Big Mouth season 4 was always going to be tricky to get right. As teenagers grow older, the difficult emotions that come with puberty only grow more intense. Nick Kroll’s animated Netflix comedy also had to deal with the news that Jenny Slate had decided to step down from the role of Missy, a Black girl, so that a Black actress could take over.
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Slate left after most of these episodes had wrapped, so she’s still around for the moment. When the new series addresses this, it’s with grace and self-awareness. Big Mouth has always enjoyed going meta – and the moment during which Missy looks to camera and says “I’m voiced by a white actress who’s 37 years old!” testifies to the show’s consistent confidence. Missy is also given more space to explore her mixed-race heritage in this season (her dad is Black and her mum is white), as she works towards defining her identity.
This uncertainty is best felt by all the characters when they go to summer camp in the opening episodes. These are undoubtedly the best of the series – the introduction of Tito the Anxiety Mosquito (another creature joining the ranks of psychological projections including the Depression Kitty, the Shame Wizard and, of course, the Hormone Monster) is a stroke of genius that sticks around long after summer has ended. Seth Rogen fits right in, voicing a fellow camper – it’s a shame he doesn’t go home with Nick and co. for the rest of the season – and a plot line involving Natalie, a transgender girl the kids had met last summer pre-transition, is dealt with tastefully.
Season four occasionally drops the ball in moments where Big Mouth leaves its central storyline. The episode taking place in the future isn’t as entertaining as what’s going on in the present – and other vignettes involving apocalyptic and fantastical sketches feel like cheap imitations of Rick and Morty. Best to stick to what the series does best: showing teenagers dealing with the minutiae of, well, being a teenager.
Elsewhere, this season’s shift towards lessons of gratitude, acceptance and anxiety shows that these kids are growing up a little, tackling issues that have a place in the world whatever your age. Ayo Edibiri makes her debut voicing Missy in the final episode – and it’s a treat. Edibiri fits right in, as Missy thrives throughout the season, and it’s exciting to see where she’ll go next. Nick and Andrew, voiced by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney respectively, will always take centre stage (and few can match their self-deprecating humour), but Big Mouth is finally levelling the playing field and dealing with more mature subjects too.
Fewer fart jokes and dystopian explosions, more anxiety mosquitos and a fairer study of the entire group we’ve grown to love over these four seasons: this is the recipe to keep Big Mouth one of the best shows on TV.