Written by David Lartey
BoJack Horseman is not your typical animated series, so disregard all of your opinions and preconceptions you have acquired from watching The Simpsons (1989 – present) or South Park (1997 – present). Netflix’s BoJack Horseman is a far cry from the likes of these animations.
The series revolves around the titular character who is, indeed, a horseman. Much like many of the other characters in his world, BoJack has human characteristics yet resembles an animal and occasionally behaves as such. In the world of BoJack Horseman, this is the norm and there is no explanation for why this is.
In the 90’s BoJack’s sitcom ‘Horsin’ Around’ propelled him into the seemingly glamourous life of a Hollywood star. The series begins in 2014 with Horseman trying to revive his faded celebrity status years after the cancellation of ‘Horsin’ Around’. This drives him to misadventures involving the four other central characters: Diane (his ghost-writer), Todd (his roommate/house guest), Princess Carolyn (his agent and sometimes lover), and Mr Peanutbutter (his ‘nemesis’).
What these four characters have in common, besides their tumultuous relationship with Horseman, is their shared problems. Which include mental health issues, abandonment, marriage and pregnancy complications, sexuality, and overcoming sheltered naivety.
Their stories often intertwine and the portrayal of these issues amongst others such as sexual harassment, gun violence, and capitalism continue to receive well-deserving praise for its perfect balance of sensitivity, humour, and accuracy.
The final season begins with reporters Paige and Max closing in on piecing together the remaining details of Horseman’s blemished past to expose his wrongdoings. Originally, they aimed to resolve the speculation of BoJack’s involvement in the death of his friend Sarah Lynn. Instead, they stumble across Penny, an adolescent deer whom BoJack was once discovered in a compromising position with. The remaining main characters put their issues on hold to come together to assist BoJack in preparing for the aftermath of the story’s release.
Before dropping everything to help BoJack, Diane was battling depression which was clouding her productiveness in trying to write her memoir- something she helped BoJack within season 1. This is shown in the tenth episode (‘Good Damage’) and was a satisfying insight into Diane’s mind, something viewers have wanted to see for a long time.
The season provides closure on Diane’s life, paying attention to the details of her past as well as her future. The remainder of the season follows Diane meeting her new boyfriend’s son, the topic of the book she’s writing, and whether she should move to Texas after growing attached to the Chicago lifestyle.
Season 6 sees the most emotional version of Todd: he begins dating fellow asexual Maude and confronts his mother about abandoning him. This storyline was heart-warming not only because it showed Todd at his most vulnerable, but it also allowed the revelation that, despite the awful things that happened to him, he was always in good spirits and never declined to help a friend in need.
Mr Peanutbutter’s storyline provides comic relief as usual; he juggles managing a restaurant with resolving his relationship with his fiancé Pickles by merging the two while throwing his new friend Joey Pogo into the mix. Eventually, he winds up single for the first time in a long time and is trying to adjust to this. A simple end for a simple guy.
Princess Carolyn has found a balance between motherhood and her work but puts a halt on this to help BoJack recover after Paige and Max’s story breaks. She contends with Diane’s claims to make BoJack take responsibility for his actions, by suggesting he plays the victim and asks for sympathy in a TV interview. Princess Carolyn’s plan works but BoJack defies her suggestions to avoid speaking about the story until after his reputation is repaired, ruining their progress. He ends up struggling to resist the urge to indulge in his comfort blanket: booze and pills.
In the penultimate episode, the audience is misled into thinking BoJack has died after almost drowning in his pool during a relapse. Here he slips into a dreamlike fantasy and encounters the ghosts of his past meeting his mother, father/hero Secretariat, great-uncle, and friends Sarah-Lynn and Herb Kazazz, all of whom are preparing BoJack for what he thinks is his end.
The sequence is trippy, haunting and beautiful. What stood out the most amongst the chaotic events of the penultimate episode is the character of Secretariat, who embodies the spirit of Horseman’s late father, reading out a poem he wrote about the seconds leading up to his suicide.
The final episode wraps up BoJack’s lifelong struggle, saying “it’s not over yet.” After individual heart-to-hearts with the other main characters, he resolves not only his internal conflict but also with the people closest to him.
My interpretation is that they all, in some way, make him realise that to grow, he has to open himself up for change instead of fearing it. This could have perhaps been the writers’ way of preparing us for life without BoJack. The end of the series hints to BoJack cutting ties with his friends and showing his acceptance to that, allowing a measure of hope. If he can be okay after falling out of touch with the people who give his life meaning, he can find his unconditional meaning in life.
My only criticism of the final episodes was the fact that we didn’t get to see Hollyhock’s letter to BoJack which was the catalyst for him relapsing. We can only assume that Hollyhock, his half-sister, denounced their relationship upon finding out about all the terrible things he has done. It was a significant device for the series, and I was confused as to why we were left in the dark.
Overall, I think the finale served its purpose: there was no tragedy or happily ever after, and there were loose threads that didn’t get wrapped up neatly into a bow. The show just ended, but life goes on.