The definition of “bingeable” grows increasingly ineffable as our viewing options continue to expand and we struggle to narrow down just how many hours or episodes constitute a proper binge-watch. There are related questions about whether episodic storytelling calls for showing some restraint, even when you really like a show, and if mainlining a series we love is the best way to consume it. Surely, we need to let some of those astonishing moments sink in before queueing up the next episode.
It’s an ongoing discussion, one that feels pertinent with the return of Amazon’s Mozart In The Jungle, a show with multiple seasons under its belt and a Golden Globe for the preternaturally appealing Gael García Bernal, but very little buzz and an unquantifiable audience. In the era of Peak TV, it’s easy for even well-received shows to get lost in the clutter and miss out on a chance for renewal. But this little dramedy from Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman—based on Blair Tindall’s memoir of the same name—has been plugging away in relative obscurity since 2014, ready to charm the pants off anyone with an Amazon Prime account and five hours of free time.
With a manageable episode count, delightful cast, and harmonious fusion of comedy and drama, Mozart In The Jungle is tailor-made for quick and copious consumption. Season one introduced characters who are easy to root for, including Bernal’s mercurial superstar Rodrigo and oboist-turned-aspiring-conductor Hailey Rutledge (Lola Kirke). In the intervening seasons, the writers have chipped away at the conventions worn as armor by former antagonists conductor emeritus Thomas Pembridge (Malcolm McDowell) and Gloria Windsor, the president of the fictional New York Symphony and still occasional enemy of the arts. Mozart’s ensemble also boasts an openly bisexual cellist (Saffron Burrows), a wiseacre best friend (Hannah Dunne), and Debra Monk as a grudging mentor, all multidimensional characters who have been afforded some time in the spotlight.
On Mozart In The Jungle, dreams are followed, stuffed shirts are taken down a peg, and the cast always seems to be having such a genuinely good time that it’s almost impossible not to join in the fun. Season four keeps things as irreverent and giddy as ever while respecting the development seen in these and even tertiary characters like the neurotic Winslow Eliot (Wallace Shawn). The new episodes move to a familiar beat, stoking tensions between Rodrigo and Hailey, now a sporadically public couple, before jetting off to a faraway destination (this time, Tokyo) at the midseason mark to meet the future of conducting and composing. Only this time, the emotional cliffhanger comes well before the finale, which is itself an episode that somehow manages to remain grounded despite featuring a one-man ballet in the park and the appearance of multiple spirits (or, in Mozart’s parlance, “muses”).
Much of the credit goes to Bernal, whose lead performance is key to the show’s allure, something the writers even see fit to nod to in one of the new episodes. His Rodrigo is still given to flights of fancy—this year, his visions get an extra dose or three of sparkles—and he’s almost completely unmoored by season’s end, but the character has also never been more fully realized. And for the first time, the manic pixie dream conductor sits with his grief over the loss of his mentor, a childhood love, and multiple marriages to the same person. The new season also sees him question his place in the classical music world but cuts the introspection with just enough silly segues, including a stint as a waiter, to dance above the usual career-crisis drudgery.
During the show’s run, Bernal has proven himself to be every bit the star that Rodrigo is, inspiring laughter and swooning in equal measure. Kirke hasn’t shone quite as brightly, but neither has she been totally eclipsed by her co-star. Luckily, the perseverance of both character and actress is rewarded this year, with Hailey finally shutting out her insecurities and familial obligations while also finding a way to break free from Rodrigo’s orbit. And when Hailey and Kirke show significant growth, the time investment pays off for the viewer.
But although she eventually sets off on her own, Hailey’s path intertwines with Rodrigo’s for much of the new season, giving Bernal and Kirke ample opportunity to show off a chemistry that’s burnished over time. The will they/won’t they element might be gone (for now), but they’re still an exciting pair to watch. It’s a rare thing, to inspire such care from viewers whether they’re coupled or individuals, but Bernal and Kirke’s mix of flirtiness and companionability keeps us invested. They’re so good together—and apart—that you’ll find yourself reflexively reaching for your mouse or trackpad to click on the next episode and find out what happens after the ceiling starts to cave in, or what exactly Masi Oka and Michael Emerson are up to as guest stars. Before you know it, you’ll have finished the fourth season with plenty of time to wring your hands over your next couch-sitting marathon.