‘BoJack Horseman’ questions darkness of humanity, finds few answers
After over a year of waiting, the fourth season of “BoJack Horseman” was released on Netflix on Sept. 8, and it would be an understatement to say that I was incredibly excited for it.
The show, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, follows the life of BoJack Horseman, an actor from the ’90s sitcom “Horsin’ Around,” while he lives his life in the present. BoJack Horseman deals with things such as depression, the search for happiness and the idea of being broken all while in a brightly colored world full of anthropomorphic animals. Despite its serious themes, the show is a comedy, and a lot of the humor comes from sheer absurdity, such as gags based on the species of the animals featured. And while a lot of the show is incredibly funny, it has an intense darkness to it as well.
Season four fits in all of the themes established in the first three seasons. It begins with Mr. Peanutbutter, another former sitcom actor from a show eerily similar to “Horsin’ Around,” and his bid for the governorship of California. The whole campaign reeks of ludicrousness and is slightly painful to watch, in the sense of how ridiculous the political system of their world, and to an extent our own, is.
Diane, Mr. Peanutbutter’s wife and the former memoirist of BoJack, is struck by this ridiculousness, leading the campaign to repeatedly put a strain on her marriage. The show plays on the old “will they or won’t they” trope, but instead of getting together, throughout all four seasons the “will they won’t they” refers to what seems to be the eventual collapse of Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane’s marriage.
“BoJack Horseman” plays with a lot of old tropes while darkening them up. Family is another trope explored in this season. In previous seasons, it is clear that BoJack had a terrible childhood with emotionally abusive and neglectful parents. In this season, he is contacted by a girl who he believes to be his daughter and so has to join a family once more.
BoJack’s alleged daughter urges him to get in contact with his mother again, a woman who is suffering from dementia. Not recognized by his own mother, BoJack is shaken, but it’s revealed that this is because he wanted to tell her off one last time rather than because of he cares for her.
In this season, we also gaze into Beatrice’s, BoJack’s mother, childhood. Her childhood, while starting off pleasant, quickly turns traumatic and you begin to wonder how much a product of her circumstances she was as a mother. Beatrice’s childhood trauma, strained marriage with BoJack’s father and dementia create a sympathetic character; however, BoJack’s own childhood produces a continual hatred of his mother.
This is all to say that family, especially BoJack’s family, is messy, but his is not the only one with issues. Princess Caroline, his former agent and current manager, has to face hurdles in her personal and professional life. Princess Caroline is one of the strongest characters in the series but ends up in a spiral during this season.
This season takes a closer look at how people change and evolve, but while emphasizing that for the most part, they don’t. In this season, the personal relationships of the main characters were tested and strained and there were very few changes in their personalities. This isn’t to say that there isn’t character development—in fact, there is a lot of it—but the characters are at the end of the season very similar to who they were in the beginning. Maybe they have new outlooks on some things, but there was no defining personality shift.
The show references this kind of development in the first episode of the second season, where BoJack attempts to change his personality but ends up as the same person he’s always been, and that, according to the show, he will always be. At the end of the first season, BoJack asks Diane, “Am I just doomed to be the person that I am?” For all of the show, and especially in season four, this concept is explored. The big questions end up being: How much are we a product of our environment? How can we change?
The show goes to a very dark place in season four, but this darkness feels different than the darkness that seemed to run in the show’s first three seasons. But season four of “BoJack Horseman,” for all of its darkness, is still an extremely funny and well-put-together show. The show, through its anthropomorphic animals, gags and dark humor explores humanity in a deep, dark way.
This season focused on the interpersonal relationships between its characters more than the previous ones have. The last line of the end credits describes the season well: “Am I more horse than a man or am I more man than a horse?”