On Sept 8, Netflix released the highly anticipated fourth season of the critically acclaimed comedy “BoJack Horseman.” Set in Hollywoo, California (if you’ve seen the show you get the typo), BoJack Horseman is an adult comedy where anthropomorphic animals live alongside humans. The show’s protagonist, BoJack Horseman, struggles with being a celebrity who has fallen out of the spotlight since his sitcom went off the air in the ‘90s. On the surface, the show seems absurd and dark, but the reality behind the extraordinary escapades of BoJack and his pals reveal to the viewer a deeper understanding about mental health, redemption and interpersonal issues between family and friends.
Season Four opens with BoJack on hiatus from California after a failed Oscar campaign, while his friends work to help fellow former sitcom actor and Golden Retriever, Mr. Peanutbutter, run for the governorship of California. During the race, Mr. Peanutbutter’s political campaign quickly opens up as a parody of the 2016 presidential election. Even though Mr. Peanutbutter has no qualifications for political office, his ex-wife and his own insatiable need for love and attention coerce him into running for office. The side story serves as a political commentary against politicians who will say anything in order to get elected, and also acts as a lens through which the viewer learns that sometimes making everybody happy isn’t always as important as making the right people (or person) happy.
Due to the fact that BoJack does not appear in the opening episode, one can say that this season is more about the emotional progression of BoJack’s friends rather than BoJack himself. One character that grows immensely as a person throughout season four is Todd, a simple but ingenious man who crashes on BoJack’s couch from time to time.
While romance has long been a focal point of the show, Todd’s romantic side finally develops as he learns more and more about his asexuality. Through going to meetings and diversifying his friend group, Todd learns about the asexual community and what it means to be asexual. Season four shows the always happy and helpful Todd focusing more on himself rather than the shenanigans of the celebrities around him, and his story fittingly gives a voice to a community that is underrepresented in the entertainment industry.
Though heartwarming in a “good for him” type of way, Todd’s romantic growth is occasionally overshadowed by the romantic struggles of both Princess Carolyn and Diane Nguyen.
Ghostwriter, blogger, and occasional tweeter, Diane is married to Mr. Peanutbutter and continues to struggle with her feelings toward her husband. Constantly at grips with her own desire for attention and her internal self-loathing, Diane remains supportive throughout her husband’s campaign. However, conflict ensues when Mr. Peanutbutter’s political agenda goes against many of Diane’s moral beliefs, forcing her to decide if her career as a feminist blogger is more important than her husband’s success.
Formerly BoJack’s lover, agent and emotional confidant, Princess Carolyn has ditched BoJack in season four and is in a committed relationship with a mouse whose family owns a chain of hotels called Ralph Stilton. Ralph is the perfect boyfriend: caring, affectionate, supportive and generous. But of course, complications with Ralph’s family begin to frighten Princess Carolyn when the surface level differences between cat and mouse eventually come into play. Ultimately, Princess Carolyn’s tension with Ralph’s family adds to the main focus of the season: family trauma.
BoJack’s search for happiness and redemption leads him on a journey of self-discovery that explores his mother’s traumatic past as well as introduces him to a 17-year-old horse claiming to be his daughter named Hollyhock.
Both Hollyhock and BoJack’s mother, Beatrice, serve as focal points in BoJack’s story arch in a profound way. Beatrice, who is battling dementia, constantly revisits her troubled past which helps bring new insight into why she was so cruel to BoJack when he was a child. (It’s also easy to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the cynicism tree).
Meanwhile, Hollyhock’s arrival throws a curveball for BoJack who is unsure if he is emotionally stable enough to be a parent in light of his drunken antics and the way his mother treated him. The three characters combine to take a heart-wrenchingly honest look at a dysfunctional family and show that while we cannot escape the ramifications of the past, we can do our best to make peace in the present.
Filled with existential humor, intrinsic dialogue and detailed animation, season four of BoJack Horseman is quite possibly the best season yet as it proves that valuable life lessons really can be learned from watching TV. As Princess Carolyn said, “Life is a lot like the second season of ‘Friday Night Lights.’ You gotta push through and hope there’s better stuff ahead.”
Andrew Heller is a fifth-year student majoring in English. He can be reached at AH804286@wcupa.edu.