The final season of “BoJack Horseman” does the dirty work of learning to heal.
“BoJack Horseman,” a show about a talking horse struggling with depression that features major characters with names like “Mr. Peanutbutter and an earlier season’s subplot in which Jessica Biel, playing herself, starts a fire cult. Itis, as always, almost shockingly good. “BoJack Horseman” has always been renowned for its tongue-in-cheek humor, accompanied by unflinching commentary on society and mental health. At its best, it’s made viewers laugh and cry even through its most uncomfortable and unpleasant bits. The first half of its sixth season has been no exception.
On Friday, Oct. 25, Netflix released eight episodes of the show’s sixth and final season, with the second half to come in January. The season had been long awaited — as is the show’s style, season five left off on a major transition for the characters, notably, with Bojack Horseman (Will Arnett) finally going to rehab after one of his most destructive seasons yet. I had my reservations about the sixth season. In many ways, the season five finale was the perfect ending to the show; it was neither too positive to match the show’s tone, nor too depressing to match my tastes. Sure, they could show us the outcome of the pivotal choices the characters have made, but what are the chances of them not f—— that up?
The show does well enough, actually. Season six is one of the most consistently funny seasons yet, and one of the most outspoken and current with one major subplot heavily critiquing capitalism and corporatism. The animation is fairly ugly — as I’ve always maintained — but undeniably purposely so, as it mirrors both the harshness and absurdity of its content. But more than that, this final season starts to reach a new place thematically, one that feels both natural and refreshing.
Season six does the long and complicated work of unpacking the people its characters have become, who they believe they are, and what they want to be.
Previous seasons have shown our cast in all sorts of levels of dysfunction: BoJack wallowing in his past, Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie) trying to understand the trajectory of her life, and Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) trying to have a child while managing the stresses of her life. But season six shows us a stage we haven’t seen yet: It shows us recovery.
BoJack’s attempts at getting better are no longer limited to listening to motivational podcasts and making half-hearted attempts at exercise. Of course, there is the initial expected resistance to rehab, but after some heart-wrenching callbacks to the root of BoJack’s addiction and to Sarah Lynn’s (Kristen Schaal) death, we see him trying to pick up the pieces of his life in the most genuine way yet. As he says in a letter to Diane, “I wasted so many years being miserable because I assumed that was the only way to be.” Finally, we can see the possibility that he may be growing into someone better.
Meanwhile, Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul), of course, is up to his usual hijinks, but our other leads are fighting battles of their own. Princess Carolyn is able to finally “do it all” as a mother and a career woman, but she has to wrestle with trying to do both on her own. This conflict is demonstrated in effective — and sometimes grating to watch — sequences showing her divided into multiple, zombie-like selves, each of which works at a different task she needs completed. Diane, though still the show’s moral compass, must confront what she’s made of her own life and make a decision when a new boyfriend and city give her the option to choose happiness. Even Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) has to learn to work through his own relationship troubles in an emotionally honest way.
But this progress feels precarious, hard-fought but never sturdy, and — as particularly demonstrated in the final episode — as if it could topple at any minute. Even as BoJack becomes better, his effect on others is not forgotten, and what’s particularly refreshing is that his past haunting him is not presented as an inconvenience, but as something fair and truthful. BoJack Horseman is not the only victim of his actions. But if the past is coming back, then this is the time for it. We finally have some indication that our heroes might be prepared to get through it.
Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Starring: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul, Paul F. Tompkins
Premiered: Oct. 25, 2019 on Netflix