(Spoilers ahead for Netflix series Bojack Horseman, up to and including episode 4, season 4)
When Bojack Horseman wants to emphasize its humorous side, two of its strongest assets have always been the absurdity of its animated world, and Todd Chavez, a lovable conduit through which to channel that absurdity. The aptly titled ‘Hooray! Todd Episode!’ capitalizes on both of these qualities. Opening with a ridiculous story about Todd’s charitable antics (which includes giving birth on a deserted island and a ‘spirited but respectful debate’ about circumcision), the episode follows a day in Todd’s life, filled with people who assume he has nothing to do, subsequently giving him everything to do.
Accidentally inspiring Sharc Jacobs’ new fashion line (yes, Sharc Jacobs, voiced by Marc Jacobs), committing Mr Peanutbutter’s campaign to a pro-fracking stance, and a paparazzi-baiting fake date with actress Courtney Portnoy are among the many shenanigans that occur, and all are hilarious. Highlights include Amy Sedaris’ field day with the word play around Courtney Portnoy, ‘the formerly portly consort in The Seaport Resort’, and a inept Channing Tatum impersonation.
But beyond the randomness is a purpose that underpins the action; important setups are delivered through this fun framework. For one, it’s made clear that Mr Peanutbutter’s stance on fracking will create somewhat of a rift between him and Diane, yet another weight bearing upon their always-shaky marriage. But the most handled piece here is Todd’s realization of his asexuality. Todd opened this season very uncomfortable with labels, but reached his own personal epiphany in this episode. It was handled sensitively and beautifully, presented as a journey for both Todd and the audience. His attendance at the asexual meeting at the end of the episode is genuinely uplifting.
But Todd also has to deal with the return of Bojack, whose shadow he has only recently stepped out from under. It’s made very clear things can’t be mended by a heartfelt apology, but for the first time, Bojack offers that heartfelt apology; he doesn’t bloat it with his self loathing, and he acknowledges what a genuinely good person Todd is. It doesn’t fix things, but it helps to heal old wounds; when Todd says ‘it’s good to see you Bojack’, he really means it. What’s more interesting though, is how Todd came to find Bojack in the first place; we was getting a DNA sample for Bojack’s daughter.
After briefly appearing at the end of Season three, Hollyhock (played brilliantly by Aparna Nancherla) has come to Hollywoo to find her father; not because she needs a dad (she has eight adoptive dads), but because he might be able to find her mother. Hollyhock is very clearly of Horseman lineage, setting Bojack’s microwave ablaze with a still-wrapped pop tart (a subtle callback to Bojack’s inability to pour his own cereal). The two have a palpable chemistry that jumps right out of the screen, and the search for her mother (which makes up the plot of episode four) is an excellent showcase for that. Once it becomes apparent that finding Hollyhock’s mother means talking to the many women Bojack slept with and never called back, though, we begin to see the Bojack we know and not-quite-love return.
There is evidence in both characters of the ‘Horseman gunk’ as Bojack puts it, played out in all its horror by ghosts just two episodes ago, and by Bojack since the beginning of the show. Bojack warns her about it at a few points, and ruins the fun with a tone deaf remark about how the world doesn’t need more of his ‘garbage’ (the garbage being the daughter that is stood next to him). His efforts to help Hollyhock were sincere, but his self-destructiveness still proves true, and this uncomfortable moment reminds the audience of that. But once again, Bojack is willing to put in the effort to be better, tracking down all of Hollyhock’s potential mothers himself just to find her after she goes out alone is a surprisingly touching moment.
Princess Carolyn’s relationship with Ralph’s attempts to have a child are also explored in episode four. After finding out that their ability to conceive is limited, their plot gives way to a race to get home to bed, which is thwarted by Hollywoo’s finest cop, Officer Meow Meow Fuzzyface. Though played for laughs (and there are laughs aplenty), it’s obvious their window to have a child is small and closing fast, which could spell disaster later down the line. Dark too are the shaky grounds upon which Diane and Mr Peanutbutter’s relationship stands, the aftermath of the fracking decision tearing them apart until forcing them together in a way that doesn’t seem particularly healthy. It seems Hollywoo’s favorite couples are all skating on thin ice, just as Bojack has found a relationship that might be healthy for him.