Is Bojack Horseman really about Bojack Horseman anymore? The first three seasons of Netflix’s animated tragicomedy saw the world of the show expand from its initial tight focus on the eponymous washed up star to encompass the rich characterisation of those around him, to the extent where it's easy to imagine a show based solely around any of the main cast. Netflix’s promotion for this season seemed to play this up, with Bojack’s L.A. exodus at the end of Season 3 setting the stage for a Season 4 in which no one knew where Bojack was, and not many more seem to care.
Although the "mystery" of Bojack’s whereabouts only last the first episode of this season, Season 4 marks a year for the show which continues on the promise of proving that Bojack need not be the sole driving force behind plot lines and character beats. Although Bojack Horseman remains a fascinating character study, Raphael Bob-Waksberg and team have succeeded in crafting a universe of fully formed and uniquely flawed characters who feel better realised than ever. The triumph of Season 4 is its ability to pull off that unique Bojack Horseman combination of hilarity and emotional depth on a wider scale than ever before, deftly handling its phenomenal cast in order to find new and interesting stories to tell in this crazy world.
It really is hard to overstate just how phenomenal that main cast is. Will Arnett continues to produce career-best work as Bojack, flipping brilliantly on a dime between narcissistic sarcasm and resigned self-loathing and existential dread. Meanwhile Alison Brie and Paul F. Tompkins are stellar as Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter, continuing to craft a relationship that initially felt like a joke into something oddly beautiful and heartbreaking at times, and Amy Sedaris is as ever perhaps the show’s quiet MVP.
Then there’s Aaron Paul as Todd, officially my favourite fictional character in existence. (Please sign my petition for Paul to dub over all his Breaking Bad lines in Todd’s voice) Not to give away any spoilers, but this season does feature the glorious sight of an episode entitled "Hooray! Todd Episode!" and it is every bit as magical as you might imagine. Seriously though, Paul continues to do wonderful work imbuing what could have been a one note stoner into an essential part of the show’s ensemble and Season 4’s exploration of his asexuality is handled with the perfect blend of pathos and humour.
In an environment in which the individual episode has fallen away in importance in favour of larger serialised narratives, Bojack Horseman has always bucked this trend somewhat with a focus on the importance of an episode amongst the larger stories. In previous years this has led to knockouts like "Escape From L.A.", "Fish Out Of Water", and "That’s Too Much, Man!", so is there an equivalent this year? As I alluded to earlier, "Hooray! Todd Episode!" is certainly a series highlight if, like me, you have a great love of all things Todd, but the highlight this year probably comes with the season’s penultimate episode, "Time’s Arrow." Previous seasons of Bojack have raised something of an expectation that the penultimate episode of the season will provide some sort of crushing emotional blow and a sudden snap in focus. This review is a spoiler-free one so I won’t spoil the surprise, but I will say that "Time’s Arrow" stands as a magnificent half-hour of television that plays into and subverts what you expect from the end of a Bojack season.
Thankfully, Season 4 maintains the high levels of quality we’ve come to expect from Bojack Horseman, and means it remains one of the most interesting shows on television (or the internet or whatever). It’s a show that exists in a constant state of evolution, retaining the soul that makes it so unique whilst recognising the importance of change and having the confidence in its characters to broaden the scope of its storytelling. Funny, sad, and startlingly ambitious, Bojack Horseman’s fourth season is a fantastic achievement.