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‘Mozart in the Jungle’ review: Season 4 starts slowly but gets better

Gael García Bernal and Lola Kirke in

Gael García Bernal and Lola Kirke in "Mozart in the Jungle." Photo Credit: Amazon Prime Studio / Sarah Shatz

THE SERIES “Mozart in the Jungle”

WHEN | WHERE Season 4 starts streaming Friday on Amazon Prime.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT The fourth season picks up where the third left off, as New York Symphony maestro Rodrigo De Souza (Gael García Bernal) and oboist — also his protégé — Hailey Rutledge (Lola Kirke) figure out their new romantic relationship. Meanwhile, WASPish Thomas Pembridge (Malcolm McDowell) starts conducting another orchestra, which complicates his life with NYSO chairwoman Gloria Windsor (Bernadette Peters). John Cameron Mitchell joins this season, as a mysterious choreographer who draws Rodrigo into his orbit, while the show heads to Japan later in the season. All 10 episodes will stream Friday, while this review is based on the first six.

MY SAY Under just about any circumstance, it’d be hard for “Mozart” to top the third-season launch, when the show traveled to Italy, and added (briefly anyway) Monica Bellucci to the cast, then somehow figured out a comical way (is there any other?) to patch the tale of Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco into the storyline.

Surprise: “Mozart” doesn’t, at least initially.

The third season closed with one reasonably huge development, when Hailey and Rodrigo finally got together romantically, and a less huge but no less significant one when she failed the audition to join the orchestra. The fourth needs to sort all this out, and does, mostly by pushing fans to decide whether they like Hailey and Rodrigo as a pair — let’s call ’em HaiRod — or whether Hailey and Rodrigo like each other in this new arrangement. A certain question haunts the process: Is there something mutually exclusive about being artists and also lovers? Rodrigo sees no problem. Hailey’s not so certain.

Like all love affairs, this one needs the time to develop and gets it. They travel to her childhood home in North Carolina, where he meets the parents for the first time, then offers this concise observation, which also speaks directly to Hailey: “They say things that are nice but poisonous. They lift you but trap you.” Good old Rodrigo. He always surprises. Hailey, meanwhile, is ever mindful that Rodrigo wasn’t exactly much help during the audition, either.

The show has a lot else to sort out, too, most of that in New York City. Mitchell’s addition this season feels a little underbaked by the midpoint. His character and project, a ballet for no audience, are more in the promise stage than the payoff one. Also, Thomas becomes a little more musically adventurous just as Rodrigo becomes more conservative. Interesting, but hardly all that dramatic.

At heart, “Mozart in the Jungle” is a rolling stone that loses the moss when it hits the road. The eighth episode, “Ichi Go Ichi E,” set in Japan, is an exquisite meditation on the preparation of tea, which then becomes a strikingly beautiful meditation on the nature of love. HaiRod fleetingly becomes as one and in a singular romantic instance, their whole world fits in a teacup.

BOTTOM LINE Slow start, but Tokyo eventually takes care of that.

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