By Chris Shaddock
On Sept. 8, Bojack Horseman returned to Netflix; meaning more animal puns, dark humor and existential nihilism.
This is the fourth season of the animated series about a famous horse actor trying to find happiness and satisfaction in Hollywoo.
Bojack Horseman is about a horse named Bojack (Will Arnett) who was once a famous sit-com actor in the nineties. Twenty years later, he lives as a has-been celebrity that spends his days distracting himself by drinking and complaining. Unsatisfied with his life and having a general loathing for himself, Bojack goes through several attempts to try to seek a sense of happiness; however, this never goes well for Bojack or any of the other characters within the show.
In the newest season, Bojack has essentially given up on happiness and becomes an alcoholic recluse. However, things change as his alleged teenage daughter, Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla), shows up in his life. She wants to meet her biological mother, so, with nothing better to do, Bojack helps Hollyhock in her search. Along the way Bojack is forced to come face-to-face with his family’s awful past when he reconnects with his verbally -abusive mother (Wendie Malick).
Most of Bojack’s arc is carried by his daughter and mother. This is mainly because at this point in the show, Bojack has kind of become a one trick pony. His whole identity is his loathing of everything, and throughout the show he never really develops as a character.
His daughter and mother give the opportunity to breathe new life into him. His daughter is a ray of hope for Bojack as he may find happiness through her. On the other hand, the viewer gets a glimpse of why Bojack and his family are so messed up through his mother.
Additionally, there are other side-plots involving the show’s other main characters.
The show parodies the absurdity of the 2016 election through the happy-go-lucky dog celebrity, Mr. Peanutbutter, (Paul F. Tompkins) as he uses his fame to run for governor of California. This was the best arc within the season as it had the best jokes and some interesting commentary on the power that fame has over people.
During this campaign race, Mr. Peanutbutter’s wife, Diane (Alison Brie) tries to support her husband’s desire to be governor, but truly believes he would be terrible for the job, due to having virtually no experience in the profession. Most of her arc involves trying to balance her marriage with her personal convictions.
Through Bojack’s best friend, Todd (Aaron Paul), the show covers the concept of asexuality. It is something that rarely gets acknowledged within TV shows, let alone seen in a main character. Todd’s arc involves him coming to terms with his sexuality, and what it means to be an asexual. However, as he works on this, he is also trying to get a business venture off the ground in which he has dentists dress up as clowns in order to make kids less scared of going to the dentist.
Seemingly the happiest arc involves Bojack’s catty ex-girlfriend and ex-agent, Princess Caroline (Amy Sedaris). It mostly consists of her trying to have a child with her boyfriend, as well as coping with her job as a celebrity manager. This was probably the most relatable arc of the season, as it focused on people’s obsession with having a family.
As much as these characters try to find happiness, nothing ever goes well for them. In fact, a main theme of this show is that the concept of happiness may not exist. Normally this would be depressing, except the show does a tremendous job mixing in humor within the content. It does this in three ways. The first is through excellent use of puns, which are mostly done subtly in the background. The second is by parodying tropes within movies and real life events. Finally, the third is through the show’s dark humor, which makes light of awful situations.
This season’s humor was as on point as the other three, but it could not really match the show’s bleakness of the world. This was not necessarily a bad thing as the show went into a lot of interesting topics such as gender, politics, familial abuse, mental illness and love. But as a comedy, it leaves people with a frown on their face rather than a smile.
In the end, this season was good. It was just as thought-provoking as it has always been, and it had some great jokes. It was also probably the darkest season so far and, in some ways, it is getting a little frustrating seeing these characters repeatedly get kicked to the ground. Maybe it is time for Bojack Horseman to wrap itself up in the next season and have some sort of resolution