In my first Impressions of a King of the Hill episode, I talked about how there were different types of good episodes for this show. Some were funny, and some were more meaningful. This one, while funny, is in the more meaningful category. Season 3, episode 8 of King of the Hill is focused on the “rite of passage” of hunting.
The episode starts with the opening of deer season, something most of the fathers seem excited about. Hank is oddly hesitant, which is a bit out of character for him. He does mention not being much of a hunter, but given his lack of being able to connect with Bobby, you’d think he would be the first to be excited about doing something in this vein. It’s slowly revealed that Hank is worried about being alone with his son for that long and being forced to connect with him. Hank puts off getting a hunting license for so long that it turns out he is unable to and thus unable to take Bobby hunting.
Hank thinks it is no big deal, but it becomes increasingly apparent that Bobby is taking the missing of this rite of passage rather hard, and Hank decides on a plan B. He finds a place that provides lodging, licenses, and everything you need to hunt and signs the two up. When they get there, the two are first impressed by the surroundings. However, when it is time for Bobby to get to it, a feeder turns on, the deer walk up, and they realize they don’t even have to whisper because the deer are so tame. Bobby is unable to take the shot, feeling it isn’t right, to which Hank agrees.
The two are driving home, and Hank feels guilty that he is the reason his son missed out on this step to manhood and decides to let him drive the truck. There is a hilarious scene with moving the bench seat so far up Hank can barely fit
– this mostly stood out to me because, yeah… literally every time, my dad would let me drive his old truck with a bench seat lol –
and they are off. Bobby is doing fine until a deer runs out, and Bobby kills it. Hank loads up the deer, and they take it home, allowing Bobby to bask in the same glow as all the other kids, having killed a deer on his first hunt.
This episode is pretty awesome because it shows a lot of truths about both Bobby and Hank. Bobby, despite what his father considers his “weird” behaviors, does have some appreciation for the traditional things that people in Texas would like. He may be strange and not boyish enough for Hank in many ways, but he knows enough to understand that this is something that they do in this area. It is actually Hank that is a little out of touch in this case, and it’s not the last time that will be true, although rare. Not only that, but there is an admission on Hank’s part, even if he isn’t fully aware of it, that the issues with him and Bobby and the failure to connect are partially his fault. Bobby is the one wanting to connect with his father in what he sees as a traditional rite of passage that his father will enjoy; Hank is the one that ultimately screws it up. Hank has to admit it’s all his fault, just in his usual not fully self-aware way.
I also like the message about hunting. Some readers might not appreciate this, but I am not actually against hunting… well, at least not entirely. Herds do need to be thinned (google overpopulation of deer in Texas before you get mad at me), and as long as it is done in a controlled and sporting way, I have no issue with it. Deer farms like Hank and Bobby went to aren’t harming the wild populations as they tend to breed their own, but they also aren’t helping either. It is also not hunting, it’s target practice. Bobby and Hank realizing there is nothing sporting about it, and stepping away is a good moment.
– Before anyone gets mad, I am not saying all deer farms are like that, they aren’t, many are still challenging and actually good things. But there are a lot of ways to make “hunting” less of a sport and more of “here shoot this thing so you can feel good about yourself,” and that’s all I will say about that –
What I felt was a missed opportunity, though, is Hank telling Bobby that it’s not the worst thing that he got to hold onto his childhood for an extra year before deciding to let him drive the truck. Or even telling him that he did go through his own rite of passage and was successful. I get the truck scene was what we were building towards, but there was a misstep, I think. Bobby deciding not to shoot the deer is, in fact, a step towards growing up. He realized that it wasn’t right, and instead of focusing on “I have to shoot a deer for this step in my growth,” he decided to step away. That is maturity. That is growing up. That is becoming an adult, or specifically, in this case, “a man.”
I would compare it to Gravity Falls “Dipper vs. Manliness,” where Dipper chooses not to follow through on a rite of passage to manhood because he thinks it is wrong, and his uncle tells him that doing what he felt was right, even when other people were pressuring him to do something else, is a sign of being a man.
Again I realize that King of the Hill was building towards the driving the truck scene, so Hank saying that not taking the shot was a sign of manhood, then saying he would help Bobby on that path in a different way might have felt a little awkward, but I felt it was a missed opportunity. However, a missed opportunity in an episode that I still felt had a good message overall and was well done.
So bottom line? This is one of the better “Hank and Bobby” episodes. Their relationship through the series has a lot of moments like this, some of them I appreciated more than others. I liked that this one put more pressure on Hank to do the work because sometimes I think the show is a little too hard on Bobby. I liked the message, and I thought it was great that Bobby chose to step away from shooting the deer. The truck scene and ending were also pretty top-notch. If you are watching some of the series, I would make sure not to miss this one.