You wouldn’t normally expect to see “beautiful” in the headline for a review about a show that talks about masturbation at least every other minute. But “Big Mouth” Season 4 holds a unique position within the series. It tackles code switching, anxiety, gender identity and even 9/11 all the while remaining ridiculously hilarious and charming.
This season provided space for each of the show’s main and recurring characters to explore their identities and struggles, most notably in its female main characters Missy (Jenny Slate, “On The Rocks” and Ayo Edebiri, “Up Next”) and Jessi (Jessi Klein, “Comedy Central Presents”).
Missy’s Blackness has been glossed over for the majority of the first three seasons. Her race never seemed to affect her, especially since her parents love to claim they “don’t see color.” Her character arc in season four led her to become more comfortable with her Blackness and openly embrace it with the help of fellow Black classmate Devon (Jak Knight). Missy’s staple overalls have been thrown away and replaced with skinny jeans and authentic braids. But most notably is the change in Missy’s voice.
Missy put it best in the season’s fifth episode: “It’s just that I’m really struggling with my racial identity right now. My mom’s white. My dad’s Black. I’m voiced by a white actress who’s 37 years old!”
By episode nine, Jenny Slate’s voice has been switched out for up and coming Black comedian Ayo Edebiri’s. Their voices are starkly different, possibly representing the change in authenticity from Missy’s character and the writers behind it. It marks a positive progression in the inclusivity and attention-to-detail that “Big Mouth” should have had all along.
While Missy is learning Black slang and spending time with her cousins, Jessi is experiencing a whole slew of emotional stressors. The Depression Kitty (Jean Smart, “Mad About You”) and Tito the Anxiety Mosquito (Maria Bamford, “Animaniacs”) consistently follow Jessi around and encourage her to make destructive decisions, like giving her older boyfriend a handjob when she isn’t ready. After a season of struggling to adjust to her chaotic family life and confusing relationships, Jessi finally learns to fight off her mental oppressors.
The rich metaphor of her interaction with the Gratitoad (I cannot make this stuff up) (Zack Galifinakis, “Between Two Ferns: The Movie”) as he teaches her to be grateful and literally eats the anxiety mosquitos following her around is surprisingly poetic. Jessi’s mental health journey in this season feels more realistic than ever, even though it includes talking animals and a ninth-grade boy named Michaelangelo (who genuinely looks at least 30).
Beyond just Missy and Jessi, this season overall holds an elevated level of comedy and comfort. With such an immense following behind the show, writers had the opportunity to climb to the next level of uncomfortable, hilarious and disgusting. From a detailed metaphor about Lola’s (Nick Kroll, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) vagina that includes drawbridges and dinosaurs to a plotline in which Andrew (John Mulaney, “John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch”) is spiritually compelled to jerk off in front of his grandfather’s corpse, it is clear this show is the result of amazingly funny people writing without limitations.
The genuine heart and acute attention to detail that go into this show are elevated in this season as characters explore previously uncharted territories. Every topic is written with care and respect, creating comedic moments without making jokes at the expense of a serious experience. “Big Mouth” Season 4 reminds viewers that it is much more than a comedy. It is a genuine picture of the emotionally taxing struggles and absolute ridiculousness that come with adolescence.
Daily Arts Writer Emily Blumberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.