Big Mouth is a fantastic, innovative, and thought-provoking show that delves deeper into these awkward life moments better than almost any series before it. During its first three seasons, the show garnered critical accolades for its irreverent approach to sensitive issues. However, though Big Mouth started great, Season 4 may have gotten a little too bizarre for its good.
It’s hard to dip back to the first 30 episodes and pull out one that’s remembered for delivering shock value within good 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 manner. From periods to manhood size, it compels viewers into areas that leave them laughing hard or wriggling with embarrassment. Either way, that seems to be the stage; helping normalize topics that have broader discussions. Having said this, some fans are discovering the way the Big Mouth is facing some issues in Season 4 doesn’t follow the familiar formula.
The first 3 episodes of Big Mouth Season 4 sees the majority of the children off at summer camp. The episodes are littered with great moments — particularly for anyone who has endured the uniquely teenage experience of moving away to camp — with guest-voices like Seth Rogen and John Oliver. However, it does not take long before the storylines start to transition from relatable to ridiculous.
The next installment, “The Hugest Period Ever,” was an unapologetic and very picture dramatization of just what the title says — what it’s like to have the hugest period, made worse while being off in camp! It was blunt and pulled no punches, rightfully so. But its aggressive effort to normalize and inject humor into these very relatable life moments makes the episode seem to overplay its hand by revisiting its eccentric gags over and over. Leaving some jokes — like the absorption power of a pad so powerful it pulls down planes from the sky — feeling exhausted and absurd, which may detract from the episode’s enjoyment.
Halfway through the summer, the eccentric dream-like Episode 6,” Nick Starr,” shows us the children all grown up in their adult lifetimes. The fundamental theme is a bit muddled, but mostly the idea of not living with all the regrets of missed chances. By way of instance, Nick suffers emotional emptiness for not telling Jessi he enjoyed her, referencing the previous incident. It was also a plotline that would have been told with a strange, futuristic, dreamy episode that just seemed out of place with children browsing middle school life.
Season 4’s next to the last episode, “Horror House,” places all of the children trapped within a bizarre, over-the-top house of horrors after being drugged in a Halloween Party. The children find themselves tumbling into trippy, crazy strings which feels like a hard departure from the display’s first motifs. While the episode is excellent in strengthening the need for children to come to grips with their individuality and insecurities, it did so in a manner that appeared far from the schoolyard and classroom encounters that Big Mouth was built upon. The themes of this episode, similar to another strange example, all presented an important case for why dismissing taboos could be so destructive. Nevertheless, it was how the series decided to portray those issues, not the issues themselves, that looked a small off-brand.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Season 4 stands out from the first three seasons since almost every one of the directors was fresh to the set. Nearly all the people brought into direct episodes for the newest season were fresh to the show, with Bryan Francis the only holdover from prior decades. With almost all of the directors who shepherded the past three seasons to the atmosphere being eliminated, that change in production leadership could also be a factor for why some things feel different.
Big Mouth always had the sensation of becoming a bizarrely animated mixture of The Wonder Years meets HBO’s Girls. And similar to its feelings towards Florida, Big Mouth has a proud legacy of anything goes. An unbridled approach to subject matters many shows have prevented from discomfort and humiliation. But does that mean it’s not without its limitations? Big Mouth gets got the fearlessness to go headfirst into areas others shows never have. However, once treading new ground it can be hard to see when you’ve gone off the planned route.