BoJack Horseman nears the end, & things are looking up

Animated Netflix dramedy's return is lighter than past seasons

Credit: 
Screenshot from Netflix

No, BoJack Horseman is not Family Guy with a horse.

The subversive Netflix series premiered the first half of its final season on Oct. 25 with the latter half arriving Jan. 31.

BoJack Horseman looks like yet another raunchy animated comedy, but after five and a half seasons, it should be abundantly clear that this show is much more than that.

Remarkably, BoJack Horseman balances goofy comedy with searing sociopolitical satire. It can switch from animal puns in one scene to a dark portrait of mental illness in the next without skipping a beat. 

An animated dramedy where anthropomorphic animals walk alongside humans may sound ridiculous, but it works because BoJack Horseman is grounded in emotional realism. Despite being animated, the characters are fully three-dimensional.

The linchpin of the show is BoJack’s turbulent acting career and downward spiral into depression. As such, BoJack Horseman can be sad and even scary—like the titular character himself. Tragically, BoJack pushes away the people closest to him and struggles to love himself.

The show’s side characters are foils to BoJack in different ways. However, the thing that connects them is they all want to be happy, but don’t always know how.

BoJack’s best friend Diane is an idealist. She’s tough on herself and others and forces BoJack to be more honest about his flaws. Yet Diane is often at odds with the corrupted world around her, and because of this, she lapses into the same nihilistic attitude as BoJack. The pair bring out both the best and the worst in one other. 

In the series’ first episode, BoJack tells Diane that her husband, the unflinchingly optimistic Mr. Peanutbutter, is “so stupid he doesn’t realize how miserable he should be.”

Now, in season six, BoJack writes a letter to Diane from rehab, saying, “The main thing I think about is how stupid I am that I didn’t do this sooner. I wasted so many years being miserable because I assumed that was the only way to be.”

Character development like this is a product of the show’s formatit’sserialized, meaning story arcs span seasons and the characters change over time rather than each episode ignoring the events of the last.

In fact, BoJack Horseman deliberately critiques the false narratives presented in sitcoms where no problem is too big that it can’t be resolved in the span of twenty minutes (and forgotten about by next week).

BoJack, an alcoholic, buys into the sitcom narrative and expects to achieve closure without taking steps to improve himself. He drinks to suppress his guilt and avoids taking accountability for his behaviour.

However, in the new season, BoJack quits drinking (for now)  and realizes he’s capable of change.

For fans who have been saddled with BoJack’s emotional freefall for over five years, it feels like creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is finally relenting. Despite some heart-wrenching flashbacks, this was a much happier eight episodes than usual.

The end of episode seven offers one of the show’s most uplifting scenes. BoJack visits “Old Town Horseberg,” a historical Puritan town, and attends a re-enactment of an early religious service. The pastor gives a speech on the importance of forgiving oneself.

BoJack is visibly moved as he shakes the other horses’ hands, and begins to utter “Peace be with you” with more vigor. When it’s over, his spirit is lighter.

While BoJack has begun to make peace with his past, his past hasn’t made peace with him just yet. The audience is reminded of his transgressions by bringing back characters who still suffer from the various traumas he inflicted.

Fans are anxiously and eagerly awaiting to find out whether BoJack can maintain his newfound happiness.

Creator Bob-Waksberg once told The Verge, “I don't believe in endings. I think you can fall in love and get married […] but then you still have to wake up the next morning and you're still you.”

 Although it’s unlikely that BoJack Horseman will wrap up with a happily-ever-after, hopefully the titular character can face whatever reckoning awaits him—soberly—and still manage to forgive himself, flawed as he is.

It will be difficult to say goodbye to BoJack Horseman, which offered a therapeutic window into how damaged people get by in a difficult world.

As the pastor tells BoJack at the end of episode seven, “Looks like you found some solace in our show. Stay if you like. In thirty minutes, we start over.”

 

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