Spoilers ahead – only read if you’ve seen these episodes!
After we began this review series yesterday, it’s time to look at the next three episodes of BoJack Horseman‘s fourth season, which so far has proven to be really strong, with some fascinating plot developments and ever-brilliant jokes. Will the next three episodes, leading up to this season’s halfway point, live up to the expectations set by its beginning? Let’s find out:
Episode 4: Commence Fracking
Commence Fracking feels like a return to normality for BoJack Horseman, as we go back to beloved settings and characters after an opening to the season where our main players were isolated. However, this isn’t to say that this episode is any weaker for giving us what we’re used to: it’s great to have so many storylines running concurrently, with not a single one proving weaker than the rest. From BoJack’s slowly-blossoming relationship with his daughter Hollyhock to Mr. Peanutbutter’s campaign to be elected governor of California, all the current plot threads are genuinely interesting, and reveal new layers to characters we’ve known for years. The writing of Commence Fracking is as tight as ever, with some delightful political and cultural satire scattered throughout, alongside the classic visual gags – this reviewer’s personal favourite being a cat jogging on top of a fence. That said, this episode is perhaps best for delving into the eponymous horse a little more. Seeing his inital reluctance to play a fatherly role with Hollyhock by refusing to let her stay in his house, to him then ultimately lying in order to convince her to stay with him proves we could be seeing a more tender side to the hard-drinking horse. If this is only the beginning of their bond together, I can’t wait to see where it – alongside Mr. Peanutbutter’s election, Princess Carolyn’s struggle to conceive and Diane’s turmoil at work – will go. As we approach the mid-season point, Commence Fracking excels at doing what an episode at this stage should should – developing these plots further, and making it simply impossible to not binge-watch.
Episode 5: Thoughts and Prayers
In every season, BoJack Horseman invariably takes a turn for the dark, and this has come earlier than ever, as with Thoughts and Prayers, things get pretty grim. The main focus here is gun violence, as a spate of mass shootings threaten the release of Princess Carolyn’s client’s new film, Ms. Taken. The episode handles this topic well, pouring scorn on the frequency of shootings and the rampant availability and ease with which one can purchase a firearm in America, but also using Diane to portray how easy it can be to become involved with guns. The episode isn’t bogged down by the darkness – along with the topic of gun violence comes a truly brilliant ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ joke, and there’s plenty of excellent satire regarding movie producers, and their attitude towards events that could potentially mar their releases. Away from this, Thoughts and Prayers tackles the issue of dementia, portrayed through BoJack’s mother, who he visits in her nursing home. This is handled in an incredibly powerful manner – Will Arnett’s performance as BoJack is terrific here, showing his shock and genuine sadness at his mother’s inability to recognise him – until he once again reveals his self-driven personality and subverts the development we see. It’s also a great opportunity to explore the growing bond between BoJack and Hollyhock: they’re only getting closer, and it’s beginning to reveal a more caring side to BoJack, away from his usually selfish nature. Overall, another hugely strong episode that delves into dark subject matter without losing the humour and nuance that make the show so great – but surely, it can only get darker from here.
Episode 6: Stupid Piece of Sh*t
If you thought Thoughts and Prayers was dark, just wait for Stupid Piece of Sh*t. Never before have we delved so deeply into the psyche of BoJack, and it’s a fascinating revelation. It’s clear to see BoJack genuinely might hate himself, almost explaining why he behaves so erratically and self-destructively, creating a different persona to BoJack than we’re used to. We already knew he was troubled, but the incessant dark thoughts racing through him – and consequently through Hollyhock – really prove how grim BoJack’s reality is. This doesn’t make him wholly redeemable: some of his behaviour this episode is terrible and purposefully malicious, especially towards his dementia-ridden mother, and it makes for some really painful viewing. There are great jokes here, but this episode gets particularly dark, as almost every member of the cast struggles with some form of personal battle, from Todd’s wedding to Diane’s relationship with Mr. Peanutbutter. There are a few brighter elements, as Princess Carolyn finally falls pregnant, which is delightful to see – proving just how great Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s writing is, with viewers truly invested in the cast. But this is but a glimmer of hope in an otherwise grim landscape, where the show truly triumphs, bucking the trend of animated comedies lacking any emotional resonance – and it’s because of this that it’s comfortably the best show in its genre, by a long way.
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