Season four of ‘Large Mouth’ introduces offended poop, scared mosquitoes and a brand new period of Missy
Ah, big mouth. You really have no right to be as good as you are. When Netflix first announced the animated comedy, co-designed by Nick Kroll, there was not much enthusiasm for the concept. A crude comedy about a group of young teenagers with hormone monsters who talk endlessly about masturbation, menstruation, and the other various torments of puberty? This could become very problematic very quickly. However, the series has managed to forge a distinct identity as a sharp, progressive-minded comedy that seeks to destigmatize the various often taboo aspects of growing up while keeping the sheer volume of cum jokes at an all-time high. What other TV show could portray a woman having an abortion as a perfectly normal and non-traumatic act of health care in one scene (nothing less than “Groove is in The Heart”) followed by a horror pastiche of pounding blue d * cks in the next?
Just as bodies are changing, Big Mouth is evolving too, as its fourth season fell last week. The kids are ready for eighth grade, but first they have to grapple with a whole new flurry of problems. Andrew (John Mulaney) has had an argument with BFF Nick (Nick Kroll), which makes their time together at summer camp all the more uncomfortable. Jessi (Jessi Klein) prepares to move to the big city and battles the overwhelming return of Depression Kitty (Jean Smart). Nick is plagued by fear in the form of an irritated mosquito voiced by Maria Bamford. Missy has an identity crisis about her race. Matthew (Andrew Rannells) is tormented about whether or not to come to his conservative parents. And Jay and Lola … well, of course they’re together now.
The gang is split for the first few episodes of the season so they have some time to deal with their unique problems, but they are not alone. After the transition, a regular has returned to the camp, and her isolation from her former bunkmates leads her to develop a friendship with the equally lonely Jessi. As Josie Totah pointed out when Saved By the Bell reboot, Natalie will become Big Mouth’s first transsexual. After the less successful season 3 intro of pansexual Ali, which the writers admitted they screwed up, Natalie gets more breathing room, both as a character and as a thematic beat. The boys ask terribly intrusive questions, the girls treat them like dress-up toys, and the camp counselors (including one voiced by John Oliver) are painfully ignorant of the whole situation. It’s a shame we can’t get more from Natalie beyond the camp, because Totah’s performance is confident and balanced, and conveys the awkwardness and sheer annoyance of a young woman tired of explaining around the clock. Her intro also brings back the really horrific macho monster Gavin, who reacts to Natalie’s disapproval by screaming that he will never have toe hair or write for Bill Maher.
Season four can be Missy Forman-Greenwald’s season. Missy, the group’s proudly clumsy nerd has always been an inviting combination of self-awareness in her curiosities, an eagerness to embrace the big bad world, and utter horniness. While Missy is a mixed race girl, Big Mouth had never before addressed issues related to her blackness, most likely because she was voiced by Jenny Slate. A few months ago, the show announced that Slate would be replaced by Ayo Edebiri, a writer on the show who shaped Missy’s character in the first place. However, she only appears in the last two episodes. For most of the season and most of Missy’s journey regarding her racial identity, she is still voiced by Slate. While her friends are at camp, Missy visits her family in Atlanta, including her painfully cool older cousins, who take her to a black hairdresser for the first time and introduce her to ideas of her own identity that she had never or had never considered before the chance to explore.
Always ready to tear down the fourth wall, Missy notices, as suggested by Slate, that she cannot say certain words. She introduced DeVon’s concept of code switching, which finally has more to do than being Devin’s Plus-One. In the end, when Edebiri completely takes over from Slate, we see the satisfying acceptance of the various facets of herself as a young black woman by Missy. She encounters different versions of Missy in a hall of mirrors (and yes, there is a reference to us) and realizes that she doesn’t have to choose one type of Missy. She can be dumb and cool, and hug her blackness any way she wants, not like her parents, cousins, or white classmates tell her. Moving from Slate to Edebiri is certainly an interesting opportunity for the show, though one can only wonder why so much of that trip for Missy was spoken of by a white woman.
Season three ended with Andrew trying to break up with Nick by finding that his best friend is often selfish, pig-headed, and not concerned about other people’s feelings. This is an insult that is haunting Nick this season and leads the scared mosquito to essentially dethrone his hormone monster as his constant companion (he’s not the only one, as fear plagues all children in some form, like shame wizards in a less sloppy way .) Nick is still a little behind his classmates when it comes to the terror of puberty, and a series of fear-related events result in his roommates ostracizing him. It all leaves him wondering if maybe it’s not that bad being a selfish fool. At least that would make him impervious to the panic and isolation he suffers right now. For a show defined by its weirdness, that narrative takes on one of its more unexpected twists, with Nick plagued by his own possible future self, arrogant Jerk game show host Nick Starr. The emotional trauma of adolescence is often reduced to mundane clichés or romantic puzzles in pop culture. So it was refreshing to see Big Mouth delving into the insecurity of self. Trying to find out who you are is an endless journey of indecision that has plagued so many of us for decades. When you’re still a kid, the prospect of becoming someone else, someone different from your uncomplicated self, can petrify. For Nick, he fears that it could be the end of himself in every way, which is a fascinating contrast to Missy’s journey.
That round-up makes the show sound pretty self-serious, but fear not: Big Mouth is still merciless filth. Andrew struggles with emotional and literal constipation, and of course that crap is voiced by Paul Giamatti. Lola and Jay make the perfect couple thanks to their dirt goblin energy and surprising empathy for each other’s growing pain. Missy’s hormone monster Mona (Thandie Newton) is very lascivious and treats every situation like Mae West with a playbook with allusions. Andrew and Nick are trying to impress some seventh grade girls (voiced by Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle of Pen15), and their one-off gig is full of spin-off potential (they got a fuck gremlin!)
The magic of Big Mouth has always been as it encourages viewers of all ages to embrace their inner craziness, and that still goes for season four. However, this time, it’s here too to remind us that it’s okay to be afraid not only of hormonal frenzies but the emotional chaos of being alive. Overall, it’s a rounder season than the third, though it doesn’t reach the sheer heights of the second season. It matures, much like its ensemble. It shouldn’t seem so bold that Big Mouth believes that young people have the right to be rude, confused and ready to assert themselves in the way they choose, but it does. We are guaranteed to have at least two more seasons and a spin-off, and there is still so much to discover. We are ready to follow these horny freaks into the wild.
Big Mouth’s fourth season is now streamed on Netflix.
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Header image source: Netflix