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New on Netflix: Bojack Horseman’s most brutal, hopeful season yet

“BoJack Horseman,” the Netflix Original that follows an animated horse, returned for its fourth season on Sept. 8. After positive reviews from critics, the show will return for a fifth season, Netflix confirmed Thursday, Sept. 21. BOJACK HORSEMAN/FACEBOOK

Season four of Netflix’s emotionally draining yet witty original series, “BoJack Horseman,” ended on a peculiar note – hope for BoJack.

The animated comedy follows BoJack Horseman, an anthropomorphic horse and former sitcom star trying to get his life together in the parody film industry parody “Hollywoo.” The series returned on Sept. 8 with its darkest, punniest and best season yet. 

Season three ended with BoJack, voiced by Will Arnett, contemplating running away from the life he despises to join a group of wild horses running in the desert. 

The new season begins with its focus on how happy BoJack’s friends have become in the months following his disappearance. BoJack’s old roommate Todd Chavez, on-and-off love interest Diane Nguyen, former agent Princess Carolyn and Hollywoo rival Mr. Peanutbutter have better lives sans BoJack. After witnessing all these characters harmed by BoJack’s demons, seeing them happy gives viewers a sense of hope entering the season.

Of course, the show then does what it does best: destroying any expectations both the viewers and characters might have as the season progresses. The marriage of Diane, voiced by Alison Brie, and Mr. Peanutbutter, voiced by Paul F. Tompkins, suffers as Mr. Peanutbutter campaigns to be the governor of California. Princess Carolyn, voiced by Amy Sedaris, faces disappointment after disappointment as she tries to start a business and a family. Todd, voiced by Aaron Paul… actually does okay for himself.

Meanwhile, BoJack befriends an old fly and rebuilds his grandparents’ house in Michigan. As the two characters bond, their story is interwoven with scenes from the horrible childhood of BoJack’s estranged mother, Beatrice Horseman. The episode jumps from the death of Beatrice’s brother to the neglect of her father and the lobotomy of her mother.

The lobotomy of Beatrice’s mother foreshadows the dementia that Beatrice, voiced by Wendie Malick, suffers from later in season four. BoJack begrudgingly brings her home from her retirement facility due to the suggestion from his newly discovered daughter, Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack, voiced by Aparna Nancherla.

Raised by eight men in a committed gay polyamorous relationship, Hollyhock believes Bojack is her biological father and begins to search for her mother. Through their various misadventures, Hollyhock’s presence draws compassion out of Bojack – an uncommon sensation for the selfish horseman.

After delving into the past of the show’s characters, season four also explores the distant future in episode nine, focusing on Princess Carolyn. The episode is told through the lens of a presentation about the worst day of Princess Carolyn’s life, given by Princess Carolyn’s great-great-great granddaughter Ruthie.

One of Princess Carolyn’s main goals in season four is to become pregnant, despite being older than most pregnant woman – or in her case, pregnant cats. In episode nine, Princess Carolyn loses her number one client, finds out she had a miscarriage, discovers her necklace, a family heirloom, is fake and realizes her most trusted intern lied about a deal that could have saved her old agency company. Somehow, this spectacularly written 22-minute exploration of misery and disappointment is not even the darkest episode of the season.

Season four’s 11th episode is by far the darkest episode of the series. Once again, Beatrice’s past is explored. This time, the episode shows the night Beatrice met Bojack’s father, Butterscotch Horseman, and fell in love with him. The episode quickly transitions to portray the slow and painful despair that was their marriage.

The audience, after seeing episode two and 11, now begin to understand why Beatrice has always treated Bojack so terribly. The audience sees her lose her brother to a war, her mother to a lobotomy and her husband to her maid. Now we know why Beatrice decided to never love anyone: it never worked out for her.

Episode 11 lends compassion to a character that has always been portrayed as an unloving and unpassionate mother. This is something the show proves time and time again it can do convincingly. BoJack is a character that knows and accepts that his demons make him a terrible person, and it makes perfect sense to hate him as a horse-person. Yet, the show’s writing makes BoJack compassionate, even in his darkest moments.

The dramatic writing of season four was top-notch as always, but the comedic writing was just as good, if not better, whether during the dramatic moments or the simple one-liners. From its constant mockery of the film industry to the ludicrous puns like Princess Carolyn’s Albino Rhino Gyno, the show never misses a beat.

Flipping the script, the season ends with the supporting cast’s lives in disarray. Will Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter be able to fix their doomed marriage? Will Princess Carolyn be able to get her life on track after devastating setbacks?

For Bojack, however, there is hope. The only question facing him is: How will BoJack handle having a family member that does not resent him?

The final scene is a phone conversation between Hollyhock and BoJack, as Hollyhock goes to meet her mother. Hollyhock and Bojack discover that their relationship is more tangled than they previously believed. BoJack smiles and, for the first time, a season ends with hope for the happiness BoJack so desperately seeks.

Last week Netflix announced the series will be continuing with season five in the works. So we will have to wait for this season’s madness to unravel – or likely just become more entrenched in insanity.

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