BoJack Horseman – Season 4

BoJack Horseman – Season 4

When Watching This Show, Laugh Every Chance You Get and Brace Yourself for Some Real Shit


You may notice a marginal dip in quality in Season 4 of BoJack Horseman, but that’s a pretty nitpicky complaint. Rest assured, the show’s humour and grasp on its characters remains intact, as exhibited by its exploration of their darkest impulses, deepest desires and – in some cases – unspeakable pasts.

Rating: 8.5/11


Why do we hate ourselves? Even the most secure and unfazed among us must wonder from time to time: “Why do I think I’m such a piece of shit?” Is it the manifestation of what we suspect others think of us that ignites our most savage insecurities? Or is it a way of acknowledging our worst impulses, even if it doesn’t necessarily keep them in check?

I would say that BoJack Horseman‘s fourth season seeks to answer that question, but the truth is – as far as the Horseman bloodline is concerned – it’s really pretty clear: there’s just no escaping it. Whether it’s something you inherit from your parents behaviour or their DNA, misery and self-loathing will always be a part of some people. And it seems that the trick isn’t to fight it or to give in. Instead, it’s reaching that fine line between resignation and acceptance and trying to make a life for yourself within those boundaries.

It’s hard to realise that you won’t be happy all of the time, or even most of the time, but it helps to embrace that there are people around you who understand what you’re going through. Even if they don’t, there’s comfort in knowing that you can never be as bad surrounded by other people as you might feel when you’re all alone. As an underwater horse (that was not a seahorse) so eloquently wrote last year, “In this terrifying world, all we have are the connections that we make.


Both these aspects of BoJack – the character and the show – are more deeply explored this year than perhaps they’ve ever been, though maybe with a little less success than usual. If Season 1 set BoJack on a path to accepting his depression and self-destructive tendencies, then Season 2 was there to show him how badly these traits could affect those around him. So, if Season 3 (still the show’s best) was BoJack’s balls-out attempt at finding something resembling lasting happiness, then this season is him coming to terms with how unrealistic that aspiration is. And sadly, that’s not just the case for BoJack but for all of the characters, as well as us.

The plot is much the same this time around, with BoJack wallowing in an alcoholic stupour while the people around him try to carve out their own sense of purpose. What’s new, though, is the introduction of Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack (it’s a long story), BoJack’s estranged daughter. She shows up out of the blue one day, demanding to know why people have always said she looks so much like BoJack Horseman and, as a DNA test swiftly proves, it’s because he is indeed her biological father. Her quest and presence adds some unexplored rhythms to the show and allows for an entry point into the theme of paternity and heritage. In those particular areas this season is a great success, even if it does come across as a little repetitive in other quarters.

Anyway, once BoJack accepts that Hollyhock is indeed his daughter, they engage in a weird form of bonding and, eventually, BoJack’s mother Beatrice – suffering from acute dementia – enters into the mix. Meanwhile, Todd is at everyone else’s mercy as a put-upon task performer, Mr. Peanutbutter is running for governor (much to Diane’s chagrin) and Princess Caroline is attempting to have it all, i.e. a career and a family. As you can tell, though the show is enjoyable as ever, the typical pattern that defines a season of BoJack is becoming more pronounced and predictable.


Yes, Todd gets a great solo outing (suitably called “Hooray! Todd Episode!”) that demonstrates his immense, wildly overlooked value, but for the most part he’s relegated to a silly (though still funny) “get rich quick” arc that gets short shrift. Once again, Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane’s relationship is strained by their career commitments and opposing world views, leaving them on less solid ground at the end of the season than what they began on. And, as always, the second-last episode is fucking devastating beyond measure, but I can pretty much forgive the predictability on that point because it might be show’s best episode.

Something else I expected to come up in this season that the show somewhat fumbles is its political commentary. BoJack has always been pretty successful at taking current events and refracting them through its own world – most especially in Season 2’s Bill Cosby-esque exposé “Hank After Dark” – but everything feels a little tepid this time around. I mean, it’s pretty obvious who Mr. Peanutbutter (an inexperienced quasi-celebrity) is supposed to be a stand-in for when he runs for governor, but the show never commits enough to making that connection stick. There are some broad gags at Peanutbutter’s lack of knowledge on policy issues and willingness to flipflop to be popular, but it largely feels like the sort of storyline that could’ve happened in any other year, which makes it seem that much stranger when you look at its real-world parallel.

Likewise, episode 5 (“Thoughts and Prayers”) delves into America’s disturbing obsession with firearms without bringing anything fresh to the conversation. For years, comedy has been spun out of the dichotomy between opposing gun violence and finding guns to be inherently cool and empowering and – even when you consider the feminist bent that leads to Diane’s realisation – it feels a little old hat. That said, her blog post on the issue (“Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: if you’re a man, you’re not gonna get it.”) is a vital rejoinder to any guys playing woke, and the final joke that men in power would rather ban all firearms than let women carry them is darkly funny.


But enough about the occasional missteps: much of the way in which this season succeeds is in how it continues to examine the pernicious connection that exists between self-hatred and personal histories. Season 1 had BoJack trying to mend his relationship with Herb and Season 2 saw him hightail it to New Mexico to reconnect with Charlotte; needless to say, he fucked up tremendously in both instances. Season 3, meanwhile, pushed the paternal/quasi-incestual rapport between BoJack and Sara Lynn to its breaking point, delving into possibly the longest friendship in the show’s timeline and finding nothing but ruin and despair. Hence the reason he’s so adamant about not screwing up his relationship with his actual daughter, Hollyhock.

Not only that, BoJack becomes determined (at least initially) to work through his issues by trying to reconnect with his past. In “The Old Sugarman Place”, one of the season’s best episodes, he absconds to his mother’s childhood home in Michigan to try and gain some insight into his life and choices. This leads to one of the show’s most unexpected pleasures, an origin story for his mother Beatrice, which serves as something of a throughline for the whole season. It culminates in “Time’s Arrow”, the penultimate episode in which Bea remembers all of the sorrow that she inherited from her parents and, despite what might have been some actual attempts at good parenting, invariably passed on to BoJack.

It’s a theme that manages to worm its way into the best episodes for our supporting characters as well. For instance “Ruthie”, the story of a really shitty day in the life of Princess Caroline, is told through the lens of one of her far-off descendants, a schoolkid named Ruthie giving a presentation on her origins. It’s heartening to see P.C.’s typical sprightliness leaking through the child and colouring the darker aspects of her life in the retelling, instilling hope that things could really work out for everyone’s favourite royal cat. Of course, nothing’s ever that simple in BoJack. Still, even if it does have a twist cribbed straight from How I Met Your Mother, it’s a great episode, one that reinforces the purpose of history and of the stories we tell ourselves that inform who we are.


But if you’re not all about that heavy shit (which… I mean, you really shouldn’t be watching this show), there’s still plenty to laugh out loud to this season. On pure comedy levels, the most successful episode of the bunch is “Underground”, in which a housefull of celebrities are trapped in a sinkhole, with everyone quickly devolving into savages. With some great turns from Jessica Biel, Zach Braff and Ru-fucking-Paul(!!!), this is easily the show at its wackiest, darkest and most hilarious. Elsewhere, the running jokes BoJack is known for are still omnipresent, from Randy the teleprompter guy to the rhymefest that ensues every time someone says Courtney Portnoy and Todd’s incendiary new fashion trend.

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to be anything less than excited that this show is still this maintaining a more or less consistent quality after four years. All gripes aside, it’s still managing to balance it’s caustic humour and treatment of depression better than almost any other show on TV (give or take Rick and Morty and You’re the Worst) and, even if it’s framework is becoming easier to anticipate, its content remains as vital and disarming as ever. I can honestly say there are few things I look forward to as much as a new season of BoJack, and I can add that little else leaves me feeling so blissfully sad afterwards. Even though, for the most part, when it’s on I can’t stop laughing.


Best Episodes


  • E02: “The Old Sugarman Place” – While searching for some clue in his past as to why he’s so damn miserable, BoJack befriends an elderly dragonfly who is consumed by his own misery. Together they fix up BoJack’s mother’s old home, interspersed with flashbacks detailing the many tragedies that befell BoJack’s ancestors.


  • E06: “Stupid Piece of Shit” – After allowing his mother to move in with him and Hollyhock, BoJack spends his days quietly berating himself and falling into his old self-destructive patterns of drinking and wasting away. Meanwhile, Todd is hesitant to enter into a sham marriage while coming to terms with his asexuality.


  • E11: “Time’s Arrow” – In one of the most heart-wrenching episodes of television in a long time, Beatrice relives the events that brought her and her husband Butterscotch to San Francisco, where they lived miserably and raised BoJack in a house of contempt. Her memories reveal Hollyhock’s true heritage, right before BoJack pays her one final kindness as she tumbles headlong into her fevered dementia. Saddest. Shit. Ever.


One Reply to “BoJack Horseman – Season 4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *