Image courtesy of Netflix UK
They say that it is always darkest just before the dawn, but maybe the opposite is also true? Perhaps the day is brightest just before night falls?
BoJack Horseman makes its audience ask a lot of questions. Can people change? Does suffering abuse in the past then excuse someone’s own abusive behaviour? How screwed am I if I encounter Esteemed/Beloved Character Actress Margo Martindale in a dark alley? These are all important questions, but this latest season – the finale to a long and twisting road of addiction, depression and loss – makes me ask a different and potentially more pressing question. Am I a bad person for liking BoJack Horseman?
Because BoJack isn’t a nice guy. In an age of television that heavily features the “sad bad man”, he is arguably both the saddest and baddest. He’s narcissistic, cruel, self-loathing and has a number of addictions that he avoids more than he addresses. A common theme is BoJack attempting to put his past behind him, to grow and change and move on, only to fail miserably and back-slide. This happened again and again, to the point where it became harder and harder to root for him. And this is before his worst moments; before he almost slept with an underage girl, before he hid his involvement in Sarah-Lynn’s death, before he assaulted and almost killed Gina. BoJack is not a sympathetic character, but people still stayed with him.
Maybe the reason why I stayed on board with BoJack so long was because of my own struggles with my mental and emotional health. BoJack Horseman is a show that helped me identify and diagnose my own depression and anxiety, the majority of the main cast struggle with those issues. Episodes like Season 4’s “Stupid Piece of Shit” and Season 6’s “Good Damage” showed what it was like to struggle with your mental health, while also attempting to be a creative individual, and both episodes resonated with me. I’ll never forget the first time I watched “Stupid Piece of Shit”, I spent the entire episode thinking “Oh my god. That is exactly what it’s like”. I couldn’t believe that the show had managed to depict what was happening inside my head: all the second guessing, the anxiety, all on screen for the world to see.
But back to BoJack. He’s a character who has done many terrible things, to the point where it’s difficult to know if it’s funny or horrifying. Season 6B opens with BoJack teaching an acting course at Wesleyan, the university that his younger half-sister Hollyhock attends. Things seem to be going well, BoJack is good at his job, attends regular AA meetings and actually appears to be happy. But something is wrong. Hollyhock – who knows about BoJack’s time in New Mexico – is avoiding him and he doesn’t know why. Things get worse when he gets a call from ex-flame Charlotte. An article is coming out about BoJack, and so, in a moment that is equally tragic and horrifying, he gathers Princess Carolyn, Todd and Diane to try to figure out which of his misdeeds the article could be about. This leads to them writing every bad thing that BoJack has done on several whiteboards. It was BoJack back to his old ways, running from the things he had done, paranoid and spiraling into a deep pit of self-loathing, lashing out at everything and everyone.
“What’s the point of working on myself and getting sober and getting better if no matter what, there are people out there just waiting to tear me down?”. It’s a line that reminds us of “old BoJack”, that shows that, despite the work he has put in to bettering himself, he is still capable of falling into old, self-destructive habits. And self-destruct BoJack does, all the way through these eight episodes. I always wanted the show to have a happy ending, because I always saw a bit of myself in BoJack, and I thought that maybe if he could have a happy ending, then I could have one too.
But BoJack Horseman Season 6B isn’t without hope. Princess Carolyn is thriving as both a single mother and a Hollywoo executive. Diane is happy with her life in Chicago; she has a wonderful new boyfriend, is on medication and is hoping to find career success. Todd is great as the babysitter for Ruthie and has found himself in a sweet relationship with fellow asexual Maude. And Mr Peanutbutter is fully embracing his role on Birthday Dad. These characters do still experience setbacks, but it feels muted. The show no longer has an interest in breaking these characters down and reveling in their misery. If life is just a series of happy and sad moments, the show has figured that we have seen all the sad moments that we need to see; now it is time for these characters to be happy and at peace. Even the one who might not fully deserve it.
So, BoJack Horseman is over. It has been an amazing show to watch. It’s hard to put into words how much I love this show, and how much I am going to miss it. I’ve followed it for many years, and have written countless words about it (seriously, I think every article about the show that InQuire has run over the past few years have been written by me). I have seen the show transform from a stumbling thing, unsure of its identity and place in the world, to a powerhouse, with sharp writing, an incredible cast and maybe one of the greatest TV anti-heroes of all time. The show is over, but you shouldn’t feel sad. It’s just Hollywoob.