For a show set in Hollywood (or Hollywoo if you prefer) where half the cast is anthropomorphist animals Bojack Horseman is probably one of the most hard-hitting dramas on television, and the fourth series is no exception.
It has been a year since Bojack ran away from Hollywoo after Sarah Lynn’s death. Since he has been gone Mr. Peanutbutter has been convinced to run for the Governorship of California, Diane has taken a job at a feminist blog, and Princess Carolyn has decided she wants a baby before it’s too late. When Bojack returns to Hollywoo, he finds a 17-year-old horse girl – Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla) – claiming to be his daughter and wants to know who her biological mother is.
When it comes to comedy shows that can give audiences a gut punch Bojack Horseman is high up there. It is a show that has a nuanced look at psychological conditions like depression and can rival Rick and Morty for nihilistic philosophy. Throughout the show’s run characters have been shown how they became so messed up. The strongest arch in the fourth series was Beatrice’s, Bojack’s mother, backstory. Before Season Four, Beatrice has been shown to be a soul-sucking succubus who sets out to crush her son’s spirit. She was one of the vilest characters in Bojack Horseman – until now.
Beatrice was given two brilliant episodes that looked at her life, “The Old Sugarman Place” and “Time Arrow.” These are two incredibly powerful and dramatic episodes. Beatrice is the product of her upbringing, just like Bojack – she had a father who’s views would have even been considered chauvinistic in the ’40s and ’50s, and her mother succumbed to depression after the loss of Beatrice’s brother. Beatrice was clearly an intelligent woman, getting a university degree, against her father’s wishes and developed a left-wing outlook despite her privileged background.
When Beatrice is introduced as an adult in the fourth season, she’s suffering from dementia and speaking about random things including about a baby – calling Bojack ‘Henrietta.’ It’s all explained in “Time Arrow” to devastating effect.
Both of Bojack’s parents had big dreams and Bojack’s ruined them. Bojack’s father, Butterscotch, dreamed that he would write the next great American novel and wanted to continue a salt-of-the-Earth lifestyle – believing an office job would ruin his creativity and the message of his ‘novel’. They project all their bitterness of their failures and failed marriage on Bojack. When another woman has a similar dilemma to Beatrice, the former socialite offers support in her own unique way because Beatrice doesn’t want the woman to make the same mistakes.
Princess Carolyn also has a heavy storyline because she wants a baby because her biological clock is ticking. She’s finally with a caring man and finally has time off, but she is drawn to the showbiz because she is good at making deals and feels both the extreme highs and lows. Princess Carolyn had an emotionally heavy episode with “Ruthie” which had a slight similarity to the How I Met Your Mother episode “Symphony of Illumination.” The final three episode has Princess Carolyn fall into her own pit of depression.
The fourth season was not all hard-hitting stories about real life issues – there was still plenty of comedy. Mr. Peanutbutter’s run was a thinly veiled parody of the Trump Presidential campaign where a dangerously unqualified man runs for political office. To Mr. Peanutbutter the governor race is a popularity contest – something to give him validation. He starts his campaign by challenging the governor to a ski race, and his campaign manager/ex-wife was able to amend the Californian constitution to make this challenge possible. It was an overt satire to how powerful lobbying and pork barrelling are in American politics. Governor Woodchuck (Keith David) is a serious and competent public servant fighting against an unrealistic populist movement, a bit like Ray Patterson against Homer in The Simpsons episode “Trash of the Titans.” The political story is also a commentary on California’s history of electing actors as governors with Mr. Peanutbutter being a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger – an empty shell of a politician with few ideas of his own.
Jessica Biel also returns to the series and is given a slightly expanded role. She was hilarious as a crazy version of herself – she is actually psychopathic and ends up being a Trump-like figure in the middle of the series. Her greatest moment was starting the reign of fire.
There was also a political plotline in the episode “Thoughts and Prayers” combining the hot topics of American gun rights/ownership and feminism. Its commentary about these issues and how men would react is both hilarious and biting.
Todd’s also provides a lot of laughs with his well-meaning stupidity. He finally gets his own episode showing how he haphazardly helps everyone around him and through sheer luck does it. He also has another crazy business scheme, egged on by Mr. Peanutbutter, combining dentists and clowns.
Season Four of Bojack Horseman continues the show’s status as one of the best adult animated shows around, being hilarious, giving audience character development and offering some social and political commentary. But most importantly the season is absolutely devastating.