REVIEW: Bojack Horseman – Season 6, Part 2

January 31st marked the release of Netflix’s final batch of Bojack Horseman episodes. These last eight episodes had a lot of pressure riding on them; they would need to finish the stories and character arcs set up in the first half of season 6 while also satisfying the expectations of viewers who have been watching since 2014. Many fans were disheartened to learn that these would be our final adventures with Bojack and friends, but I think it’s a good thing. I like stories to have a definite ending in mind, and the show has been on for six years, a respectable run for any series. Let’s see how season 6’s final 8 episodes shape up.

Bojack Horseman picks back up with the (horse)man himself preparing to teach acting at Wesleyan college. He finds his relationship with sister Hollyhock, a student at the school, changed after the events of the midseason finale. His class goes relatively well, barring the occasional pupil with something to prove, and culminates in a successful performance by his students. In fact, life is going surprisingly well; that is, until he gets a concerning phone call from an old friend. After years of excuses and finger-pointing, Bojack’s life comes crashing down around him as he’s forced to face his own actions on a whole new scale. As his newfound sobriety and positive worldview are challenged, Diane’s writing takes an unexpected turn, as does her relationship with Guy. Pickles’ chance to “get even” with Mr. Peanutbutter finally comes, and it doesn’t work out as either expected. Todd’s complicated relationship with his mother comes to a head, and Princess Carolyn promotes him to professional babysitter for her agency. Ultimately, Princess Carolyn and Diane end up marrying Judah and Guy, respectively, causing (along with other circumstances) Bojack to question his place in their lives.

Before I get carried away, I want to say something about the always-fantastic voice cast, especially as this is their last time playing these characters. Will Arnett can turn on a dime between sardonicism, melancholy, and tempered optimism. I genuinely can’t imagine anyone nailing this character from start to finish in the way he has; it almost makes you wonder just how much he relates to this complex, chaotic basketcase of a character we all know and love. Amy Sedaris is insanely lovable as Princess Carolyn, the can-do cat who always lands on her feet. A lot of people (including my husband, another huge fan of the series) really hate Mr. Peanutbutter, but I admire the balance Paul F. Thompkins strikes with him. He appears merely to be a smiling simpleton who’s always happy and never thinks about anything beyond the surface level, but several pivotal moments throughout the show’s run disprove this notion. It has to be tricky delivering lines in this superficial-yet-misleading manner, and it has paid off tremendously in this final season. Despite his usual antics and shenanigans, Todd has frequently served as the voice of reason, particularly to Bojack during his most egregious displays of self-pity. Finally, we have the character I have enjoyed the least for most of the series, Diane Nguyen, portrayed by Alison Brie. This Vietnamese-American writer, investigative reporter, third-wave feminist, and all-around stick-in-the-mud actually started out really well in season one. However, she quickly devolved into a self-righteous hypocrite who constantly makes horrible and, frankly, stupid life decisions while claiming to be smarter and more ethical than everyone else. Regardless, I actually really liked her arc this season (which we will get back to), and I want to clarify that I think Alison Brie has been incredible in this role; none of my issues with the character relate to her performance. Of these five central characters, Diane is by far the least cartoony and comedic. The others all have a dark/tragic side, but Diane’s dry wit isn’t exaggerated like Princess Carolyn’s proclivity for wordplay, and it’s more subtle than Todd’s wacky adventures. As such, Diane requires a more grounded performance, displaying subtler changes in, and degrees of, emotion. While Diane hasn’t always been what I consider likable, she has always been believable, and for me, personally, that’s part of what makes her so annoying at times.

This season, all of the main characters have gone on meaningful, interesting, and fitting journeys. At first, Mr. Peanutbutter’s story went very much the way I expected it to. Pickles falls in love and leaves as a result of their agreement that she sleep with Joey Pogo to “get even” after PB’s own infidelity with his ex-wife Diane. However, I admit I was very pleasantly surprised when this transitioned into a self-searching path for the codependent lab. Much like Princess Carolyn, he just couldn’t live without someone to take care of. That was, it seems, until now. As usual, Todd doesn’t really have a structured character arc to the same extent as his friends. This season, we’ve seen him continue to explore his asexuality and settle into something of a normal routine. Finally, he moved in with his girlfriend Maude, who is also ace, and reconciled with his mother. Some of my favorite Todd moments this season were him being promoted, rightfully asking Bojack to leave his apartment housewarming party, and hanging out with Bojack at Carolyn and Judah’s wedding, the latter of which made me wonder if the two could become friends again. In season six, Diane has become a lot more likable again, especially in this second half. I feel it is ironic that her redemption and road to personal happiness comes at the cost of her friendship with Bojack. For me, stories that reaffirm the value of friendship are usually the best. I love to see interesting characters bounce off of one another, especially in close friendships that amount to the found family trope.

However, I think this works for two reasons. For one, Bojack is a horrible influence on everyone. Earlier this season, this issue appeared to have been resolved through Bojack’s sobriety and new attitude. However, we see clearly in this final eight episodes what happens when anything could potentially send Bojack spiraling. When Hollyhock finally sends Bojack a letter which we can only assume details her lack of desire to have him in her life, he gets drunk and high, breaks into his old house, and attempts to kill himself. We later learn that, during this bender, Bojack called Diane, threatening to jump in the pool if she didn’t come save him, despite being thousands of miles away in Chicago. After this, not to mention the countless other times when Bojack has put way too much on Diane, it’s understandable that she wouldn’t want to know him any longer. Secondly, in the final conversation between Diane and Bojack after Princess Carolyn’s wedding, she talks about people being important to your life even if they aren’t meant to be in it forever. In context, she’s talking about her marriage to Mr. Peanutbutter, but it’s clear that Diane never wants to speak to Bojack after this evening. This line could apply to many characters and situations in this show and in real life, and I think it’s perfect. Even if a friendship (or any relationship) doesn’t last forever, it and that person can still be significant in the grand scheme of things. There’s a lot going on with Diane beyond this too; she now takes antidepressants, which has made her fat but also stable. Guy has been an amazing influence on her life, basically Bojack’s opposite in many ways. Diane’s gained weight could even be seen as a metaphor for her emotional growth and willingness to finally change and learn. 

Princess Carolyn finally getting her happy ending is an immensely satisfying conclusion to this season and the show as a whole. She’s probably my favorite character for her constant willingness to help and encourage her friends. She’s a workaholic and a career girl, but she always makes time for others, whether it be clients, friends, or people to whom she owes absolutely nothing, like Bojack. Judah has been a rarity in her life in that, rather than adding to her load, he always tries to help her. He also has this quirky but sincere personality that makes it just about impossible not to like him. I was thrilled when he returned this season, and I think this marriage is a perfect narrative beat. I was surprised how positively a lot of this season’s story arcs ended, and this is certainly true of Bojack’s fate as well. I had a really unique experience with these final episodes in that I couldn’t stand what was happening to Bojack. It felt like something was wrong in my life, like I had this horrible dread hanging over my head. Regardless of whether Bojack deserved to be exposed, implicated, and ultimately incarcerated and “canceled” by Hollywoo’s #metoo culture, and he undoubtedly deserves at least some of it, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. After watching his journey to sobriety and his strides to do better by his friends, himself, and everyone, it’s physically painful to see it all come crashing down. That being said, it was also impossible to look away.

I genuinely couldn’t decide if Bojack would come away unscathed, kill himself, or anything in-between, and I had to know. As an aside, I absolutely despised Paige Sinclair and Max from their very first scene. This is not to excuse any of Bojack’s actions, but as we see as this plays out, Paige’s story hurts the victims too, not just Bojack. Facts are misrepresented, people who are trying to move on with their lives are dragged through the mud, and poor, deceased Sarah Lynn is disallowed to rest in peace. In the very end, Bojack is in jail, but sober again as a result and allowed to attend Princess Carolyn’s wedding. Rather than a saccharine ride into the sunset or a depressing, mournful finale, Bojack Horseman leaves us with just the right amount of hope. Our final image is of Bojack and Diane looking up at the stars together, the perfect cap to a flawless journey through addiction, trauma, friendship, and, well, life.
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