Netflix’s BoJack Horseman returns for a fantastic, nihilistic 4th season
I didn’t get on the BoJack Horseman bandwagon until last summer just before the series’ third season. I never binge watch anything but caught up in about a week. Now it only took me two days to devour Season 4, which just dropped on Netflix this weekend.
The new season not only reminded me why this weird animated series about an anthropomorphized talking horse who formerly starred in a 90’s sitcom continues to be one of the best — and deepest — shows on television or streaming, but also how criminally absent it is in conversations about best shows.
I’m apparently not alone because a recent piece in Nerdist asked the same question I’m wondering: Why don’t we talk about BoJack Horseman more? This is a show that can go from some of the funniest and strangest random jokes one minute to breaking your heart the next with poignant examinations of clinical depression and coping with failed expectations. But don’t let that scare you. It’s super funny and entertaining! I swear!
The writers of BoJack Horseman know nothing generates pathos quite like ruminating on our dual senses of mortality and loneliness. The titular protagonist is pathologically incapable of escaping the demons of his past. And both he and kindred spirit Diane Nguyen share bouts of trying to escape their lives for unhealthy periods of time. This season explores that feeling spectacularly in an episode titled, “Stupid Piece of Sh*t.”
Season 4 begins by catching the audience up on the lives of those BoJack left behind after fleeing Hollywoo (The D in the Hollywood sign was destroyed in Season 1) in the aftermath of the tragic death of last season. And though Kristen Schaal only returns for a few fleeting lines of dialogue in reruns of “Horsin’ Around,” Sarah Lynn’s lasting impact on BoJack is constantly felt as the season presents him with an opportunity for a possible second chance. And Sarah Lynn’s image now appears in the opening titles, haunting BoJack along with other past victims swept up in the wave of his self-destruction.
Mr. Peanut Butter spends much of the season running for governor of California against Governor Chuck Woodchuck Coodchuck-Berkowitz, voiced by a brilliantly deadpan Andre Braugher of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The campaign strains Mr. Peanutbutter’s marriage with Diane and brings back into his life both of his ex-wives, Katrina and actress Jessica Biel (playing herself and being a super good sport about all the jokes at her expense). Diane also struggles to fit in as a blogger at GirlCroosh.
Todd Chavez takes his next steps in coming to terms with his newfound asexual identity, making him almost certainly the best — if not the only — asexual representation in the media today.
And Princess Carolyn is trying to make it work as a manager now that she’s no longer an agent. The difference — as she repeatedly makes clear to the other characters and the audience — is a manager also produces…which mostly just entails shouting out the names of random celebrities who could hypothetically star in a project. She also takes major steps towards trying to start a family.
Almost all the extraordinary voice talent is back. Will Arnett continues to be the soul of the show, embodying the broken BoJack. Paul F. Tompkins is an even bigger standout this season, which opens with a flashback revealing how Mr. Peanutbutter found his success by literally walking in off the street a complete unknown and accidentally grabbing an audience’s affection through his two most identifiable traits, his good-natured likability paired with total cluelessness.
As always, Alison Brie’s Diane gets some of the more heartbreaking moments, and her revelation at the end of the season could very easily make you cry. Fortunately, Aaron Paul is always reliable in bringing laughs as Todd jumps from one off-the-wall adventure to another, be it “drone thrones” or “dentist clowns.”
As Princess Carolyn, Amy Sedaris continues to be the master of the tongue-twister, constantly rattling off pitches like, “Courtly roles, like the formerly portly consort, are Courtney Portnoy’s forte.” Perhaps even tougher, Sedaris portrays a character who is, in one moment, a no-nonsense power player in Hollywoo, and in another, a woman who’s had possibly the worst day of her life.
Then there’s the usual stable (eh, see what I did there?) of characters that populate Hollywoo. Returning is my favorite, Tom Grumbo-Jumbo, Keith Olbermann essentially playing an aquatic version of himself. Besides the aforementioned Biel and Braugher, this season boasts an impressive list of voice talents that includes: Lake Bell, Felicity Huffman, Zach Braff, Tim Gunn, Harvey Firestein, Paul Giamatti, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Matthew Broderick, Keith David, Martin Short, Kristen Bell, Rami Malek, and RuPaul.
With each season, BoJack Horseman presents numerous chances for its characters to find some semblance of happiness in their lives if only they could get out of their own way and stop making self-destructive choices. But the writers wisely understand that, in real life, that’s much harder than it sounds. The residents of Hollywoo will take one step forward and then backslide into their old self-sabotaging patterns. We saw BoJack hit rock bottom last season. With Season 4, he’s offered hope of some redemption if only he’s able to see it.
Favorite lines from the season:
- “I can’t defile the legacy of my predecessors, who built the Golden Gate Bridge, irrigated the Central Valley, and played Mr. Freeze in a Batman movie.”
- BoJack: “Well, call me a Kit Kat bar because I’m already broken.”
Eddie: “Kit Kats aren’t already broken. That’s the whole point.”
- ”Seeing my mom is like a Terrence Malick movie. Every 10 yrs or so is bearable but more than that & it starts to get annoying.”
- On Honeydew:
“It is literally the worst part of everything it’s in. It’s like the Jared Leto of fruits”
- Season 4 continues the ongoing, oddly specific, accidental similarities between this show and You’re the Worst when Season 4 opens with the rest of the characters moving on without the male lead, who ran away from his former life at the end of the previous season and is ignoring his many cell phone messages.
- The thought of new legislation allowing an election to be decided via a ski race sounds only slightly more reasonable than our Electoral College system.
- The season was shockingly lacking in character actress Margo Martindale, who’s been a staple of the show since Season 1.
- I really hate how fast Netflix automatically takes viewers to the next episode now because I absolutely love the show’s outro song by Grouplove: