mom’s presence in the incident. Big Bob tells him he wants to begin sharing more stories about her and reveals that he omits her details so he won’t see his son get sad. Bob tells him, “It wouldn’t have. I mean, maybe a little. But in a good way, because we’ll be talking about her. And I could be a little better at asking you things.” Bob hasn’t been the best Belcher to express his feelings outside of deadpan groans and internalized frustrations, but this character moment, opening up to his dad about his mother’s memory, marks progress in his relationship with his surviving parent, one many would strive to have.
For years, it was teased that The Bob’s Burgers Movie would finally reveal the origin of Louise’s iconic bunny-eared hat. In The Bob’s Burgers Movie, Louise has an existential crisis over her bunny ears, which she’s had since pre-school and blames for not being taken seriously. After a kid calls her a baby, she spends the film trying to prove her bravery. In the all-is-lost beat of the film—where the Belchers are stuck in a sinkhole, in an enclosed bumper car, losing oxygen—Louise opens up to her family. She expresses how she feels about her ears, thinking that she got the ears because she was scared about going to the first day of pre-school and it was to boost her confidence.
Linda tells Louise that she made the hat after her first day of preschool, but because of her bravery, and Bob explains that Linda made the hat in honor of Lily. In a brief flashback, young Bob is holding his mother’s hand through a park and looking up at her. He describes how “she used to wear a brightly-colored winter hat,” and the hat was of the same color as Louise’s. He shares with his daughter that Lily wore the hat all the time, even in warm weather, because she didn’t feel like doing her hair. “You remind me of my mom, Louise. And with the hat, it’s kinda like you two have met. I keep forgetting that you never did,” Bob tells Louise.
This snapshot memory of his mom, the first time she’s ever had a physical appearance in Bob’s Burgers canon, is of radiance and beauty, contextualizing how highly he thought of her. The flashback’s dreamlike lighting in the foreground captures the intimacy of a treasured memory. The refreshing bittersweetness of this long-awaited fan service shows how strong the spirit of Bob’s mom is, especially when was time for him to have kids of his own. Despite his mom and the kids not coexisting together, Bob keeping her legacy alive through her iconography (such as the bunny ears) speaks wonders as to how his love has transcended time.
In the most recent episode of Season 13, “Show Mama From the Grave,” Bob takes his kids to his mother’s grave at the Redburn Cemetery. Though he hasn’t visited her since before any of his kids were born, Bob sees it as the perfect opportunity for his Belcher babies to meet their grandmother. Linda, meanwhile, stays in the car due to her fear of cemeteries. Bob and the kids go in but are unable to find the grave. Come nightfall with no headstone in sight, in typical Bob fashion, he depressingly thinks of himself as a bad son for being lost and not visiting for a long time. In a surprising turn of events, Linda goes into the cemetery and finds Lily’s grave with ease. When the Belchers reunite, Bob finally gets to introduce his kids to his mom. Bob, still broken, is calmed by his wife, who tells him that his mom would want him to live his life and would be proud of him for becoming the responsible, loving father he is today.
In 2022, Bob’s Burgers beautifully showed the importance of mourning a loved one by illuminating the legacy of Lily Belcher. Revealing her face, her name, and anecdotes about her personality in those emotionally bittersweet moments added an authentic layer of reality to this sweet animated show. Mourning a loved one is one of the most difficult things one can go through—take it from me. The relationships you share with others shift, and you can emotionally be closed off with others and yourself in ways that you can’t describe. In the case of Bob over the span of 12 seasons, it shows heavily. But through those episodes and the movie, the loving relationship that is finally addressed is one of the most authentic portrayals of losing a loved one I’ve seen in quite some time. I hope the series continues to further explore Bob’s grieving process and desire to keep his mom’s spirit alive, but as of now, we finally have a reason why Lily’s face is so meaningful to the Belcher family tree.
Rendy Jones is a film and television journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics Choice Association, and a film graduate of Brooklyn College. They have been featured in Vulture, The Daily Beast, AV Club and CBC News.