BoJack Horseman ends on a bittersweet note

Netflix show leaves lingering questions about BoJack's supposed redemption

According to Nathan, BoJack is one of the most human characters on television.
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BoJack Horseman ended its run this winter after six seasons. For a show that spent much of its time exploring the titular character’s soul, even after its finale, a major question remains: Is BoJack redeemable?

Despite being a cartoon horse, BoJack is one of the most human characters on television. Like a lot of us, he’s deeply flawed and, as a result, a character we’re able to relate to. That said, BoJack isn’t necessarily someone to admire—and the showrunners know that. 

Whereas most of this series focuses on how BoJack suffers as a result of his own self-destructive behaviour, the second half of the final season reminds us of the suffering BoJack has inflicted on others while dealing with his problems. In the end, we’re invited to view him through a more complicated lens.

The first half of the season depicts BoJack breaking out of his cycle of alcohol abuse and self-loathing, leaving us with a happier, better-behaved BoJack Horseman than we’ve seen before. But changing one’s habits is never as simple as a storybook ending would imply. 

Showrunner Raphael Bob-Waksberg doesn’t believe in endings that wrap everything up in a bow because they simply don’t exist in the real world. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that he chose to end his show on an ambiguous note for BoJack and how we should judge him. 

The final season revisits the darkest tragedy in this show, the story of Sarah Lynn, a character who played BoJack’s co-star in their 90’s sitcom Horsin’ Around.

At the end of season 3, Sarah Lynn dies of a heroin overdose after BoJack lures her out of sobriety to go on a bender with him. Her troubled life and death demonstrate what the Hollywood industry can do to a person—at least, that’s what BoJack tells himself to escape responsibility for his actions.

However, season 6 casts doubt on the alleged inevitability of Sarah Lynn’s death and forces us to confront BoJack’s responsibility for her passing.

In episode 12, BoJack does a disastrous apology interview, where the interviewer reveals to the world that instead of calling the paramedics right away to save Sarah Lynn, BoJack wasted 17 minutes establishing a cover story to save himself.

Though the new and improved BoJack no longer blames his actions on his trauma or addictions, he’s merely shifted to a different form of avoiding blame: blaming all his misdeeds on his old self, a worse version of him who supposedly no longer exists.

But this episode exposes the problem with this way of coping. It ends with BoJack dejectedly admitting that he played a hand in Sarah’s death. 

While being self-aware and owning up to your mistakes is good, it doesn’t undo the harm. With this in mind, viewers are left to question whether BoJack is redeemable.

In the penultimate episode, BoJack relapses, breaking into his old Los Angeles mansion and nearly dying drunkenly in the pool.

If he’d died here, it would have signified that he finally got his comeuppance after a life of bad decisions—if you’re dead, there is no longer any possibility to better yourself.

But he lives and the show goes on, ultimately proving personal growth isn’t linear.

In the finale, BoJack goes to prison for breaking and entering. During the show’s final moments, viewers watch as BoJack is released for a day to attend a wedding and speak to his friends.

The last scene of the show is bittersweet. BoJack finds his closest friend Diane alone on a roof and they discuss what their friendship has meant to one another. It’s implied this may be the last time the two of them will ever speak.

In the final shot, with a sky full of stars above them, BoJack and Diane share a moment together.

After the credits roll, we don’t know if BoJack will relapse again or if he’ll find happiness. As with our own lives, these questions don’t have definitive answers.

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