‘BoJack Horseman’ brings pain, laughter

Andrew Shermoen

“BoJack Horseman” has been going strong for a while now. Its fourth season is its strongest season ever. Fully diving into the complex and troubled psyches of all the show’s main characters while also offering a steady stream of surprising character revelations, incredible jokes, and really unique, wacky plot threads to keep you entertained and emotionally wrecked. Spoilers ahead.

Starting in 2014, “BoJack Horseman,” has had a particularly interesting creative ride. 

Season one fooled many people with its early episodes leaving little more than an impression of a run of the mill animated adult comedy filled with animal puns due to its unique setting of Hollywood populated by anthropomorphic animals. It had occasional moments of comedic brilliance, but it lacked in originality other than the uniqueness of its universe. Imagine the shock when the latter half of the first season of “BoJack” featured honest and heart-wrenching portrayals of BoJack’s deep-seated depression and self-hatred. 

Since then “BoJack Horseman” has improved in every single subsequent season. 

Season 4 doesn’t have much in the way of experimental, but it’s unique comedy stylings and accurate portrayals of the disturbed psyches of all its major characters make for the show’s most focused and tight season.

“BoJack Horseman” has always spent its time expanding the challenges it throws at its main characters. Mr. Peanutbutter’s (Paul F. Tompkins) gubernatorial run is funny not only because it introduces the hilarious deadpan Woodchuck Coodchuck-Berkowitz (Andre Braugher) as the incumbent governor of California, but also features Peanutbutter wrapping both of them in a skiing competition for the seat of governor which results in a multitude of hilarious skiing jokes as well as a fantastic conclusion where Todd (Aaron Paul) wins the ski race for governor. 

The whole debacle plays out in the hilarity that you would expect from the show, which has had a sharp and balanced edge when it comes to its satire of the absurd, sensationalist attitude of Hollywood and its elite. This plotline serves a bigger purpose for the story than just comedy though. It drives a rift through the relationship of Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter. His desire to be beloved and seen by as many people as possible reaches a boiling point as Diane struggles to convey her hatred of crowds and spotlights in a way her husband will understand.

In a way, the fourth season of “BoJack Horseman” is about relationships. The way we build them up and the way our differences can tear them down. BoJack spends his time growing closer to his assumed daughter Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla) as he slowly destroys the relationship between him and his mother even farther.

Season four’s strongest moments are in its expansion of the BoJack and Beatrice (Wendie Malick), mother/son relationship, “BoJack Horseman” is the kind of show where no character is left on the cutting room floor, everyone has a purpose and that purpose is to give the audience a preconceived notion about who that character is, before tearing down that facade and asking the audience to live the life that character has led. To walk 3,000 miles in their horseshoes. Beatrice has spent three seasons being a catty, spiteful mother who has never appreciated her son and is the main catalyst of BoJack’s depression and alcoholism. 

For the show to fully expand her backstory explaining the absolute tragedy of her life changes everything about her. All of her pains and sorrows drove her to the woman she is today, and to think that we struggle to watch BoJack place his ailing mother into a dilapidated nursing home as she relives every single painful thing her father did to her makes Beatrice not only one of the most intensely sympathetic characters of the show, but one of my favorites. I feel terrible for misjudging her.

That’s what “BoJack Horseman” does though. Over four seasons the show has expertly continued to wear its thesis on its sleeve. You don’t truly know who a person is. Their pains, their insecurities, their demons. Everyone has them, so maybe we should take it easy on people sometimes.

With episodes expertly displaying dementia, depression, asexuality, fear of commitment and egotism “BoJack Horseman” season four is the newest addition to a show that won’t stop improving. Mixed in with these brutal moments of sadness are its expert wit, groan-worthy (but loveable) animal puns, and sharp-edged satirical outlook on Hollywood make “BoJack Horseman” season four a worthy addition to television spectrum and one of this year’s best shows.

5 out of 5 stars