KING OF THE HILL Season 13: The End of an Era

by Elizabeth Stoddard

By the end of its run, King of the Hill had fleshed out the supporting cast of characters as much as the Hill family. King of the Hill season 13 (like season 12 which I wrote about last month) stretches focus beyond the Hills, including a number of episodes focused on the trials and tribulations of other Arlen townspeople. Such a storytelling decision offers the viewer an opportunity to say farewell to the wide range of characters Mike Judge and crew introduced over the span of the show.

Storylines in this season feature Bill (voiced by Stephen Root) joining a murderball team, Hank’s boss Mr. Strickland attempting to go “green,” Strickland Propane making a failed attempt at early social media, and Dale (Johnny Hardwick) checking himself into a mental health facility when he can’t talk to Joseph about the birds and the bees. Cotton even gets to mess with son Hank from beyond the grave by assigning him ridiculous tasks in his version of a will.

The MySpace-themed episode is already dated, but the themes of “Square-Footed Monster” still hit. Kahn’s associate Ted Wassanasong purchases a lot in the Hills’ neighborhood and builds a tacky McMansion which the neighbors detest. King of the Hill was always excellent at tackling small-town bureaucracy, and this episode is no exception.

This season also takes on themes of motherhood. In one of the standout episodes, “Nancy Does Dallas,” Ms. Hicks-Gribble (Ashley Gardner) moves up to a bigger news affiliate in Dallas. As she aspires to conquer, Dale and Joseph begin to fall apart without her there to hold them in check. In a later episode, Luanne (Brittany Murphy) has her own motherhood issues (she has her baby early in this last season), becoming regionally famous for her Manger Babies while Lucky (Tom Petty) stays home with the baby. Hank’s mom (guest voice Beth Grant) and her new husband splurge on an RV in “The Honeymooners.”

These episodes appear to veer in an almost anti-feminist direction before they throw in unexpected twists: Nancy and Dale need each other equally to balance out their tendencies, Luanne can work with her puppets but can’t ignore her daughter, and Tilly appreciates her son, but doesn’t need him to watch out for her as much as he thinks.

The quality of the 13th season fluctuates, but the series finale is pretty much perfect. The episodes when Hank realizes Bobby’s hidden depths are definitely some of my favorites (such as “Chasing Bobby” and “A Rover Runs Through It”). “To Sirloin With Love” has Bobby showing off his mad beef inspection skillz, which of course impresses the heck out of Hank.

Watching Hank and Bobby grill together for their neighbors and dear friends in the last moments of the show got me choked up, even on this second viewing. It’s a fitting coda to the long-running animated comedy about small-town Texas.

The Package

No special features on this DVD set, just the last 24 episodes of this series.

King of the Hill season 13 is available on DVD from Olive Films.

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