At its core, “BoJack Horseman” is a show about human nature. Sadness, depression, anxiety and how one’s choices affect other people are handled in a way that no other show on television can touch. Continuity has always been a big part of “BoJack” and this season is no exception; but the way time is explored this season is unlike anything in the three previous seasons.
“Time’s arrow neither stands still nor reverses. It merely marches forward.” This line more or less defines the season, as it explores the past (and sometimes distant future) in more than just a few 30-second flashbacks. In fact, the two best episodes of the season, both centering on the life of BoJack’s mother Beatrice, seamlessly blend the past with the present while dealing with incredibly heavy topics—more flooring than anything BoJack has done in the past. It’s dark, but it’s so, so good.
The past three seasons have focused on BoJack working on a project: Season one was the memoir, season two was Secretariat and season three was the Oscar campaign. This season, BoJack must confront Hollyhock, a 17-year-old horse who claims to be BoJack’s daughter, and suddenly, BoJack is thrust into fatherhood, something we as the audience know he’s not equipped to handle.
The season spends its time fleshing out how BoJack deals with this newfound familial responsibility and its impact on both BoJack and Hollyhock. After the cliffhanger ending of season three, this is exactly where the show needed to go—BoJack needed someone whom he is forced to care about and put first, because she isn’t just someone he can afford to make multiple mistakes on; she’s his daughter, and he can’t just abandon her.
Perhaps most impressively, season four gives you a reason to sympathize with characters who, on the surface, are almost irredeemable. One of the most jarring episodes of the season hones in on BoJack’s thought process for his actions, giving the audience a full understanding of depression and anxiety’s nasty effects. The two episodes focusing on Beatrice’s past make the audience understand exactly how she came to be the cold and distant woman we’ve seen.
But it’s not just BoJack this season puts under a microscope. The other members of the supporting cast are treated like the stars of their own show, with episodes focused solely on them with BoJack nowhere in sight. This was the season’s greatest strength and biggest weakness, as it allowed us to explore these characters in the raw without BoJack affecting them, but the multiple different plots made the season as a whole feel somewhat disjointed, which makes it better to watch one or two episodes a day instead of binging it.
But the show reminds you just how spectacular and fleshed out these characters are: Princess Carolyn is learning that she needs to build a life for herself instead of focusing just on her career, and with her new boyfriend Ralph Stilton, she’s on the right path. Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s marriage is further explored, with Mr. Peanutbutter running for governor fueling the tension. (This is the weakest part of the season, not just because Mr. Peanutbutter’s rise in political popularity hits too close to home, but because it still makes you question why Diane even married him in the first place. For lack of a better term, they’re beating a dead horse at this point. The two of them constantly deal with the same issues and can never recognize or admit their flaws to each other in a clear way, which makes it exhausting to watch sometimes.)
But let’s talk about Todd. Todd shines this season, and not just because his clown dentist business is downright hilarious, but because he’s finally independent. BoJack leaving might be the best thing to ever happen to Todd; without BoJack weighing him down, Todd is finally free to explore who he is, and a big part of that is his asexuality. Seriously, I cannot even begin to explain how amazing “BoJack Horseman” portrays asexuality. Everything, from Todd wondering if it’s weird for an asexual to be in a relationship to being uncomfortable about labels, hits the nail on the head.
In the end, the story comes to a surprisingly satisfying conclusion, and without spoiling too much, BoJack and Hollyhock come to an understanding that they don’t need to protect each other; rather, they simply need each other. “BoJack” season four has no true standout episode, but it is truly greater than the sum of its parts, and it takes more than one viewing to fully process everything that happens.
“BoJack” is still a comedy, and this season has its patented visual gags, animal puns, wacky misadventures (CLOWN. DENTISTS.) and quick jokes that make it so great. But the way “BoJack” handles the psychology of the characters in the world they have created is truly how it shines, and season four proves once again that a show about talking animals is the most human thing on television.