TV review: BoJack Horseman series finale

Photo Courtesy of Bustle

Story by Naffie Njie/Contributing Writer

This post contains spoilers.

Netflix’s BoJack Horseman is coming to an end after 6 seasons. The show has taken us through BoJack and friends’ journeys of growth and self-discovery. Its portrayal of mental illness, addiction, sexuality and love is layered with nuance and humor. The show has been met with critical acclaim, winning multiple Critics Choice Awards, Annie Awards, and Writers Guild Awards. BoJack Horseman’s examination of the human experience resonates deeply with audiences and fans will miss this raucous and affecting comedy.

BoJack Horseman, especially in the more recent seasons, includes a cast of various races of animated secondary characters and guest stars. We can assume inclusion is in the minds of the show’s creators. However, the main cast is made up of all white voice actors. Another glaring flaw exists with Diane’s voice actor, Alison Brie. Brie is a white actress known for her role as Annie Edison in the comedy series Community. Diane is a multidimensional Vietnamese American woman and her character has depth. But casting a white woman to voice the only non-white main character (yes, the main cast is mostly made up of animal characters, but they are all coded as white) is irresponsible. There are so few Asian women cartoon characters in adult American animated shows. Diane’s creation could have given an Asian voice actress a chance to be the voice behind a dynamic character, instead of just representation on screen.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the show’s creator, has addressed his casting blunders on twitter. In response to a fan’s query about Diane’s casting, “Short answer: I love my entire cast, but if I were doing it today, I would not cast the show (or any show) with all white people. I’ve really soured on the idea of “color-blind” casting as an excuse to not pay attention.”

He expanded this point in an interview with saying, “So that’s why I soured on the term ‘color-blind,’ because I felt like I was being color-blind. I was just casting whoever was great and I wasn’t really thinking about their race, and then I was surprised to discover all the people I thought were great were white people.

When I think about casting now, I try to be very race-conscious. My casting director, Linda Lamontagne, and I are actively looking for people of color for every new character, and that’s made a big difference in how we cast the show. I hope that is reflected even to a layperson observing the show. [Note: In the new season, Hong Chau and Stephanie Beatriz play major supporting characters.] I’m very proud of the movement we’ve made, but we’re always going to be somewhat hobbled in our efforts because of our original sin.”

It should be noted that the “new season” that is referenced in Waksberg’s quote is referring to season 5.

Part one of season six definitely sets us up for what’s to become of BoJack’s life now that he’s made big changes. We see his personal life improving after he leaves rehab and makes amends with people he’s hurt. At the same time, his wrongs are starting to catch up to him. The truth about Sarah Lynn’s death, BoJack’s grooming and almost sleeping with Penny and his assault of Gina and how it has affected her all begin to come out in various ways. At this stage in the series we really should not be rooting for BoJack and part one reminds us that he needs to face the consequences of his actions. And yet, I felt sorry for him. His growth and happiness are endearing, even if he doesn’t truly deserve it.

My initial prediction after watching part one of this series finale was that BoJack would be exposed for his role in Sarah Lynn’s death and then the rest of his offenses would come out shortly after. Now that his life is at an upturn, it would all come crashing down and his relationships would crumble. He then, feeling like he has no other choice, would accept whatever consequences he is given; be it prison for his part in Sarah Lynn’s death, public disgrace or both.

Another, far more grim prediction, is that BoJack’s sins would be exposed and, feeling there is no hope for redemption, he would choose to end his life.

Season six begins with BoJack preparing to teach his acting course at Wesleyan, while attempting to keep a close relationship with Hollyhock. His students perform in an end-of-year showcase that Diane, Princess Carolyn and Todd attend.

In this season, BoJack finally reveals the truth about Sarah Lynn’s death and what happened with Penny to Diane, Todd, and Princess Carolyn right before the news is broken. He does damage control with an initial interview and is made to admit his faults in a second. He faces nationwide backlash about Sarah Lynn and other women he’s manipulated. He then teams up with Vance Waggoner for a new film and meets with Angela Diaz, the former network president of “Horsin’ Around” that convinced him to betray Herb Kazzaz. He loses his house because of a lawsuit and his relationship with Hollyhock becomes extremely strained. In episode six, BoJack is in a dreamy place with his deceased friends and family, assumed dead; he survives drowning and goes to prison for breaking and entering. He’s released for a day for a wedding and reconciles with everyone.

Diane is taking antidepressants and working on her memoir and Max and Paige go to New Mexico to question Penny about BoJack, foreshadowing the downward spiral that is coming for him. Diane’s writing process is explored with stylistic visuals of her thoughts and the past that she is trying to depict in her book. She decides to write a fictional story, per Princess Carolyn’s persuasion, about a teenage girl detective, Ivy Tran: Food Court Detective, instead of her book of essays. When BoJack tells the truth about his past, she decides not to help him escape scrutiny. She bonds with Guy’s son and decides to move to Houston so Guy can continue to live in the same state as him. Before BoJack almost drowns, he calls her and leaves a voicemail. At the wedding, she reveals she’s married to Guy.

Princess Carolyn is running Vim with Judah and is facilitating Diane’s book publishing. She is a good mother to Ruthie and Todd babysits her during the day. She supports BoJack through his ordeal, helping him “spin” the story. After things fall apart with BoJack’s interview, Lenny Turtletaub offers her a job running a female driven movie studio. Judah confesses he loves her. A year later, they get married and everyone reunites at their wedding.

Todd is in charge of Ruthie’s care while Princess Carolyn works and he’s in a relationship with a rabbit named Maude. He wants to reconnect with his mother as he has with his father, but she is ashamed of their estrangement. When BoJack explains the situation with Sarah Lynn and Penny, he is disappointed. Todd and Maude get a place together and he starts a babysitting venture at Vim. He and his mother reconnect and he and BoJack have a moment at Princess Carolyn’s wedding.

Mr. Peanutbutter is engaged to Pickles at the start of part two and they plan a complicated romantic arrangement with singer Joey Pogo to save their relationship. His TV show, “Birthday Dad,” is successful. He talks with Max and Paige about BoJack and reveals that he was with Sarah Lynn when she died. Pickles decides to leave Mr. Peanutbutter and become Joey Pogo’s social media manager after they have sex, alluding to a budding relationship. Peanutbutter decides to focus on himself and he speaks with Diane about their new lives and how they’ve grown. He picks BoJack up from prison for the wedding and restores the “Hollywoo” sign to “Hollywoob.”

Each episode’s structure feels different and they all connect beautifully. This season wraps up everyone’s storyline. We see all of the characters become new versions of themselves. Everyone’s relationship with BoJack is tested and they all distance themselves from him in various ways. The finale goes in a hopeful direction, some characters find love and some experience change and self-actualization. BoJack hits rock-bottom and reckons with his past in a more substantial way than we’ve ever seen him do. But is it enough? By the end he seems to be alone and a bit distanced from his friends, but he’s recovering and moving forward.

Does BoJack deserve to be divorced from his ills in the past? He is effectively “cancelled” after the second part of the “Last Days of Sarah Lynn” interview. Paige Sinclair convinces Biscuits Braxby to do a “hard-hitting” interview where BoJack is forced to admit that he has power over the women in his life, and that he abuses that power. As his life changes for the worst, he is faced with real consequences. The season explores what it’s like to be cancelled from the point of view of the cancelled. BoJack is stripped of any goodness that is attached to him. His attempt to redeem himself and learn from his mistakes is juxtaposed by his sponsor, actor Vance Waggoner’s attempt to revamp his career and stay out of trouble. BoJack is taking responsibility, while Vance still blames others for his for his situation. BoJack regroups. Within a year he is comforted by the presence of his friends at Princess Carolyn’s wedding and It looks like he’s being reembraced by the Hollywoob community. In the end, we do not know what is in store for him, but we know that there is a chance for a new life for BoJack.

Although he’s dealt with his past and grown substantially, he’s let off too easy here. It is implied that once he leaves prison, he will return to his life having been disgraced but on a path to public and interpersonal forgiveness. There is even talk of a comeback in the last episode. Jurj Clooners (a parody version of George Clooney) nods at him and smiles, signaling his reentry into the sphere of Hollywoo(b); BoJack will be able to resurge his career soon enough and his victims will be slowly forgotten. This could be a commentary on how quickly celebrities are forgiven or maybe it just means to say that he has learned his lesson and deserves a fresh start. Hopefully BoJack never repeats his mistakes. It is his responsibility to control himself and provide structure and consequences because the world will not do it for him.

The ending of episode 15 would have been a better ending for BoJack’s story. He dies and experiences an afterlife, and it’s uncertain what happens next for him. It provides a much deeper resolution to his life than the next episode. I expected episode 16 to detail how everyone is doing after his death. Episode sixteen’s resolution is much more positive and wouldn’t have made viewers sob as much, but it feels too perfect. Almost as if the network wanted a happier ending, or the writers did not want to hurt us with a painful conclusion to the life of BoJack Horseman. Regardless, the ending is something. Something we can point to for closure when thinking of BoJack. And in some ways, that’s enough.

One person missing from the finale is Gina Cazador. She was BoJack’s “Philbert” costar that he was in a brief relationship with until he assaulted her on set. She’s working on a new show in part one of this season and she’s scarred by her assault, signaling a possible arch for part two. It did not come, however. She is referenced in one episode where a billboard of Fireflame, a superhero film Kelsey Jannings directs and she stars in, is in the background. We don’t get to see her point of view in part two and I think it would have been valuable to see what her life looks like now. Everyone that BoJack has hurt, Sarah Lynn, Penny, Hollyhock, Diane, Princess Carolyn, Todd; their stories are being explored. Why is Gina left out?

As always, this season is hilarious. The offbeat and pun-filled jokes fill in the holes left in the show by its painful story. Audiences are emotionally gutted by the plot, but the light and bouncy comedy gets us through it, almost too quickly. As I finished the last episode of one of my favorite shows, I reflected on what it means to be a good person. BoJack as a character always made me question myself and how supporting him can be comforting, but dangerous. Many of us see ourselves in BoJack, and this season, more than any other, reminds us that a layered multiplicity exists in everyone.

Despite production issues and a rushed ending of the show, the end of this series managed to provide a decent level of closure and will stick with viewers. Overall, it has been a masterful show. The show has addressed mental illness in a way that has resonated with me more than any other. Saying goodbye is tough, but we can always reflect on the story and hope that more content that makes us feel like BoJack Horseman did will be created.


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