“Big Mouth” enters its fifth season with its signature raunchiness as it delves into the pubescent, as well as romantic, experiences of its middle schoolers. Viewers reunite with Andrew (John Mulaney), Nick (Nick Kroll) and Jessi (Jessi Klein) as they navigate the struggles of sex and friendship with the help of their personal hormone monsters. Apart from the trio, the show’s wonderful ensemble cast helps to develop funny and insightful storylines throughout the season.
The show relishes in the disgusting yet relatable mishaps that its characters fall into. Viewers left discomfort behind in season one after learning that nothing was off limits. With its frank discussions about sex and explicit visuals, “Big Mouth” continues to challenge the notion that animation is a children’s genre. Every character contributes to these discussions, but none are more succinct than the absurdly funny hormone monsters: Maury (Kroll) and Connie (Maya Rudolph). Arguably the backbone of the show, the filthy duo have a hand in everything their teenagers do — from masturbation to betrayal. When they are not in cahoots with their respective teens, they offer audiences witty commentary via a broken fourth wall. Rudolph continues to shine brightly with precise inflections that make her character appear just as fresh as in season one. Episode nine books her a double shift as she voices Connie’s twin sister, Bonnie. The twins’ discussion surrounding a Beanie Baby Beanie Feldstein is one that will be stuck in viewers’ heads for weeks. Every word Rudolph says drips with such talent that a viewer can laugh at her alliterative assonance in a simple line of dialogue.
“Big Mouth” returns with its signature strength of rolling out pop culture references to develop the plot of the episodes. The first episode, aptly named “No Nut November,” catches viewers up to speed with a Scorsese-esque voiceover: couple Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) and Lola (Kroll) are still broken up, Nick is pining after Jessi and Andrew is still gross. In an effort to distract himself from Lola, Jay suggests that they all participate in the seasonal challenge of abstinence. In a recurring “Seinfeld” bit, the gang accepts the challenge in the sitcom’s recognizable New York diner. Barely halfway into the episode, the show returns to its well-stocked arsenal of pop culture references that never seem to fall flat. A couple include a cartoonishly jacked Kumail Nanjiani advocating for “No Nut November,” a dig at John Travolta’s bangs and the movie night selection of “Doubt” (2008) to fend off sexual urges. “Big Mouth” continues to cater to viewers’ knowledge of popular media that spans from classic films to trivial celebrity gossip.
The deeper dive into love also expands the world of “Big Mouth” with the inclusion of new monsters: Lovebugs and Hate Worms. Past seasons have seen Tito the Anxiety Mosquito, Gratitoad and Depression Kitty. The new additions, like the ones before them, stir up trouble for our characters as they begin to deal with issues of unrequited love and unintentional exclusion. Walter the Lovebug (Brandon Kyle Goodman) encourages Nick to publicly declare his love for Jessi, but ultimately experiences a humiliating rejection that transforms Walter into a Hate Worm. Lovebug Sonya (Pamela Adlon) helps Jessi navigate her romantic desires for Ali (Ali Wong) that conflict with their stable, platonic friendship. Rochelle the Hate Worm (Keke Palmer) infests Missy’s (Ayo Edebiri) head as she begins to feel jealous of Jessi and Ali’s new friendship. The dichotomy between the two new monsters encapsulates the beauty and ugliness that love has to offer.
“Big Mouth” takes a big risk by featuring Kroll as himself in a live-action animated scene. The season finale shows Kroll giving helpful advice to a frustrated Nick Birch. Rarely does any animated series have live actors interact with cartoons; the concept immediately brings to mind Robert Zemeckis’ “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988) or Joe Pytka’s “Space Jam” (1996). Co-creator, executive producer and the voice behind several characters, Kroll is the poster boy of “Big Mouth,” and as such, his role in the show’s most meta joke is appropriate. The scene’s self-awareness wards off the stiffness that would exist if the writers mindlessly inserted Kroll without acknowledging his presence. The conversation between both Nicks leads to Birch’s own self-reflection, resolving one of the season’s conflicts.
A highlight of the season is its eighth episode, “A Very Big Mouth Christmas.” The show challenges the traditional Christmas special with the creation of the anti-Christmas special. It may cause some to grab their torches and pitchforks, but it will definitely make the angry mob laugh before any violence ensues. The episode includes seven stories that create a new spin on traditional holiday tales, featuring storytellers Connie and Maury in puppet form, resembling characters of classic Rankin/Bass films. Perhaps the most inflammatory story is the adaptation of the Nativity, equipped with commentary about women’s pleasure and ending with the birth of “Baby Cheesus.” Another is a reimagination of Andrew’s Christmas experience as a WASP. It starts off fun, as his parents shower him with lavish gifts like a Range Rover, until he learns of the severe disapproval Christian teachings have for masturbation; Andrew wakes up the next morning happy to be Jewish. The juxtaposition between the wholesome aesthetic and unflinching obscenity is what “Big Mouth” does best.
While many shows begin to plateau by their second or third season, “Big Mouth” continues to feel vibrant and relevant with each new release. It dares viewers to step out of their comfort zone and to work out the issues that they can relate to but may be too shy to actually talk about. Everything about the show, from its characters to its unhinged depictions of sex, works in tandem to start conversations about the complexities of sexuality and emotions. Viewers can relate to the jealousy one feels when a friend starts hanging out with a new person or when one’s crush rejects them and the future they envisioned. “Big Mouth” reaches that awkward middle schooler inside of us that we try to forget, but perhaps secretly cherish.