Leo’s List — We need to talk about BoJack Horseman
I wasn’t going to do this…
But BoJack Horseman was finally put to rest this past weekend with the release of the final eight episodes of the 6th and final season.
Okay. This is not going to be like any of my other reviews in that, usually, I at least attempt to moderate my editorializing. I will not maintain much objectivity in this review. If that’s distasteful to you, please click away now.
*** MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE LAST SEASON OF BOJACK HORSEMAN***
BoJack has been like a partner to me since I discovered him about three years ago. Someone tweeted about an episode that struck them as profoundly critical of the blind-spots that leftists, especially “online TM” leftists, often fail to confront.
I then watched the first 3 seasons without any break, and repeated the episodes the moment they ended. I was hooked and loved every minute of the 3 seasons to follow. Absolutely and completely. Very few shows have impacted me in such a way.
Will Arnett turns in a timeless performance as BoJack: a dejected, disaffected, disillusioned user and abuser who’s such a phony he secretly hates everyone he professes to love because he can’t imagine anyone loving him. I like to describe BoJack as Arnett playing Bob Saget in Mr. Ed’s body, and that usually works for most people.
Stuck in a world of liberal hypocrites and omnipotent conservatives, BoJack and his friends Dianne (a solid Allison Bree character) and Todd (the only good thing Aaron Paul has done since Breaking Bad), try to figure out a way to be happy, successful, and complete screw ups at the same time. The show also features Amy Sedaris as the indomitable Princess Carolyn and Paul F. Tompkins as Mr. Peanutbutter, which works for some crazy reason.
The show boasts an incredibly diverse cast of bit parts and recurring roles played by nearly anyone you can think of. Lake Bell and Kristen Schaal are both real standouts, unsurprisingly. Show-runner, creator and head writer Raphael Bob-Waksberg leads a team which boldly delves into the depths of depression, drug and alcohol dependency, abusive relationships, generational trauma, class-conflict and suicide, while telling a story about a funny guy who just wants to be liked in a town full of unlikable people.
It’s breathtaking in its nuance and speaks to me on every level. There are too many episodes I love to list them, too many scenes I wish I could rewatch on a daily basis, too much of BoJack I wish I could change but would never dare to… I could go on and on about this, but to make it as plain as possible: I love this show and I highly recommend it.
I think that bears repeating and clarification. I, Leo Charles M., the creator of Leo’s List and all around curmudgeon about things fun, popular and exciting, have seen the ending of BoJack Horseman and recommend everyone watch it.
I know I have a couple friends who are rolling their eyes right now, but you have to admit that this is a hell of a endorsement coming from the guy that still gets spitting, screaming mad when anyone brings up Game of Thrones or Daenerys Stormborn…
BoJack Horseman is strong satiric and sardonic comedy which only slightly loses steam around the middle of the 5th season and in the beginning of the 6th. As any show that delves into the depths of the human psyche while simultaneously trying to elicit laughs would, BoJack sometimes fails to strike the right balance between the macabre and the slapstick.
This means that where BoJack gets dark, it gets really dark. Where it gets overly light, it’s blinding. This is not a show for moderation because L.A. is a city of excess, and more so Hollywoo. Horesman’s many, many problems manifest themselves most obviously as an inability to do anything in moderation. He’s nothing if not extreme — which is a horrible way to live when you’re a coward.
BoJack Horseman, above all else is just that, a coward. He fears his mistakes and they manifest as his “problems,” “issues,” and “demons.” But everybody knows what it really is. He’s ashamed of his past, ashamed of the mistakes he’s made and the people who raised him made as well, and rather than ever reaching a place of acceptance or healing, spends a lifetime running away. And that is the series arc.
This recurring sequence of events culminates in the penultimate episode of the series, which is the only episode I want to go into detail here. Season 6 episode 15, “The View from Halfway Down”, is easily the most powerful 25 minutes of television I have ever seen in my entire life. I told you I was going to editorialize, you were warned.
Within this episode BoJack takes his final bender to the extreme, as he’s wont to do, only to find there’s no way back this time. He gets so drunk he blacks-out and returns to his old house, rummages through the new residents’ alcohol and medication until a final blackout places him at the head of a dinner table.
At the table sits all the people who BoJack believes would still be alive if it were not for him.
His mother and her brother Buttercup, his old partner Herb, the auto-erotic asphyxiation fanatic Corduroy, his fake-father/hero Secretariat, and of course Sarah Lynn (with an appearance by Zach Braff, but nobody cares about him) are all sitting around the table, eating a plate of the last thing they had before their own untimely deaths. BoJack is eating a plate of pills and drinks from a water bottle filled with chlorine water.
In this moment my heart dropped because I knew BoJack died: he had jumped into the pool and drowned (just like in the opening title sequence). I knew this not retroactively, looking back on it all with the clarity of foresight, but I knew it actively, as the scene was set and played out. I experienced the horror before even BoJack did.
For the rest of the episode I had to choke on tears while watching one of my favorite characters confront his worst nightmare. He was dead, but his brain wasn’t ready to accept that yet. Instead of taking him to heaven where he can be happy and at peace, BoJack’s mind took him to a prison of his own deepest-held regrets.
He has to watch as the ceiling slowly drips down on him in black, tar-like goo which devours everything it touches. He has to talk about his worst moment with the people he’s hurt the most. He is forced to sit in the audience as each of his guests perform a routine that’s born of BoJack’s worst insecurities, playing upon his propensity to blame himself for things that he could not control and his lack of responsibility for things he could.
I was bawling, I was a wreck. It was horrific and powerful. I believe it’s the worst thing a man could do to himself. More personally, I fear that this room awaits me. I fear more that this room awaits those I love and care about. I fear most of all that I may one day occupy a seat at the dining room table of someone I believe I love, and would never want to torment in such a way.
Raphael and Alison, if by some crazy internet miracle are reading this, know that I see you, I understand this story, and I want you to know you’re not alone. I know this room, I know these songs, the fears you exposed and most of all I know that phone call that Dianne missed. I know that moment when hopelessness turns to resignation and I commend you both for writing up to that limit, stepping over, and falling without fear into the arms of true art. This episode was your opus and I hope you know that I will never be the same.
In the end of the episode I broke down again and wept. I was inconsolable. BoJack died, but worse than that, BoJack made himself suffer for everything he’s already suffered over for his entire life. Even knowing that the nature of television would bring BoJack back to life, I wept nonetheless because the catharsis I sought was not in episode 16, it was in 15.
Of course in the first moments of the finale they bring BoJack back to life via a montage, skipping ahead so he could have one final interaction with the cast we’ve known and loved for the past 6 seasons. It’s bullshit, frankly. The whole thing is a Hollywoob ending slapped atop a truly masterful work of art — which is absolutely the whole point. I get it, it’s actually the perfect ending and I appreciate it.
BoJack died in episode 15. There is no doubt in my mind he did not really return for that finale. My heart knows that 16 is a vision, a final dream in the last moments before BoJack’s brain shuts down, where he attempts some semblance of peace. I can appreciate that the final episode is more of a “fuck you” to Netflix and a middle finger held high at the way television shows are almost forced to be bad. Netflix canceled a show in its prime when its viewership was growing, not waning. They didn’t screw the fans over, they just made sure to take a swipe at the machine that ruined all our fun, I get it.
But there are too many discrepancies in the way episode 16 is set up and functions for me to believe that it was anything more than thrown together at the last minute. Like, how does BoJack get the weekend off from his sentence at a Super-Max prison? Why is Todd dressed the same way he was the last time BoJack sees him? Why does it seem like BoJack is interacting with Mr. Peanutbutter, Princess Carolyn, Todd and Dianne at the same time, but separately so that none of them are ever in the same scene? Why is BoJack so focused on his future if none of his friends are willing to talk about anything but their past? Everything about the episode feels off, so in my mind the penultimate episode is the last time anyone sees BoJack alive.
I am overcome with emotion now, thinking about the episode and have already begun a full series watch-thru so I can try to have a better clarity when the final season really hits. It has been a sincere pleasure watching this show, despite how terrible and disturbing so much of it has been, and I would not trade this experience for the world.
I hope you all enjoyed the finale as well and would love to hear your thoughts on it. Please feel free to clap, respond and share! Thanks all- Leo Charles M.