Bridgeton Middle Finds Love in “Big Mouth” Season Five
Issue 7, Volume 112
In a manner uncharacteristic of the show’s previous trajectory, season five of “Big Mouth” quietly premiered earlier this November—for a show with so much hate and love directed towards it, there wasn’t much of a buzz for its most recent season. “Big Mouth” has garnered much controversy over its four years of runtime on Netflix, and for good reason. The show certainly does not pull punches when discussing taboo topics or showing maybe a bit too much graphic imagery. In season five, this boldness continues, with familiar faces making a return to explore new ideas.
Many of the same characters are back, with Nick (Nick Kroll), Andrew (John Mulaney), Jessi (Jessi Klein), Jay (Jason Mantzoukas), and Missy (Ayo Edebiri) continuing to face the trials and tribulations of adolescence. The fifth season follows this established cast of characters, as they navigate through yet another sweaty year of American middle school.
Like the seasons before it, “Big Mouth” is still a show about growing up. The troubles of adolescence are still in essence the main antagonists, personified by emotional beings, including the new “Lovebugs” and “Hate Worms.” Characters experience hardships, failures, and drama that force them apart and, at times, together.
In single episodes, “Big Mouth” confronts a range of problems with self-image, like acne and body dysmorphia, or deals with larger themes—jealousy, for instance—that pervades each character’s story. Characterized as a “Green-Eyed Envy,” the show describes how jealousy can snowball into an uncontrollable, monster-like rage. Though liberties are certainly taken with the realism of conflicts, the emotions experienced by the characters are still clear—painfully accurate at times—and compelling to watch.
A change made that doesn’t play too well in this new season is the relationship between the show’s main characters, Andrew and Nick. The pair’s friendship is largely sidelined in this season, with Andrew having less screen time and being given less compelling storylines. He really doesn’t have much to do here, which is unfortunate considering how central he was in the earlier seasons. Much of the attention is diverted to either Nick’s storylines or short, episode-long explorations of individual characters. Plotlines also begin and conclude much faster than in previous seasons, with character arcs being reduced to one to two-episode-long vignettes. This change has a mix of effects: at times it’s difficult to get emotionally attached to characters when their arcs are so short, but the quick pace also compliments the rapid-fire humor and writing.
Since “Big Mouth” has been around for so long, the cast of characters has grown tremendously since 2017 both in size and individual development. The character perhaps showing the most change is Missy, going from a shy, non-confrontational Black girl voiced by Jenny Slate, to a girl who’s more comfortable with her sexuality and race, voiced by Ayo Edebiri. Another character who saw major upheaval was Jay, whose most recent arc involved coming to terms with the role his bisexuality plays in his life.
Unlike other elements of the show, the fourth-wall breaks of this season are poorly implemented, having been taken to the extreme in the fifth season. Within each episode, characters self-referentially reference the show itself and its various plotlines and controversies. This fourth-wall breakage was always present in the show, but in this season it begins to upend the show’s flow, even halting the development of scenes at times. In the show’s finale, the breaks are integrated into the plot when an animated Nick meets an awkwardly green-screened Nick Kroll, the co-creator of the series and his own voice actor. Despite the complete absurdity of this moment, it serves the coming-of-age aspect of the plot well, with a clear message about embracing change and growing up.
The season’s finale leaves one question unanswered: where can the show go from here? The faster pace of this season, while adding some interest to the plot, had the adverse effect of introducing several new ideas that could have been fleshed out and explored more thoroughly over longer periods. How many more love triangles can the writers fit between the show’s main characters before it gets stale? What other big teenage problems can they cover? Perhaps the whole show will adopt an anthology style, using established characters in one-offs that expand the rest of their lives or explore never-before-seen quirks of their personalities. Until news regarding season six is released, nothing can be done but speculate.
“Big Mouth” is still as controversial as it has ever been, continuing to deal with the many taboo subjects surrounding teenage development. It does so with gusto, with moments of graphic violence of sexuality always being accented with an aspect of real human emotion. The show is still, in essence, a coming-of-age story, shown in full via the emotional development of its characters. This season is unapologetically brash, brazen, and at heart, heartfelt.