TV REVIEW: SOUTH PARK – SEASON 21 – EPISODE 01

 

White People Renovating Houses Poster
Randy comes to grips with what it means to be white in today’s society.

Director:

Trey Parker

Writers:

Brian Graden (developer), Trey Parker (creator) |1 more credit »

Stars:

Trey ParkerMatt StoneJennifer Howell

Review by Mary Cox

“White People Renovating Houses”

South Park is one of those cultural cornerstones that people have looked to for commentary on social and political issues over the past two decades. In a return to Season 8’s episode “Goobacks,” Darryl and South Park’s other xenophobic rednecks are rallying over being replaced by automation. This episode has several direct visual references to the recent Charlottesville protests, Tiki Torches and all.

It seems like class is very much going to be the thematic focus of this season. We start with the the anger of middle-class whites, like the Marsh family, upset about damage done to the “white brand” by conservative protesters. However, there’s some clear miscommunication regarding Randy’s take on the motives of the Confederate flag-waving horde who are hurting the “white image.”

In the “come to Jesus” speech Randy gives to Darryl, the tonal focus is more about morals, and less about economics. The implication is that a superficial change in lifestyle, such as that created by a home renovation, is symbolic of a massive shift in the foundation of someone’s beliefs. In other words, you can deal with the problems of conservative white Americans by providing them with the illusion of a bourgeois middle-class lifestyle.

This is highly emblematic of the fundamental cultural divide in the United States, whereas the issue splitting the country into two angry sides isn’t necessarily related to politics, but to class. Even if Darryl’s lifestyle and cultural perspective can be “rehabilitated,” how can the issue of economic displacement caused by automation be resolved?

Coal mining jobs are never coming back, truck driving jobs are on the way to irrelevancy with self-driving cars, and most basic retail and food service positions are on their way out as well. If the jobs AI is replacing are, as Darryl says, “degrading and menial,” and good jobs are exclusively restricted to university graduates, as is asserted by Randy, what options do working-class people like Darryl even have? It will be interesting to see the solutions provided by Matt Stone and Trey Parker over the course of this season.

 

south park season 21

******

“Mary Cox is an entertainment writer from the United States. Her hobbies include making good beer and bad decisions, watching drag queens fight on the internet, and overanalyzing everything. Mary one day hopes to be the person shouting “World Star” in the back of a Waffle House brawl video. She is currently tolerating life in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_K_Cox”
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TV REVIEW: BOJACK HORSEMAN – SEASON 04 – EPISODE 12

 

What Time Is It Right Now Poster
 Directed by:

Stars:

Will ArnettAmy SedarisAlison Brie

by Mary Cox

“What Time is it Right Now?”

This season’s finale leaves us with a sense of conclusion, but not a sense of finality. Bojack and Hollyhock’s relationship has finally come to a point of mutual understanding, giving Bojack a sense of inner peace for the first time in the entire series. Princess Carolyn saves her career and successfully displaces her grief by channeling her emotional energy into a symbolic project. Todd’s dumb dentist clown venture ends up like every other single Todd scenario. The resolution we get between Bojack and Hollyhock is satisfying and ends the season on a positive note, but I’m more interested in the collapsing dynamic between Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane.

It’s profoundly obvious that Diane is suffering from the kind of slow-progressing, all-encompassing, weighty depression that sneaks into someone’s life like smoke under a door in a burning building. The question really comes down to how much of Diane’s pain is caused by unresolved internal issues, and how much of it is external and related to her failing relationship.

You have to commend Mr. Peanutbutter for at least trying to use all the power he has to give Diane what he thinks she wants to have. Mr. Peanutbutter is a textbook people-pleaser who can be goaded into almost anything if he feels his likability is at stake, and it seems like he only knows how to express himself in grand gestures, but that’s exactly his fundamental flaw. Mr. Peanutbutter can only really see and experience things from his own perspective, almost to the point where he lacks true empathy. Diane’s rejection of her “Belle Room” is complete evidence that Mr. Peanutbutter won’t ever be able to understand her worldview, and is another reason why this doomed couple is heading towards divorce.

The fifth season of Bojack Horseman has yet to be confirmed, although it would be highly surprising if this is where Netflix allows this series to end. How will a more emotionally-available Bojack handle the separation of his two best friends? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

*****
“Mary Cox is an entertainment writer from the United States. Her hobbies include making good beer and bad decisions, watching drag queens fight on the internet, and overanalyzing everything. Mary one day hopes to be the person shouting “World Star” in the back of a Waffle House brawl video. She is currently tolerating life in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_K_Cox”t

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TV REVIEW: BOJACK HORSEMAN – SEASON 04 – EPISODE 11

 

Time's Arrow Poster
In 1963, young socialite Beatrice Sugarman meets the rebellious Butterscotch Horseman at her debutante party.

Director:

Aaron Long

Writers:

Kate PurdyRaphael Bob-Waksberg (creator)

Stars:

Will ArnettAmy SedarisAlison Brie

by Mary Cox

 “Time’s Arrow”

This episode finally gives us all of the missing pieces we’ve been looking for in understanding Beatrice’s backstory, which is also effectively Bojack’s origin story. I don’t know if dedicating the bulk of an entire episode to the tragedy of Beatrice’s life was the best choice they could have made, but for what it’s worth, the pacing and visual storytelling here works well.

It’s impossible to really know what experiencing dementia is like from an insider’s perspective, but the perpetual hell we see Beatrice living through is genuinely chilling. The astounding revelation that Hollyhock is Bojack’s sister, and not his daughter, hinges a little on the side of melodrama, but it’s not to the point of eye-rolling soap opera nonsense.

What makes this episode work is it’s final sequence where, after we’ve seen and heard everything, Bojack still makes the choice to show kindness to his mother. He’s given an open, consequence-free opportunity to punish Beatrice for a lifetime of cruelty, and he still makes the right decision. This is possibly the biggest moment ever in Bojack’s emotional growth across all four seasons of this series.

So much of Season Four has been centered on Bojack’s anxieties over how much his inner “sickness” has been inherited by Hollyhock. The end of “Time’s Arrow” shows us that trauma ends when we actively make the choice to break the cycle of abuse, and that people can surpass their circumstances with time and healing. The endless march of time is a major focal point of this season, and for Bojack at least, time does heal all wounds.

*****
“Mary Cox is an entertainment writer from the United States. Her hobbies include making good beer and bad decisions, watching drag queens fight on the internet, and overanalyzing everything. Mary one day hopes to be the person shouting “World Star” in the back of a Waffle House brawl video. She is currently tolerating life in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_K_Cox”t

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TV REVIEW: BOJACK HORSEMAN – SEASON 04 – EPISODE 10

 

Writers:

Raphael Bob-Waksberg (creator), Peter Knight (as Peter A. Knight)

Stars:

Will ArnettAmy SedarisAlison Brie

“Lovin’ that Cali Lifestyle!”

Structurally, I have to commend this episode for it’s detailed foreshadowing. Hollyhock’s enthusiasm about Beatrice’s coffee, the opening titles showing her not eating, all of the weight-based comments we get in the flashback sequences with Bojack’s grandparents. When combined with Hollyhock’s obsessive behaviors and her lack of interest in food, this totally, totally works.

It’s easy to not notice the subtle changes in Hollyhock’s physical appearance on your first watch through of this season, but if you actually go back and compare her appearance from episode to episode, the change in Hollyhock’s body is visible and incredibly obvious. It’s an excellent depiction of how dangerous drug use can sneak in, totally undetected, right under someone’s nose.

There are, however, some slight gaps in the logic of the big twist of this episode. Beatrice is home-bound and suffering from moderate-to-severe dementia, right? So how exactly did she manage to gain access to a large bottle of amphetamine-based diet pills? We’re not really meant to know Beatrice’s specific level of sentience, but it’s a little hard to suspend my disbelief to the point where I can see Beatrice gaining access to medical-grade amphetamines in her mental conditions.

Despite Hollyhock’s collapse being the main focus of this episode, the Mr. Peanutbutter gubernatorial campaign plot line finally meets it’s resolution. There are a few subtle references to the 2016 Presidential Election, such as petty factors like a distaste for avocado being monumentally important to public opinion. There’s also the darker note of Diane’s reaction to Mr. Peanutbutter assigning joint credit to her accomplishments, which is yet another moment pointing to their obvious impending separation. |az\

*****
“Mary Cox is an entertainment writer from the United States. Her hobbies include making good beer and bad decisions, watching drag queens fight on the internet, and overanalyzing everything. Mary one day hopes to be the person shouting “World Star” in the back of a Waffle House brawl video. She is currently tolerating life in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_K_Cox”t

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TV REVIEW: BOJACK HORSEMAN – SEASON 04 – EPISODE 09

 

Ruthie Poster
One one awful day, Princess Carolyn deals with rejection, deception and loss. BoJack and Diane try to track down Hollyhock’s birth certificate.

Director:

Amy Winfrey

Writers:

Raphael Bob-Waksberg (creator), Joanna Calo

Stars:

Will ArnettAmy SedarisAlison Brie |

by Mary Cox

“Ruthie”

I can’t be alone in thinking that the handling of Princess Carolyn’s miscarriage was somewhat tasteless. We see her suffer yet another huge, profound disappointment in her life, one which ultimately ends her relationship with Ralph and sends her spiraling into alcoholism and depression, and how do they decide to frame this information? Puns and cheap jokes based on the accents of “foreigners.” Tacky.

Bad taste aside, the plot line about Princess Carolyn’s family heirloom was a decent metaphor for the artificiality of the lies we tell ourselves about the past and the future, which does seem to connect to this season’s greater theme of all things being swept away by the passage of time.

I could live without the somewhat uninspired sub-plot where Bojack and Diane try to track down Hollyhock’s birth certificate at the county courthouse. If DMV-type jokes are the “groundbreaking” territory this series aims to cover, Bojack might as well be doing a stand-up routine about airplane food.

The ending of “Ruthie” does kind of pull back around to a more tonally reasonable place, but this season has generally struggled a little when it comes to balancing comedic and dramatic moments, like how it stumbled over Bojack’s grandmother’s lobotomy. At the very least, “Ruthie” gives us clarification that inter-species relationships end up with babies that are either one animal or another, clearing up some of the mystery surrounding Hollyhock’s parentage.
 

*****
“Mary Cox is an entertainment writer from the United States. Her hobbies include making good beer and bad decisions, watching drag queens fight on the internet, and overanalyzing everything. Mary one day hopes to be the person shouting “World Star” in the back of a Waffle House brawl video. She is currently tolerating life in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_K_Cox”t

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TV REVIEW: BOJACK HORSEMAN – SEASON 04 – EPISODE 08

 

The Judge Poster
Hollyhock starts dating and intern on BoJack’s new show. Princess Carolyn meets Ralph’s parents. Mr. Peanutbutter throws his support behind Woodchuck.

Director:

Otto Murga

Writers:

Raphael Bob-Waksberg (creator), Elijah Aron 

Stars:

Will ArnettAmy SedarisAlison Brie

“The Judge”

Princess Carolyn and Stilton’s relationship touched on interesting ground in this episode. Maintaining a romantic relationship across two different cultures can be a huge challenge in any situation, let alone when one culture bases part of its identity on denigrating the people and culture of another group.

How could Carolyn ever feel embraced in a culture that bases part of its core identity on hating cats? Stilton ultimately makes the right choice in standing up for his partner, even in defiance of his culture and family.

Bojack is making an attempt at fatherhood by trying to guide Hollyhock through one of her earliest relationship. While Bojack ends up being right about the Intern’s intentions, he has to backtrack to protect Hollyhock’s feelings.

Interestingly, Hollyhock shows us that some more of Bojack’s obsessive and self-destructive behaviors might be lurking inside of her as well.
 

*****
“Mary Cox is an entertainment writer from the United States. Her hobbies include making good beer and bad decisions, watching drag queens fight on the internet, and overanalyzing everything. Mary one day hopes to be the person shouting “World Star” in the back of a Waffle House brawl video. She is currently tolerating life in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_K_Cox”t

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TV REVIEW: BOJACK HORSEMAN – SEASON 04 – EPISODE 06

 

Writers:

Raphael Bob-Waksberg (creator), Alison Tafel

Stars:

Will ArnettAmy SedarisAlison Brie

“Stupid Piece of Shit”

This episode gives us a look inside Bojack’s head, giving us a taste of his self-loathing and self-destructive thought patterns. Ever since meeting Hollyhock, Bojack has started to wonder how much of himself has been passed onto his daughter, and it seems like a fair amount of Bojack’s neuroses have carried throughout his lineage.

One issue this show always seems to address is the effects of the passage of time, and the cycles we’re all doomed to repeat. Bojack is a 90s sitcom star struggling to relive his past. At the same time, watching his mother relive raising a baby sparks a furious reaction in Bojack.

Hollyhock gives Bojack the perfect opportunity to make peace between his past and his present, but is he willing to do the work to put his demons to rest?

******
“Mary Cox is an entertainment writer from the United States. Her hobbies include making good beer and bad decisions, watching drag queens fight on the internet, and overanalyzing everything. Mary one day hopes to be the person shouting “World Star” in the back of a Waffle House brawl video. She is currently tolerating life in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_K_Cox”t

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