Emmys be damned, Bojack Horseman has become one of the best shows on television/streaming over its three seasons. Season four, all episodes of which are up on Netflix today, returns to Hollywoo more than a year after Bojack (Will Arnett) has skipped town without a trace following the death of Sarah Lynn. We highly suggest you come up with an excuse to skip/leave work and binge it, but before you do, here are five things to expect from the most free-form season of the show yet...
1. It's not all about Bojack
In fact, the horse-man doesn’t even appear until episode two. This is a nod to the unspoken, collective fear from viewers and the writers that, maybe Bojack’s narcissistic cycle of being shitty, hating himself, being forgiven and repeating might grow thin if it were simply played out over the course of another linear season-long arc. There are jokes to that effect, lest viewers worry the writers have simply run out of ideas. Instead, we see our other main characters’ interior lives and challenges brought into focus and enriched. Todd explores what it means to be asexual. Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) is running for governor. Diane (Alison Brie) is struggling to be supportive. But none of this is happening because of or in relation to Bojack.
Perhaps the most compelling arc this season belongs to Princess Carolyn, whose earnest efforts to balance her career and personal life are handled with every bit as much depth and empathy (and screen time) as any of Bojack’s past struggles, but which illustrate an entirely different character type. The ninth episode, a Carolyn-centric one, delivers the season’s biggest gut punch, and one can imagine a very different but equally compelling show based entirely around Carolyn—the more grounded Better Things to Bojack’s absurdist Louie.
2. Even Bojack's journey isn't all about Bojack
Remember this name: Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack. Just...remember. For Bojack, the season is all about family and history. Less telling about his sad childhood and upbringing (we’ve seen that), more showing how it happened, how emotional troubles aren’t confined to a single generation, and how they don’t happen in a vacuum. Bojack spends a good chunk of the season dealing with his cruel mother (Wendy Malick), who’s now suffering from dementia, and who’s story is told in brushstroke flashback that create a negative space within which a form of Bojack, in all his tragedy, appears.
3. It's not where you'll get comedic political catharsis
For better or worse, the production schedule dictated that most of the season had been written by the time of the election, and while the Mr. Peanutbutter For Governor arc definitely contains some homages to the absurdity we’ve found/we find ourselves in (“Even though I have zero qualifications, I honestly thought I would have been a better governor.”), it more or less just skims the surface of the state of the union, instead working in the service of building a new, complex level of tension to PB and Diane’s ever-shifting marriage.
4. It's less cohesive or linear than past seasons.
There’s no book to write this season. No legend to build. No award to win. And that’s what makes season four maybe the show’s bravest, insofar as it shifts the show’s gravitational center in a way that no regular character feels strictly like a supporting one. There’s no single arc that brings everyone together. Each, to the extent that they’ve evolved or merely grown weary, is fighting her or his own battle, and only occasionally do our characters’ struggles converge at all.
5. It makes the Emmy nom snub all the more maddening.
But Barb? Seriously?