What is there to say about BoJack Horseman that hasn’t been said already?
The dark-comedy that focused on an alcoholic, misanthropic, anthropomorphic horse, who as the ending theme suggests used to be the star of a very famous TV show back in the day, filled an empty space in the adult cartoon genre: It’s l heavily focused on developing its characters, rather than making them props or straw-men. Political and social commentary takes a back seat to character development, but it’s still there.
Season 5 was no different in these regards, except perhaps, it took them to the extreme and it is absolutely ruthless.
This season the focus was on sexual assault, which ended up being more relevant than expected thanks to the Kavanaugh trial.
BoJack Horseman’s political commentary is often awkward and shoehorned into each season, but this one played out nicely as it wasn’t just the Mel Gibson expy guilty of it, but BoJack as well. Diane finds out what almost happened between BoJack and Charlotte’s young daughter Penny, and almost exposes him but chooses not to.
I have a feeling that this won’t be the last time this topic is brought up, and it’s going to play an even larger role in the next season, likely with BoJack possibly having reformed himself after going to rehab and then Penny finally gaining the courage to speak about what happened.
BoJack is going to have to confront some pretty dark demons, and it isn’t going to be pretty.
Season 5 does begin with BoJack seeming to have improved himself after meeting his half-sister Hollyhock; the two are talking on a regular basis, he’s drinking less, his role as the titular detective in the show Philbert seems to work, and he’s even in relationship with his co-star Gina.
But this show being what it is, everything falls to shit pretty quickly.
By sheer coincidence, the set for Philbert’s apartment looks just like BoJack’s actual apartment, and the two horses share similar personalities and haunting pass. It’s this coincidence that ultimately culminates in BoJack nearly strangling Gina to death during a shot unable to distinguish reality from fantasy.
While drug trips and hallucinations are nothing new to the show, this is one of the first times when it is also difficult for the viewer to distinguish what is happening for real and what is just a hallucination.
The character of Philbert also allows for the show to make commentary on itself and its fan base, without it seeming forced or overly ironic. Within the show, characters criticize those who idolize Philbert and see him as a role model as opposed to a deeply flawed and fucked up individual, a similar criticism bought up against certain viewers of BoJack Horseman, who try to emulate the main character and use him to justify their own terrible behavior.
But of course, the show brings up a secondary point: BoJack’s childhood was extremely fucked up, and the poor guy never stood a chance.
No episode does this better than the highly lauded episode six, “Free Churro.” For twenty-two minutes, nothing happens. BoJack is just giving a eulogy at his mother’s funeral, after she died off-screen. Aside from a flashback or two, the whole episode is just BoJack standing near a casket, with no other imagery, or characters.
Television wasn’t designed for talking heads, or monologues. It’s a very visual medium which why this episode itself is so impressive; I was absolutely engrossed the whole time and never once felt bored or realized that something was awkward or unusual about the episode. Will Arnett is brilliant and gives a wonderful performance; he remains engaging and emotional throughout the episode’s run time. And the writing team also deserves props for the script, which manages to capture the essence of how an abused child might feel at their parents’ funeral, while still making it palatable and interesting for a television audience.
The episode’s title, “Free Churro,” comes from an off-screen incident where a Jack in the Box cashier gives BoJack a free churro after hearing his mother died. BoJack deems this one small gesture as an act kinder than anything his mother ever did for him. Even in her dying moments, she doesn’t care about BoJack a realization he comes to at the end of his speech.
It’s a jarring moment; BoJack finally accepts that he will never know why his mother treated him like she did, and that she never seemed to care about him, even in her final moments. Ultimately, little comes from this realization in the episode since BoJack doesn’t recognize he needs to improve himself and he gave the eulogy at the wrong funeral.
The rest of the season has had its usual shenanigans: Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter finally divorce, and he quickly gets into a relationship with a 25-year-old pug named Pickles, which is doomed from the start. And we learn more about why his other wives left him.
After traveling to Vietnam to try to find herself, Diane ends up working on Philbert and highly influencing the show’s direction, leading to its success.
Hollyhock only really appears for one episode, still haunted by her addiction from last season.
Todd breaks up with Yolanda after realizing they have little in common (and an awkward night with her sex-crazed family), somehow becomes the Marketing Director of whattimeisitrightnow.com and creates a sex robot named Henry Fondle.
Henry ends up becoming the company’s CEO after people mistake his bedroom talk for business banter and then is ousted (and the production of Philbert shut down) after his low battery warning is mistaken for sexual harassment.
Which is pretty on-par for the series. I mean if people in this world mistake three kids in a trench coat named Vincent Adultman as an actual adult, it makes sense they wouldn’t recognize a sex robot right in front of them, even one as poorly designed as Todd’s.
But none of that is really that important. The theme of BoJack Horseman seems to be that simply acknowledging you’re a bad person isn’t enough, you need to actively strive to make yourself a better person and that’s going to be hard. BoJack has had five seasons, and the end of this one was the first time when he’s done something to fix his actual problems, and not just have a Band-Aid.
Ultimately, I really enjoy this show, but it’s one that I really can’t rewatch. I think this show is really good in a lot of ways, but it’s one of those shows I can’t rewatch. It’s emotionally draining and it’s hard to binge. Still, worth the watch.
And that’s the scoop!
Season’s total score: 9/10
If you like this review read: Porco Rosso is one of Ghibli’s oddest but most enjoyable films.
Length: Season 5 Twelve episodes, 26-27 minutes long
Creators: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Executive Producers: Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Noel Bright, Steven A. Cohen, Blair Fetter, Jane Wiseman, Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Andy Weil