Review: “Bojack Horseman:”  A stint in rehab sets Bojack on a new trajectory

Review: “Bojack Horseman:” A stint in rehab sets Bojack on a new trajectory

Photo Credits: RABIDA / AGGIE

Part one of final season begins on an unsettlingly positive note, feels like the calm before the storm 

The Netflix animated comedy “Bojack Horseman” first aired in 2014 and followed an anthropomorphised horse named Bojack, a washed-up 1990’s sitcom star who struggles with alcoholism and crippling self-loathing.

Five seasons later, “Bojack Horseman” maintains a cult following and has received numerous awards. Critics laud the series for its intelligent humor and powerful depictions of depression and addiction.

The sixth and final season was split into two parts with eight episodes each. The first part of the season aired on Oct. 25 and was met with positive reviews. These eight episodes are incredibly well thought out and set up the characters for their final arcs as the series comes to an end.  

In season five’s cliffhanger of a finale, the main characters of the show are all wrestling with major changes in their lives: Bojack has left for rehab, Mr. Peanut Butter cheated on his new fiance with his ex-wife Diane and Princess Carolyn has finally adopted an infant after struggling with miscarriages and infertility throughout most of the series. 

The first half of this season focuses on the ways in which the characters respond to these changes and attempt to grow from them. This is best exemplified through Bojack’s arc in rehab. 

Throughout the series, Bojack has been constantly running from his problems and his hatred of himself: he abused drugs and alcohol, pushed away those closest to him and hurt numerous people who happened upon his destructive path. In rehab, Bojack has to face up to his problems and learn to live with them.  

 “I wasted so many years being unhappy because I assumed that was the only way to be,” Bojack writes in a letter to Diane in the second episode. “I don’t want to do that anymore.”

While still haunted by the mistakes he has made in the past, Bojack begins taking action over his decisions in the present. He processes his abusive childhood and is able to pinpoint the source of his alcoholism and destructive tendencies. 

This is a new side to Bojack, and it is powerful to see. While he is just as snarky and cynical as ever, he begins to influence people around him in positive ways. After years of developing a co-dependent relationship with Diane, he selflessly encourages her to move to Chicago, knowing that it is the best thing for her. Such selfless actions are rare for Bojack — showing that, even if he is still sinking, he is done taking people down with him.  

This season also employs powerful visual storytelling devices and artistic symbolism. Episode two explores Princess Carolyn’s exhaustion and struggle to “do it all” as a new mother and high-powered business woman. The episode uses a beautiful and fascinating visual sequence that shows multi-colored carbon copies of Princess Carolyn doing several tasks at once, over and over again. The copies seem to duplicate on a loop, crowding the screen and highlighting the mental and physical exhaustion Princess Carolyn is experiencing.  

“I just think of myself as having multiple apps running at the same time,” another exhausted working mother tells Princess Carolyn. “I have my mom app and my career app and my wife app and my yoga body app! And they’re all just constantly going — all the time.”

For what feels like the first time, Princess Carolyn truly doubts herself and her abilities. As she is one of the strongest and most likeable characters in the series, it is heartbreaking to watch. 

The photorealistic galaxy projection from the planetarium where Sarah Lynn died in season three becomes a visual motif throughout these eight episodes as well. Sarah Lynn’s death is easily the most tragic repercussion of Bojack’s addiction, and this season lets viewers know that Bojack did not forget this. 

Everytime he thinks about his past or his mistakes, the image of the galaxy haunts him. It appears in the sky and in bottles of vodka — anywhere Bojack turns to get away from himself. It is a reminder of the fatalities of his destructiveness, but it is also a motivation to change. 

There were two truly standout episodes from the season. Episode four titled “Surprise!” became an instant “Bojack Horseman” classic. It contains all the elements of what makes the series so amazing — there is a ridiculous premise that features visual and physical comedy, as well as truly poignant and emotional interactions between smart dialogue and dramatic irony. 

“The Face of Depression” is the most impactful episode of the season. It is the penultimate episode that wraps everything up for the main characters. The final montage is set to James Henry Jr.’s tranquil “Take Me Down Easy” and suggests that the characters are truly growing as people. Princess Carolyn gains confidence in her relationship with her daughter and her ability to balance her working life and motherhood. Todd finds fullfilment working as a nanny for Princess Carolyn and meets someone on his asexual dating app. Diane takes antidepressants and begins to accept the good things in her life. 

Meanwhile, Bojack leaves the toxicity of Los Angeles and moves to be closer to his half-sister Hollyhock. He changes his wardrobe and cuts off his jet-black-dyed hair, revealing that he has gone gray. He stops holding on to his past self and is making efforts to change his ways. 

However, in typical “Bojack Horseman” fashion, the season doesn’t end on such a positive note. While Bojack is working on improving his own life for once, the ghosts of those he hurt in the past still linger. 

This is shown in the mid-season finale “A Quick One, While He’s Away.” Instead of featuring any of the main cast, this episode focuses on minor or guest characters that have appeared throughout the seasons. They are all characters who Bojack has hurt in one way or another: Kelsey Jannings is struggling to find work after Bojack got her fired, Gina Cazador is dealing with PTSD after Bojack strangled her in a drug-infused rage and Hollyhock meets someone directly involved with one of Bojack’s most shameful mistakes. All the while, a team of journalists start investigating the mysterious incidents surrounding Sarah Lynn’s overdose — which will inevitably lead them back to Bojack. 

This episode lays out the events of the second half and final part of the series. It will be interesting to see how a now sober, healthy-minded Bojack deals with the repercussions of his past self. 

“I subconsciously believe that I deserve to be punished but, being famous, I never get punished, so I act out even more,” Bojack rants to his therapist in episode six. “And since this pattern is so woven into my identify it is unfathomable to me that it can ever be curbed. So, instead, I drink.” 

Now Bojack is sober, and the world is ready to hold him accountable. The second half of the season will premiere on Netflix on Jan. 31, 2020.  

Written By: Alyssa Ilsley –– arts@theaggie.org