Progressing to an End Still Not Quite in Sight: Bojack Horseman, Season 6, Part 1 Review

Back in 2014, Netflix released what would become a very famous TV show. BoJack Horseman, starring Will Arnett in the titular character role with additional talent provided by Amy Sedaris (Princess Carolyn), Alison Brie (Diane Nguyen), Paul F. Tompkins (Mr. Peanutbutter), and Aaron Paul (Todd Chavez), had a slow start in first season before quickly becoming a critic and commercial darling. The darkly comedic satire became unrelenting in its quick wit, phenomenal writing, and escalating series of background gags that would oftentimes steal the show. For nearly half a decade, creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg has help curate an emotionally devastating experience for half an hour chunks at a time and for some reason I find myself binging all of them at once and subsequently entering a contemplative, somber mood.

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“You are all the things that are wrong with you.”

Bojack Horseman has never been a good person. This has been a recurring note since the show’s inception, that the actor had an exceedingly rough draw of the cards but ultimately never took personal responsibility for his transgressions against all of the people around him. An aggressive drunk, drug addict, and narcissist: all of these things are integral parts of the character and the first part of Season 6 attempts to provide an even more complete picture of the equine character study.

That said, BoJack Horseman‘s true charm does not solely focus on the titular character, but rather gives ample space to rest of the cast to surprise us with their own personal journeys. Much like the previous season, Princess Carolyn, Diane Nguyen, Mr. Peanutbutter, and Todd Chavez each get a spotlight episode during the 8-episode run where we see a lot of their arcs progress towards a conclusion. But we’re not quite at the point where we can say that everyone is going to have a happy ending.

Bojack Horseman
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“Stars really are just like us.”

A seamless continuation of the finale from last season, BoJack Horseman spends its premiere looking at the character in rehab as he is asked to delve deeper into his own psyche and do a root cause analysis of his own self destructive behaviors. It’s every bit as introspective as his previous breakthroughs, but something about this time feels a little more honest, a little more of a deeper cut to the point that sets the tone of the rest of the series.

BoJack’s personal crucible is an omnipresent force throughout the season even if its importance to the A-Plot wanes and waxes throughout. There is a tangible sense of progression that is quick to point that BoJack may never been absolved for his sins, but that he has a chance to make amends with the people he loves and try to take his… third, fourth, fifth…chance at life.

It helps that the animation team has continued to push the envelope with how they use animation to enhance the writing, and these ambitions have resulted in a super surreal, but ultimately grounded animation that captures the journey of each character in slightly different ways. Each episode feels like a distinct genre, that uses distinct convention, to get across a distinct point while still feeling like it’s all part of this weird alternate reality where anthropomorphic animals and humans coexist.

The entire creative team is just running on all cylinders this season and all of the classic scathing critiques of modern society are ample and impactful. They’re not afraid to bash the ridiculousness of capitalist structures, the parasitic ecosystems of social media, the destructive cyclic nature of pop culture. And even more importantly, they’re not afraid to give frank talks on depression, addiction, and trauma.

The main cast and guest stars bring their A-game and their performances are top-notch and heart-wrenching in the best way possible. These have truly become animated icons and their swan song is truly emblematic of the fantastic character work and their storied history is truly done justice.

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“That’s not a friendship. That’s a hostage situation.”

By the eighth and final episode of the first part of the final seasons, it’s immediate and apparent that this is not the end game. It puts a lot of pieces in place, makes several important callbacks to events of yesteryear and is relentlessly charming but it very decidedly ends on a multi-tiered cliffhanger that had me audibly shouting at the screen “OH GODDAMNIT.”

But that’s also why I watch this show so intently. It’s why the show will leave a legacy of emotional devastation as a depressed horse attempts to find his way through life. It does not talk down to its viewers. It does not hold back its barbed tongue against all the horrible systems that we participate in to try and survive. And it’s also the only show that has shown an actual redemption arc that feels earned and realistic.

As is the recurring refrain when I talk about this series: BoJack Horseman is not a good person. But after five and a half seasons, we have seen actual growth for one of the original unsympathetic assholes. As is the constant refrain of the show: “do you think it’s too late for me?” And we don’t get a solid answer, either way, this season. Instead, we get a glimpse at an end that isn’t quite in sight, and it just makes the wait for the second part hurt that much more.

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“Stay if you like. In 30 minutes, we start over.”

BoJack Horseman is ending, and with its ending we lose one of the best pieces of animated satire of the 2010’s. We only have half of the story, but road to Soberopolis, USA is arduous, long, and winding, and it’s a journey well worth undertaking. This remains an animated masterpiece, one of the crown jewels of Netflix original programming. And yeah, I’m sad after nearly 4 hours of a depressed horse and his friends attempting to survive, but I also laughed and cringed and cringe-laughed and saw me and my own friends in this zany alternate reality that mimics our own.

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  • Mikkel Snyder is a technical writer by day and pop culture curator and critic all other times.

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