NOTE: This review may contain some mild spoilers for the fourth season of, “BoJack Horseman.” That said, the review is written to accommodate those who have not yet watched the season, and as such, will avoid discussion of major plot developments.
BoJack Horseman continues to excel as one of Netflix’s best under-the-radar shows at this point, capturing a genuine sense of heart and down-to-earth courage that doesn’t initially seem like it fits with its surreal presentation. The show’s past two seasons have been excellent in pretty much every way, more than making up for the shakier first season, as they both perfectly balance abstract humour with legitimately heartbreaking drama. Thus, BoJack Horseman’s successful seasons are officially no longer a fluke, and that makes each successive season all the more exciting to look forward to now.
Like this year’s new seasons of House of Cards and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt most notably, BoJack Horseman’s fourth season premiered on Netflix a couple of months later than usual, dropping at the start of September, instead of its usual mid-Summer slot in July. Fortunately, that late release does nothing to disturb the show’s outstanding quality, as Season Four of BoJack Horseman remains a huge success, having more big ideas than ever for this show’s established cast. Topping off this extra bold examination of family and relationships in Season Four is a chance to dig deep into BoJack’s own past and family history, complete with his nasty mother, Bea now becoming a core character for the season.
This re-focusing on family provides a very effective way for BoJack Horseman to re-interpret its themes of being stuck in the past in Season Four, with fictional BoJack-starring sitcom, Horsin’ Around now playing a smaller part in the season compared to the prior three. This lessened focus on Horsin’ Around could also be because of one of Season Three’s most shocking final twists, whereupon BoJack’s young former sitcom co-star, Sarah Lynn suddenly died from her drug use, in BoJack’s arms no less. The loss of Sarah Lynn as a failed surrogate daughter to BoJack however also quickly paves the way for a new character named Hollyhock this season, who comes to BoJack’s home after he returns to Los Angeles (inevitably, his ‘absence’ from the end of last season only lasts for a couple of episodes), and announces that she may in fact be his long lost daughter.
Hollyhock is a likable and heartfelt addition to the season, being innocent, determined and full of hope, and basically representing BoJack before he was supposedly ‘ruined’ by Hollywood. The implementation of Hollyhock in the storyline is a very smart way to tie together BoJack’s strained relationship with his elderly mother as well, with Bea immediately confirmed to have dementia when Hollyhock takes BoJack back to her, something that BoJack seemingly refuses to accept. There’s an entire episode, one of the most emotional of the season in fact, that showcases exactly what happened with BoJack’s birth, and how BoJack’s father affected his mother, in turn affecting BoJack and his life choices. As you can imagine, Bea has more dimensions than just being a mean old crone, and the tragedy behind her character echoes through BoJack in a very heart-wrenching way, especially when their family difficulties end up having big consequences for Hollyhock later in the season.
Another big strength in Season Four of BoJack Horseman is how well it continues to parallel the lives of BoJack’s friends and colleagues with his own. In the wake of Season Three, Todd has acknowledged that he’s asexual, Princess Carolyn has settled into a long-term relationship with her mouse boyfriend, and Diane prepares for the long haul of Mr. Peanutbutter running for Governor of California. There’s some standout comedy mined from all of these scenarios, especially as every lead character gets at least one episode to each hold the spotlight to themselves, providing a rich and detailed season that’s full of laughs, tears and heart. As you can expect, each character also stands in a very different place by the end of Season Four to boot, promising more standout story material in a currently unconfirmed, but likely inevitable fifth season for this show.
If there’s any slight downside to Season Four of BoJack Horseman, it’s likely the fact that the season is pretty busy, and there are a few story threads that do end up lost in the shuffle of so many other unfolding events. Not every development with the supporting cast reaches a wholly satisfying conclusion, and there are a few character turns that never feel like they land with any real consequence. BoJack himself seems to avoid this in his own story arc with Bea and Hollyhock, but if you happen to prefer another character on this series, you may or may not get the satisfaction you’re looking for in the latest step on their own life journeys this season. It’s a minor thing when the humour, drama and general storytelling is still quite exceptional throughout the season, but it’s inevitable that the twelve half-hour episodes in this season of BoJack Horseman aren’t going to be able to cover every ongoing character subject at a reasonable length.
Beyond that minor gripe though, Season Four of BoJack Horseman presents another sublime offering for this show, moving away from some of its celebrity commentary to instead take a more intimate look at family and relationships. There’s still some solid celebrity/Hollywood humour in this season nonetheless, most notably with Mr. Peanutbutter’s story arc, but this is very much a season that operates on an extra personal level for BoJack and friends. BoJack’s departure isolating him from the Los Angeles community also presents some interesting new challenges, as each character comes to realize the importance of their connections to each other, namely via having busy affairs and trying emotional hurdles that temporarily drive them apart. Perhaps it’s a way to highlight that not every personal connection in our lives is one that we ask for, but they’re nonetheless a vital part of finding our way in an increasingly confusing world. Either way, BoJack Horseman’s keen human insight continues to elevate it above the competition, even in a show where every other person is an anthropomorphic animal.
- BoJack's family history effectively comes to the fore between Bea and Hollyhock
- Lots of creative, funny and heartfelt subplots for the supporting cast
- Slightly shifted themes provide an effective new emphasis on personal connection
- A few key story developments end up lost in the shuffle