Big Mouth is a brilliant, creative and thought-provoking show that delves deeper into those awkward life moments better than almost any show before it. During its first three seasons, the show garnered critical accolades for its irreverent approach to sensitive subjects. However, though Big Mouth started off great, Season 4 may have gotten a little too weird for its own good.
It is hard to dip back into the first 30 episodes and pull out one that is remembered for delivering shock value over great storytelling — far from it. The show is built around the idea of confronting sensitive subjects about sex, puberty, and our bodies, in a direct yet relatable and funny way. From periods to penis size, it pushes viewers into places that leave them laughing hard or wriggling with embarrassment. Either way, that seems to be the point; helping normalize topics that deserve broader discussions. Having said that, some fans are noticing that the way the Big Mouth is confronting some subjects in Season 4 doesn’t follow the familiar formula.
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The first three episodes of Big Mouth Season 4 sees most of the kids off at summer camp. The episodes are littered with great moments — especially for anyone who has endured the uniquely adolescent experience of going away to camp — with guest-voices like Seth Rogen and John Oliver. But it doesn’t take long before the storylines start to transition from relatable to overtly ridiculous.
The second episode, “The Hugest Period Ever,” was an unapologetic and very graphic dramatization of exactly what the title says — what it’s like to have the hugest period ever, made worse while being away at camp! It was frank and pulled no punches, rightfully so. But its aggressive attempt to normalize and inject humor into these very relatable life moments makes the episode seem to overplay its hand by revisiting its outlandish gags over and over. Leaving some jokes — like the absorption power of a pad so strong it pulls down planes from the sky — feeling tired and ridiculous, which can detract from the episode’s enjoyment.
Halfway through the season, the bizarre dream-like Episode 6, “Nick Starr,” shows us the kids all grown up in their adult lives. The central theme is a bit muddled, but mostly the idea of not living with the regrets of missed opportunities. For example, Nick suffers emotional emptiness for not telling Jessi he liked her, referencing the previous episode. It was also a plotline that could have been told without using a strange, futuristic, dreamy episode that just seemed out of place with kids navigating middle school life.
Season 4’s second to last episode, “Horrority House,” puts all the kids trapped inside a bizarre, over-the-top house of horrors after being drugged at a Halloween Party. The kids find themselves tumbling into trippy, crazy sequences that really feels like a hard departure from the shows original themes. While the episode is great at reinforcing the need for kids to come to grips with their own identity and insecurities, it did so in a way that seemed far from the schoolyard and classroom experiences that Big Mouth was built upon. The themes of this episode, much like the other strange examples, all presented an important case for why ignoring taboos can be so destructive. But it was how the show chose to portray those issues, not the issues themselves, that seemed a little off-brand.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Season 4 stands out from the first three seasons because almost all of the directors were new to the series. Nearly all the people brought into direct episodes for the latest season were new to the show, with Bryan Francis the only holdover from previous years. With nearly all the directors who shepherded the previous three seasons to air being gone, that change in production leadership could also be a factor for why some things feel different.
Big Mouth always had the feeling of being a bizarrely animated mix of The Wonder Years meets HBO’s Girls. And much like its feelings towards Florida, Big Mouth has a proud legacy of anything goes. An unbridled approach to subject matters most shows have avoided out of discomfort and embarrassment. But does that mean it is not without its limits? Big Mouth has the fearlessness to go headfirst into places others shows never have. But when treading new ground it can be hard to see when you’ve gone off the intended path.
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