Fresh Off the Boat
For a family doing their best to assimilate to American culture without losing a sense of where they came from, traditionally American holidays like Halloween can be fraught. The Huangs have managed to do their best throughout the course of the show to hang onto their heritage while putting on their game faces and diving into the pageantry of American holidays. Most Halloween episodes of any television show are one-offs, and so nothing really trucks the plot forward here.
Even though this episode kept it light, Fresh Off the Boat always manages to slip a little something extra in under the radar. Halloween is a holiday dedicated to trickery, the one day when any kid or extremely enthusiastic adult can shed their skin for one night, put on a mask, and pretend to be someone else. Is this a larger metaphor for the immigrant experience? Maybe. Or is it just an opportunity for the writers to put Randall Park in a Mr. T wig and dress Hudson Yang up as Humpty Hump? We’ll never know, but whatever it was, it worked out pretty nicely.
Halloween has descended upon Orlando, and the Huang fam is doing their best to join in. Louis’s boundless enthusiasm for corny-dad stuff is extremely endearing. He’s so jazzed about Halloween that it seems infectious, but I admire Jessica’s steely-eyed resistance to this terrible holiday. She rejects the Mrs. T bow-hawk wig he purchased to accompany his frankly insane Mr. T getup because she has more pressing matters. The investment property that she finally fixed up is ready to go on the market, but a sullen group of teen boys are threatening to egg her shiny new property because that’s what you do when it’s Halloween and you’re bored and you live in suburban Orlando.
The other issue at hand: The Huangs live on a dead street. It’s a cul-de-sac in a lower-middle-class neighborhood two blocks down from a street full of Disney Imagineers who treat Halloween like their Super Bowl. Kids don’t trick-or-treat there because the entire neighborhood mobilizes and heads for higher ground. When Louis delivers an impassioned speech at the Homeowners Association meeting, capped off by a quote from Field of Dreams, the most underrated Halloween movie of all time, the neighborhood mobilizes.
Louis’s speech, set to stirring, tear-inducing music, actually resonates a little beyond the surface sitcom joke. “Halloween is about the one day when you can lose yourself and create a new identity,” he says, to an easily moved group of white women. He’s right. Halloween is dumb for many reasons — scary movies, indigestion, racist costumes — but it holds special significance to families who don’t look like everyone else. You can be whoever you want to be, and it’s fine because it’s Halloween and you’re riding the train to a smelly bar next to a dude playing Candy Crush dressed as Zombie Donald Trump. No one cares if you’re different because everyone is different that night.
Because this is clearly the most important part of any Halloween episode on any television show, here is what the Huang family was for Halloween: Louis was a fairly comprehensive Mr. T. Grandma was Garfield. Eddie was Humpty Hump, complete with nose and glasses. And, my two sweet angels Evan and Emery were Hannibal Lecter and a lamb, respectively. They strapped Emery to a dolly and put a mini–Hannibal Lecter mask on him. This show gives too much sometimes, it really does.
The Huangs’ grassroots effort to save Halloween on their block works. While Louis gleefully hands out candy to the hordes of trick-or-treaters descending upon their cul-de-sac, Jessica arms herself with a lacrosse stick and a garden hose, ready to defend her investment. Louis realizes that Halloween is also about mayhem, and throws his kids, Grandma, and Eddie’s friends into the van to help Jessica stand her ground.
The teen boys roll through, dressed in their finest Reservoir Dogs drag, and they’re definitely not scared of Jessica and a lacrosse stick. What they are scared of, however, is the thing that scares teenage boys and a large swath of adults as well: teenage girls. Nicole and her gang of zombie Catholic schoolgirls sling some inspired insults — Tampons! Scrotes! Panty stains! ‘Ginas! — and send the teenage Tarantino LARPers scampering. Eddie gets his candy, Louis saves the family, and Jessica concedes to the insidious tentacles of this holiday in her own special way. Everybody wins.
+487 for Jessica’s immediate, no-fucks-given reaction to the teen boys’ drawing a penis on the hood of her car: ripping off her belt, then threatening to throw her shoe, spray them in the face with Mace, and then, finally, the old Tic-Tac assault.
+50 for the Halloween-in-D.C. flashbacks, which include a Chinese grandma stealing Eddie’s plastic pumpkin and planting aloe vera in it, and an Asian member of the KISS army raining candy on Louis and Jessica’s head.
+50 for one of Eddie’s friends thinking Jessica’s costume is a ninja because she’s wearing all black.
+300 for Jessica’s comment about Honey’s sad, sexy Miss Piggy costume: “Pigs don’t date, they feed a crowd at a reasonable price.”