The Redemption of Bojack Horseman?
Review: Bojack Horseman Season 5
Starring the voices of: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul, Paul F. Tompkins
A Netflix cartoon series about an anthropomorphic horse is 2018’s deepest show.
As Insights’ last Bojack Horseman review indicated, experiencing a season of the show is something of a loop: starting with anticipation, moving through to humour, then being hit with the crushing realisation that the season is now more depressing than the last. While Season Five largely continues in this vein, there is something of an enduring hope and the writers have managed to balance the heaviness with much-needed levity.
The season sees Bojack Horseman finally gain a respectable role in Hollywood, as the main star of Philbert, a gritty new detective drama. With a new relationship underway with one of his co-stars, there is some rare hope for his haunted personal life. Bojack’s former roommate Todd becomes CEO of the website company whattimeisitrightnow.com (a website that the showrunners have registered, which can be viewed here). Meanwhile, Princess Carolyn resumes her work as Bojack’s publicist/handler while going through the emotional grind of trying to adopt a child.
One of Bojack Horseman’s better features has traditionally been the show’s willingness to experiment, differing the episode formats and storytelling techniques along the way. Season takes this experimentation to new heights. An episode where Bojack delivers a eulogy, a monologue that lasts the entire duration of one 22-minute episode, stands out as perhaps the best example and one of the series’ best written episodes to date.
The way that people repeat destructive patterns and hurt one another returns, but with some glimmers of hope and the odd lesson. The hope that Bojack might somehow find redemption, that he might change and escape his own self-destructive tendencies, is a central question from earlier series that returns in an interesting new way. Beyond the series’ protagonist (or anti-hero) season five also focuses this theme on Dianne, Mr Peanutbutter, and Princess Carolyn, characters whose idiosyncrasies and tics have formed as much of the show’s structure as Bojack himself. The hope that they might find forgiveness, from themselves and one another, and repair their lives is enduring, if not evenly spread across all of their arcs. The show also continues to poke fun at Hollywoo(d) and vapid celebrity culture in general, tapping into the #MeToo and #TimesUp moment along the way.
Season five of Bojack Horseman is currently streaming on Netflix.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor