BoJack Horseman: Season Four
Time hurts more than it heals in Season 4 of Netflix's BoJack Horseman
On paper, it might have seemed – entering its fourth season – BoJack Horseman is running out of ideas. A lost relative turns up, BoJack himself is AWOL in the first episode and the happy-go-lucky golden retriever that is Mr Peanutbutter runs for office in a way that hardly does a lot to comment on a demagogue like Donald Trump. Less able writers would turn these into soapy twists and gimmicks. But, Netflix's anthropomorphic animation has always kept the satire on the surface – the complexity is saved to render exquisitely drawn characters.
Humans are only one of many talking species in this world, which turns LA into a menagerie. Its wild plots and background puns continue to keep the levity high, while it continues to poke fun at the notion of celebrity and other aspects of culture. Yet this comedy has earned its reputation more for the remarkable depths it plumbs, including the psychology of addiction, depression and loss.
The latest season probes even further into the self-lacerating interior monologue marinating BoJack's mind. In Stupid Piece of Sh*t the constant loop of negative voices zaps the mental energy the equine protagonist desperately needs to deal with his problems. Small tasks become Herculean ones: it's why it is easier to eat cookies for breakfast than make a proper meal, or how popping out for milk can blur into an all-day drinking binge. Time is wasted on self-absorption; understanding and forgiveness collapse into resentment and estrangement.
Time is the recurrent theme of the season and it is not just about how it is misspent day-to-day. The stand-out episodes all consider time in different ways. In The Old Sugarman Place it is through the long shadow cast by the previous generation, while in Ruthie it is the promise of the future. Meanwhile, in Time's Arrow memories are set adrift in a sea of neurodegenerative disease.
The show remains a most nuanced take on the interplay between our animal instincts and our environment, crediting both nature and nurture for our troubles. And despite our time in BoJack's head, no character opens up more in this season than independent feline Princess Carolyn; hers is a story of trying to find hope amid sorrow. There are moments of hope in the season, but it may be of the kind that kills you.
BoJack Horseman is streaming now on Netflix