Photo from thenewestrant.com
By Charles Scott
For the past few years, animated adult comedies have faced a substantial change. An industry once dominated by offensive juvenility has made way for shows which explore emotion and philosophy in interesting ways. “Bojack Horseman,” an animated Netflix exclusive series created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, is possibly the strongest example of this trend.
For those who do not know, “Bojack Horseman” is about the title character, an anthropomorphic horse who used to be in a famous 90s sitcom. It ventures into his darkly humorous and genuinely depressing ordeals long after his show is over. It is a series which handles themes most mainstream live-action shows are terrified to touch and does it with grace and dark humor. “Bojack Horseman”’s most recent season continues to tackle sensitive themes from a nuanced and personal angle.
This fourth season’s story is likely its best element, as the storylines tend to be “Bojack Horseman”’s strong suit. The title character’s arc is very much the core of the story. This season, Bojack deals with identifying the mother of another anthropomorphic horse named Holly Hoc, who believes Bojack may be her biological father. At the same time, Bojack discovers that his abusive mother has dementia and cannot remember him. All this weaves a complex tapestry of themes, mostly relating to inherited trauma, depression and the arrow of time. This arc ends with a more hopeful tone than any other season, with Bojack making a profound revelation.
Bojack mostly remains extracted from the equally-interesting dealings of other characters, which tend to interweave in novel ways. Bojack’s human ex-roommate Todd has some funny moments as the couch-surfing bonafide hero he has become, but also comes to terms with being asexual. Canine ex-actor and Bojack-foil Mr. Peanutbutter runs for governor of California, bringing some hijinks and political commentary. The more serious side of this arc involves some marital strife with Diane Nguyen, a human journalist and cynic. Last but not least, the feline Hollywoo agent Princess Carolyn balances concerns about her fading fertility with the stresses of her work.
These stories are really the strength of the show and have some fantastic and emotional moments. Especially intense episodes include one which dissects Bojack’s depression from his point of view. Another notable one is one which explores the impact of dementia on Bojack’s mother. This season’s second episode also does some interesting things with time, creating anxiety-inducing scenes where the tragedies of the past and the tragedies of the present play at the same time.
All said, this show is still profoundly funny and often strikes hard with its satire. Gags include a band of clown-dentists and dentist-clowns, a few uses of absurd wordplay and tongue-twisting and an episode which mostly takes place underground.
Like the previous three seasons of Bojack, the score is serviceable and occasionally powerful. This season does do some fun tricks with its score, subverting viewer expectations. Season 4 also has some carefully chosen and effective vocal music in both its second episode and its final episode.
Aesthetically, the show follows the appearance of its previous three seasons. This season keeps new characters and locales to a minimum. However, the second episode includes some amazing vistas and tranquil scenes. The visual representation of Bojack’s depression is also compelling as the show cuts between its usual aesthetic and a hand-drawn, shakily animated look.
All in all, this season represents the best of what adult animation has to offer and only continues to make “Bojack Horseman” a show worthy of discussion and enjoyment.