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Big Mouth Season 4 Continues Its Messy, Emotional Journey Into Adolescence

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It’s impossible to tell what the “best” season of a television series is, especially when that show is still currently running. But any avid consumer of pop culture would admit that seasons 3-4 are often the strongest in any show’s run. Those seasons hit the sweet spot where a series has established its voice and characters, while still having new stories to tell. And once a series becomes a well-oiled machine, it can push boundaries and expand the world of its characters.

That’s exactly what happens in season 4 of Big Mouth, which returns to Netflix this weekend. And as the kids in the show grow older, the series challenges them with more mature and complex issues. What’s more, Big Mouth challenges itself to do better, by acknowledging its previous mistakes and blind spots born of privilege.

Season 4 picks up in the immediate aftermath of Nick (Nick Kroll) and Andrew’s (John Mulaney) fight over Nick kissing Missy (Jenny Slate, who is replaced in the last two episodes by writer Ayo Edebiri.) The two boys, along with best friend Jessi (Jessi Klein) are sent off to Camp Mohegan Sun for the first three episodes. Meanwhile, Missy goes to visit family in Atlanta and comes back with a new look and a new understanding of her racial identity. And Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) and Lola (Kroll) find themselves deep in latchkey kid love.

The world of Big Mouth expands, as Jessi moves with her mom to New York and enrolls in a fancy prep school. The series also introduces new characters like Seth Goldberg (Seth Rogen), Nick’s camp BFF who quickly forms a friendship with Andrew. Also returning to camp is Natalie (Josie Totah) who’s transitioned since last summer. Natalie’s experience is filled with rudely invasive questions from the boys and superficial support from the girls, as she struggles to find a place for herself at camp.

Totah, who is already breaking barriers for teen trans representation on Peacock’s Saved by the Bell reboot, delivers a confident, layered performance as Natalie. Like her fellow tweens, Natalie is also going through changes, which the series depicts with humor and compassion. Diametrically opposed to her alpha male hormone monster Gavin (Bobby Cannavale), she is able to fend him off via hormone blockers to embrace her authentic self.

The issue of identity looms large this season, as the kids struggle to define themselves via friendships, relationships, and burgeoning interests. This self discovery is hindered by the series’ newest creature, Tito the Anxiety Mosquito (Maria Bamford) who brings out everyone’s fears and anxieties. We also see the return of Jean Smart’s Depression Kitty, who works in tandem with Tito to make Jessi’s adjustment to her new school all the more difficult.

But while Big Mouth delves into deeper issues like OCD, code switching, and sexual coercion, it still maintains its hilariously profane sensibility, with plenty of dancing genitals, chatty tampons, and musical numbers about gross bodily functions. Big Mouth‘s biggest strength is blending fast dirty jokes with deeper issues, which offers compassion without condescension. The series never talks down to its central characters (except maybe Coach Steve) or its audience, which is what has made it so successful. The show is no longer limited to sex and body humor, but delves into issues of race, class, and mental health. This is highlighted in Missy’s season arc, which our own Princess Weekes will be delving more into next week.

It’s a sign that Big Mouth has not only listened to its critics, but is making concrete steps to improve representation and do right by its fans. In an interview with the New York Times, creator and star Nick Kroll said, “The landscape is changing,” he said. “I can either dig my feet in and be like, ‘This isn’t fair!’ or I can be like: ‘OK! How do I adapt?’”

Big Mouth season 4 is now streaming on Netflix.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.