“Just jerk yourself off and get your shit together!”
Just when you think that you have some modicum of control over your puberty and hormones, they throw you for a major loop. You can experience growing pains within growing pains. Andrew, Nick, and Jessi have learned a ton and changed significantly since the start of Big Mouth.
Previous seasons (we voted it the best comedy TV show of 2018) have seen these characters at war over their own bodies, but this time around the hormones are even more combative. Both hilarious for adults and actually informative for adolescents who are going through the same changes as the children in the show, Big Mouth Season 3 is the show’s most mature year yet.
At this point, we know who these characters are. In some cases, they have become less of the caricatures we initially pegged them for. The evolution of characters like Jay, who went from oversexed punchline to a layered child with questions about his sexuality and development, are much more satisfying precisely because of the journey that they’ve taken. These characters were great from the start, but they’re even better now that they’ve grown up a bit, learned a little more, and made a whole bunch of mistakes along the way.
These hormonal changes are applicable to the entire cast, but it’s also impressive to see how every character goes through their own existential journey. Everyone experiences their own different kinds of unhealthy relationships, but they all learn something and grow from these exchanges.
Everyone has a lot on their plate, but Andrew seems to struggle most of all after he ends the previous season at rock bottom. It’s interesting to see how much anger Andrew lets into his life. I was genuinely surprised at certain moments to see the toxic male he’s turning into. He’s not far away from heading into incel territory and I’m very curious where Big Mouth may be willing to take Andrew’s frustrations.
Andrew becomes more aggressive, but Missy also starts to experiment with acting out and being less of a perfect people pleaser. She slowly begins to accept her sexuality and allows it to influence her life. This newfound power makes Missy more assertive, but other characters, like Jay, are tossed into doubt. Jay struggles with questions about his sexual desires, but this turns into a larger discussion about the many new kinds of sexual interests and classifications that are out there in this modern world. It all comes from a very understanding place. Jay also faces other internal crises as he comes to terms with his dysfunctional family and witnesses what a little positive reinforcement from an outside force can do for him. It’s amazing to see the depth that he achieves this year.
Most of the season’s progress is devoted to the children, but Coach Steve—who has the mind of a child (if we’re being generous)—also goes on quite the journey. Coach Steve is no longer the school’s gym teacher and he tries to find a new identity independent of that as he ricochets between a number of new roles this season. Steve is pretty extraneous at this point, but his appearances are always brief and self-aware, which is much better than conforming stories so he’ll fit into them. Coach Steve has always been one of the crazier characters in the show, but this year his life becomes literal nonsense.
This season also finally shines a light on some characters who have stayed on the sidelines over the course of the series, like Duke, who gets an entire retro episode devoted to the circumstances of how he lost his virginity as a youth. It also gets creative with its character pairings and new combinations reveal some fun developments and help make the cast feel more varied than in the past. Big Mouth almost intentionally tries to avoid its usual character dynamics as it pushes everyone further out of their comfort zones. Andrew and Nick go through an especially compelling divide over the bulk of the season.
As these established characters grow and learn, there are also ample opportunities for new characters and guest actors to get added to the mix. Rob Huebel joins as Mr. Lizer, a tone-deaf Dean concerned with social issues and a prevalent thorn in everyone’s side this season; Ali Wong as a new pansexual girl at school; and Chelsea Peretti becomes “Cellsea,” a smartphone that Nick ends up in a romantic relationship with that works as an analogue for people’s love towards their phones. All of these new personalities, especially Peretti’s Cellsea, fit in well.
Big Mouth’s characters soar and remain believable, but the series is still laugh-out-loud funny and has some of the best dialogue, wordplay, and bizarre non-sequiturs of any comedy on television. Additionally, the parallels and creative leaps that the show makes between fantasy and the human body are also highly inspired. Musical numbers are often turned to in order to help break down complex topics and the vibe is honestly akin to something like Animaniacs that’s simultaneously educational and hilarious in its composition. All of the pop culture references and tangents that aid examples about puberty are on point. Each episode also tends to play devil’s advocate and explores both sides of every topic, so as not to present any kind of bias. The scripts deceptively pack a ton into every episode.
The series fully understands how to fixate on the perfect pieces of minutiae and what subject matter should fuel its stories. As funny as Big Mouth is, it’s an exceptionally honest show and a lot of the enjoyment comes out of having been exactly where these characters have at some point. There are a lot of tender “firsts” that these kids experience this season and they make every moment count. It remains one of the most relatable shows on TV, as broad as it can get at times.
Big Mouth hasn’t shied away from “difficult” topics in the past, but this season goes to some particularly controversial (and incestuous) places. There are a number of amazing stories behind this season’s episodes, like one that’s all about girls understanding and experiencing their first orgasm. It’s honestly such a delicate script and deserves to win an award. Big Mouth tackles topics that are relevant and specific to both genders, but it does seem to cater to more of a female slant at times, which is an exciting perspective to see embraced. For instance, one episode heavily digs into the ever-relevant topic of female anger and the boiling point this has reached in a post-“Me Too” world, but it’s explored through the appropriate microcosm of seventh graders.
It’s sometimes shocking to see the intelligent level of scrutiny that Big Mouth applies to important topics like rape culture, sexting, prescription drug abuse, and screen addiction. It specifically highlights how complicated these issues are, especially now. It’s a severe bummer to have lost the exceptional Tuca & Bertie, but Big Mouth does tap into that same female energy more than people give it credit for. The episodes that dig into the schism between boys and girls tend to be the most rewarding and complex of the lot.
Stylistically, Big Mouth’s third season gets even bolder and crazier, with both a musical production and a chaotic superhero free-for-all that hints at some of the more exaggerated places that the series may visit in the future. This season subtly expands on the types of stories that can believably be told within this series. There’s an extended riff on the problematic, so-bad-it’s-good ‘90s film, Disclosure, an A+ slam against fellow Netflix program, 13 Reasons Why, and a Sylvester Stallone that’s made of pure ejaculate. It’s all so uniquely Big Mouth. Some of my favorite episodes from the entire series are from this season – “Girls Are Angry Too” and “Duke” acting as serious high points of what this show can do and illustrate its increased confidence in storytelling
With this many episodes under its belt, Big Mouth’s ability to call back to older installments and re-explore similar ideas in new ways becomes even stronger in its third season. This has always been a show that has fun with its continuity, but it’s fun to watch it have a conversation with its past in clever, reflexive ways. This season is still mostly episodic in nature, but there are plenty of storylines that develop over several episodes and larger arcs that play out over the course of the entire season. Big Mouth always rises to the occasion every time the series extends the boundaries of its universe. We’ve moved from Hormone Monsters to Shame Wizards, Depression Kitties, Menopause Banshees, and a whole host of metaphorical creatures to guide these characters through life.
Big Mouth season 3 effectively combines a relaxed, casual vibe with heightened, absurdist stories that all boil down to humanity and acceptance at their core. It’s a celebration of friendship, the human body, and growing up. This year is as strong as the previous ones and with (at least) two more seasons confirmed, Big Mouth isn’t going anywhere in the immediate future. If Big Mouth was already showing signs of fatigue, this renewal may be cause for concern, but it’s quite the opposite. Big Mouth’s secure future allows it to tell even more ambitious stories and take the bigger picture into perspective. A lot of this season sets things in motion and rearranges the status quo for what’s to come next season. These characters will continue to age and deal with new hormonal and romantic situations, so it looks unlikely that they’ll run out of material, especially with high school right around the corner.
Big Mouth can be a wild fantasy at times, but the fact that it actually allows its cast realism and growth is perhaps the smartest decision that the show has made. I can’t wait to watch these misguided misfits get older and deal with even bigger issues in the years to come.
Re-living puberty shouldn’t be this fun.
The entire third season of Big Mouth is available on Netflix on October 4. This review is based on all twelve half-hour episodes from Big Mouth’s third season.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, and Bloody Disgusting. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.