Unlike the previous three seasons, Season Four actually follows a bit of an overarching storyline running through each episode surrounding Robert Freemanís out of control debt. In the first episode, we learn Robert has been blowing all of his money on dates, prompting a visit from Ed Wuncler, Jr. (Eddie), a shady loan shark who has come to collect on the mortgage for his fatherís bank. Eddie allows Robert and the boys to stay at the house, while also renting out rooms to other people in order to repay the mortgage.
The plan isnít a moneymaker, eventually driving Robert to make another high-interest loan deal with Eddie. As a result, Robert and the boys are now employed by Eddie, with all of their wages going towards interest on the loan Ė essentially making them Eddieís slaves.
The debt issue comes up at various points throughout the season, usually as a plot point leading to some other storyline. Sometimes it works, such as the episode "I Dream of Siri," where Robert decides to buy an iPhone because heís convinced Siri will help him fix all of his debt problems. As it turns out, Siri is able to help, but with unexpected consequences. Siri becomes sentient, eventually developing the personality of a jilted lover and managing to blackmail Robert into marrying his phone. Itís an odd send-up of the film Her, but is also one of the seasonís better episodes.
Examples of this debt storyline now working make up most of the seriesí 10-episode collection. One of the more tasteless, unfunny examples is "Freedomland," in which Eddie opens an oppression-themed amusement park. The end result is a mess of an episode centering on Uncle Ruckus brandishing a whip and living out a twisted fantasy. Like other episodes, there are attempts to communicate a larger message, but it falls completely flat. As is the case with most of the episodes, as well as the overarching plotline, the problem is presented and defined, but without commentary on why the problem is wrong.
If anything else, this shows just how much the show needs McGruderís guiding hand. The writers know what worked in the previous three seasons, but donít seem to have an understanding of "why" it worked. Fans of Community will recognize the same issues with its fourth season. The jokes were there, but lacked the same understanding and "pop" of the seasons with Harmon at the helm.
Case in point, Uncle Ruckus, who emerged as a show favorite early in the first season. He was great, but only in small doses. However, in Season Four, he takes a central role in several episodes, becoming a grating annoyance. By the third episode, he goes from being ignorant, yet somewhat likeable, to ignorant and mean-spirited. Even his plotlines, such as Ruckus running the local Tea Party organization and showing up as a race-relations commentator on Fox News arenít that funny or smart. This problem shows up repeatedly throughout the season. Huey isnít the smart voice of social reason he was in previous episodes and Riley is obnoxious for the sake of being obnoxious. There are also several call-backs to jokes in previous seasons, such as a forced "Stinkmeaner" episode, though they all tend to come off as recycled jokes told simply because they worked before.
However, there are a couple of bright spots scattered throughout the season. "Freedom Ride or Die," is a fun episode just for the presentation. Done documentary style, the episode revolves around how Robert was an unintentional personality in the Civil Rights movement. Another, "Breaking Grandad," is a near-perfect spoof of Breaking Bad in which Huey makes a bomb gel that has the unintended effect of promoting hair growth. Probably one of the smarter episodes of the bunch is "The New Black," which looks at how words like "gay" and "retard" are used in society.
There isnít much in the way of extras. "Boondocks Beats," focuses on the showís music, while "A Writerís Perspective" focuses on Rodney Barnes, the fourth seasonís Executive Producer and head writer. Both are fairly interesting, though the second feature is a bit irritating considering how flat most of the season turned out.
The Boondocks: The Complete Fourth Season probably isnít what fans of the series expected out of a fourth season, but itís what we got. Itís fairly obvious the show hit a couple of major snags during production, managing to limp across the finish line. Unless youíre looking to complete the series, fans might want to make this one a rental.