The following is a review of the fourth season of BoJack Horseman.
On September 8th, 2017, the entire fourth season of BoJack Horseman was released on Netflix. That same day, I chose to bingewatch the season, and I ended up watching it all in one sitting. At numerous times, I found myself sobbing over the course of the twelve episodes. Why did I do this to myself? Well, because BoJack Horseman has been, and still is, not only one of the saddest shows on television, but also one of the very best shows out there.
Where is BoJack? After the events of the third season, the fourth season begins without its protagonist. No one knows where he is. He doesn’t answer his phone. He’s gone. It turns out that BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett) has gone to Michigan to stay at his mother’s family home (“The Old Sugarman Place”).
Meanwhile, Mr. Peanutbutter (voiced by Paul F. Tompkins), who is running for governor, has challenged the Governor of California, Woodchuck Coodchuck-Berkowitz (voiced by Andre Braugher), to a skiing competition for the job, while Diane Nguyen (voiced by Alison Brie) is working for a hip feminist blog and Todd (voiced by Aaron Paul) has met someone who insists she may be BoJack’s daughter (voiced by Aparna Nancherla).
Originally, this was probably just pitched to Netflix as an animated show about a Bob Saget-like character, if Bob Saget was a sad horseman. It’s a wacky idea, but it worked. It still works, but it has become truly brutal. The third season blew me away, and BoJack Horseman was, as a result, my favorite show of 2016.
And the fourth season pretty much lives up to it. It is a fun show, but this season it felt like they peppered more depressing episodes into the show than they would normally do for a season. Episodes two, six, nine, and, especially, eleven really worked for me, and most of these were either shocking or extremely depressing.
Episode two, “The Old Sugarman Place,” is one of the most important episodes of the season, and it appropriately sets the stage for what kind of season this is. There is a lot of focus on what made BoJack who he is, or, rather, what made his mother treat him like she did.
Episode six, “Stupid Piece of Shit,” gives us an awfully accurate representation of anxiety as we get to hear BoJack’s inner monologue. BoJack beats himself up over his new life, which I won’t spoil, and, at the end of the episode, he lies to someone close to him about how much such anxiety can control and ruin your life in adulthood.
Episode nine, “Ruthie,” tore me apart. Up until that point I had been on the verge of sobbing, but this one was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is a Princess Carolyn-centric episode, and it is an episode that toys with you up until the very final moment of the episode. And then it tears you apart. It absolutely destroyed me. I was devastated.
Finally, episode eleven, “Time’s Arrow,” is the most ambitious episode of this season. Last year, “Fish Out of Water,” was the episode of the third season that everyone was talking about. I promise you, “Time’s Arrow” is this year’s most interesting episode. The episode revolves around a character that suffers from dementia. We see her memories as she’s trying to piece things together. The episode broke me, and it ends with what may actually be the most important change to BoJack’s character.
I probably still prefer the third season, though. Because whereas I do think this season was more brutal and tough to watch, I don’t think the season was as smart when it came to social satire. There is a pretty great quote about how much America loves guns, but, to me, it does feel like this season had more success with impressive tongue twisters than social satire. I don’t think the season’s exploration of celebrities in politics worked as well as it could’ve.
In a time where Rick and Morty is the internet’s favorite show, another adult animated ‘comedy’ keeps on raising the bar. If you haven’t seen BoJack Horseman yet, then go on Netflix and give it a chance. It is extremely depressing and sad, but it’s also probably Netflix’s best show right now.
– Jeffrey Rex