Mild spoilers for Season 4 of Bojack Horseman(definitely watch the trailer first).
Bojack Horseman has been a great show for a while now. Its vicious, honest depiction of depression, existentialism and the human condition, juxtaposed with inventive visual puns and a world of talking animals, make for a compelling and unique viewing experience; a beautiful balance between moronic and poetic. But season 4 of the Netflix animated series is going to stay with me for a long time. There are glimmers of hope as usual, but it delves into the messy psyches of Bojack and his supporting cast like never before, in riveting, touching, and at times, genuinely horrifying ways.
This season plays with time in very interesting ways; there are time jumps in various episodes, mostly used for hilarious ends, and while the show has never shied away from using flashbacks, they come to the forefront this year, investigating the tragic history of the Horseman family. It’s also a very introspective year for our beloved Hollywood residents; there’s a loose season arc, but the focus is on giving every major character a bigger spotlight in shorter bursts, allowing for some of the deepest exploration of the motivations and regrets that drive each person yet.
“delves into the messy psyches of Bojack and his supporting cast like never before”
Probably the goofiest and most lovable character on the show, Todd Chavez gets into all his usual surreal and amusing scrapes. But there’s also intimate attention given to his independence and his newly-realised asexuality; it’s great to see some honest and interesting representation of the ace community in television. Princess Carolyn is a woman finally trying to add a family to her life, and her journey this season as she re-evaluates her priorities is, in true Bojack style, heart-breaking. Diane continues to fight the materialistic and misogynist world around her in her new role as a writer for BuzzFeed knock-off Girl Croosh, and the show’s continued biting satire of American patriarchy provides some of the best laughs. Mr Peanutbutter’s foray into politics is predictably funny (with a wonderfully deadpan turn from Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Andre Braugher as his rival Woodchuck Couldchuck-Berkowitz), and the show continues to unabashedly portray his fractured marriage with Diane. Cameos from Jessica Biel, Zach Braff and RuPaul, among others, add hilarious nuggets of the pop culture parody which the show does so well.
“Season 4 deliverS some of the darkest, most powerful pieces of drama”
Finally, our lead, Bojack Horseman, who’s story revolves around family, old and new. His mother, Beatrice, and previously undiscovered daughter, Hollyhock, help to delve into Bojack’s depression, anxiety, and luckless desire to become a better person in raw and disturbing manner. Will Arnett continues to excel at delivering tragically moving monologues, both inside and outside Bojack’s head. There is one episode in this season that moved me to tears, left me in stunned silence for minutes afterwards, and is still haunting and horrifying me as I write – the show has always been hard-hitting, but it hits a new level of brutality this time round. To be honest it’s the reason I did this review, a truly painful and mesmerising episode of television. It’s an incredible testament to Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s creation that an animated comedy about brightly coloured humanoid animals delivers some of the darkest, most powerful pieces of drama I’ve seen all year.
Many shows tiptoe round the issues of mental illness and how sometimes, things just don’t get better. People with depression, or asexuals, or anyone suffering in our discriminative society rarely get the representation they deserve. But Bojack Horseman continues to tackle life’s darker problems with a refreshing frankness, and this kind of honesty is so important to see on television. Season 4 has the show looking inwards at its core characters to produce its best work yet, a collection of hilarious, unsettling, and important moments of raw humanity. Who knew a cartoon anthropomorphic horse could be so real?