Netflix series returns with same wit, odd charm

Is it appropriate to call a story with lobotomies, miscarriages, marital strife, suicidal ideation, frank political satire, drugging, emotional abuse and alcoholism a comedy? Season four of the Netflix original television series “BoJack Horseman” re-encompasses the funny and dark world of the anthropomorphic horse-man living in Hollywood stardom. 

Familial relationships are one of the biggest themes this season. Viewers saw the death of Sarah Lynn on season three, someone BoJack viewed in many ways as his daughter. This season, however, teenage horse Hollyhock is introduced and believed to be his genetic daughter. 

Unsurprisingly, BoJack is unsuccessful at being a father, which is something he inherited from his own terrible mother, Beatrice. Beatrice reenters his life, causing all three characters—BoJack, Hollyhock and Beatrice—to live together in a tense, not-quite-family unit, as BoJack waits for her mother’s dementia to kill her. 

Hollyhock, on the other hand, is as enjoyable and wacky as the rest of the supporting cast. She sought out BoJack to help her find her birth mother, a person with whom she’s always wanted to be reunited. Hollyhock already has eight dads in a loving polyamorous relationship, and she’s not looking for a ninth. Despite this, the horse father and daughter duo form a bond and discover they share some similarities. 

In a touching scene, Hollyhock asks BoJack, “That voice, the one that tells you you're worthless and stupid and ugly? It goes away, right?” In an uncharacteristic moment of empathy, BoJack tells her it does. Lying to comfort someone is an oddly nice development for our normally callous protagonist. 

Another family-focused character this season is Princess Carolyn, a 42-year-old career cat who is trying to become pregnant with her boyfriend. As always in the television series, there are hysterical moments; for instance, there is an illicit romp in the back of a police car and a “fertility watch” program called iOvulate, as voiced by Harvey Fierstein. Behind all these jokes is a story about characters who want to make a family despite adversity, which makes it all the sadder when things go array.

Another testy family unit is that of Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter. Their marriage is once again under fire. Diane, a human, is a no-nonsense writer who managed to land herself a job blogging on a popular website. Mr. Peanutbutter is a golden retriever and a former sitcom television star.

Mr. Peanutbutter runs for governor, and this plot is a hilarious jab at likability beating out actual leadership skills in politics, but it’s also a real stress on his relationship with Diane. The two characters are both very charming, which makes viewers wish they could find some peace and happiness.

Todd is also around in season four. He is a human and BoJack's former roommate. He's received a lot of flack for his unemployed and technically homeless lifestyle, but he's also a very creative and caring person.

This season’s Todd-centric episode shows how much he does for the people in his life, often without appreciation. As a character, Todd grows a lot this season while dealing with his sexuality and his friendship with BoJack more maturely than he has in past seasons. He's also running a dentist-clown business, but that's Todd for you. 

This season had many standout episodes. One episode follows two parallel stories in the same house: one of BoJack in the present and the other looking at the dark and terrible story of his mother’s past. Additionally, there’s an episode where we get to look at BoJack’s stream of consciousness, which is full of depression and alcoholism. And without spoilers, the 11th episode hits the audience hard.

So, is “BoJack Horseman” a comedy? When you get rid of the humanized animals, “BoJack Horseman” is simply about life. And as Princess Carolyn said, “Life is life”—not a story.u