Light spoilers for the entire series, followed by a spoiler section with a little more detail on some particulars.
Netflix is now putting out an absurd amount of content at an unfathomable rate. Every single Friday, Netflix drops new programming into our living rooms and people eat it up like it’s ice cream. But how does one discern between all these shows? How does one settle on one of the many thumbnails scrolling side to side on their screens? I’m here to make it easy for you. The choice is Bojack Horseman, and it isn’t close.
Bojack is not only the best and most original show that Netflix has ever produced, but it has firmly staked a claim as one of the very best and most important series of the entire decade. What may have begun as another screwball animation comedy quickly blossomed into one of the emotionally darkest and most depressing shows we have ever seen. By the season one finale, it was clear this show would be a different animal from its peers (no pun intended). That has become more and more obvious as time has gone on, with the show pitting its characters in seemingly worse and worse despair every season.
Season five picks up following the tragic end to the fourth season, punctuated by the death of Bojack’s mother, along with the drug overdose-induced death of his longtime friend and costar Sarah Lynn. The one thing keeping him going is his newfound relationship with his baby sister Hollyhock. In addition, he is beginning work on a new television series, in which he plays a grizzled detective sleeping with his partner, whom he is also sleeping with in real life. This is the story that the season is centered around, with Bojack spiraling further and further down into the depths of addiction and depression. This season, more than years past, focuses on Bojack’s story in greater detail than that of the other characters. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest this to be a positive or negative, but I did feel like I was missing a little of the juice from the stories of Diane and Todd, in particular.
Fortunately, Bojack is one of the best written television characters there has ever been, and holding his hand through his largely self-inflicted traumas is something we wouldn’t trade for the world. His toxic relationships with his friends, partner, and now family in Hollyhock all keep him propped up above complete devastation while also inhibiting him from breaking free of his vices. Played by Will Arnett, the character of Bojack Horseman wrecks nearly every facet of his life. By season’s end, the walls of sanity have crumbled around him, and there is no lower he could possibly fall. We will save comments on how this plays out in the final episode for the spoiler section. Just know that in addition to all this, there is one episode that features only Bojack (literally), and it is the single best episode of television I’ve seen this year and the best of recent memory. More on that to come in the spoiler section as well.
Championing the art of the episode is another thing that sets Bojack apart from much of today’s television. While it is a Netflix Original series that drops its full season all at once, every episode is wholly unique, featuring a well-thought out story and creative use of plotting to fit it into the arc of the season. It is not difficult to imagine what this show could be if it aired its episodes on a weekly basis, serving time to fully digest and appreciate the individual qualities of every episode. Diane’s introduction to the season occurs in the second episode, which is centered around her character. We see the fallout of her and Mr. Peanutbutter’s divorce, which leads to her fleeing to Vietnam in an attempt to find herself. From there her story doesn’t cover near as much ground over the course of the season as it has in years past. She quickly moves back to Los Angeles and from thereon she exists in the story mainly to aid and contrast Bojack, which is a shame considering she has always been my favorite character and the one I found to be the most relatable. That being said, the conclusion we get for her character in the finale is extremely poignant and satisfying.
Mr. Peanutbutter’s season involves his new relationship with twenty-three year-old Pickles. Of course, during the season we see he is still not over Diane, and we get a Peanutbutter centered episode in which he grapples with all of his past and current relationships, trying to reckon with their failures. It is again a less pronounced story for his character, but that isn’t felt too much.
The story was slightly lighter for both Princess Carolyn and Todd this season too. Princess Carolyn’s arc revolved around her pursuit to adopt a child, which was deeply explored in her centerpiece episode where she visits her hometown and is reminded of childhood memories. Her arc didn’t really do much for me this season, and it will be interesting to see if the writers attempt to bring her into more of the forefront for the next one. Todd’s story had a little more depth to it, his coping with being in a relationship as a devout asexual. In hilarious fashion, he creates a sex robot named Henry Fondle that brings tons of laughs whenever onscreen. However, it is interesting to note that the show has clearly found Todd to be more of a fun side character than a central counterpart to Bojack like at the beginning of the series. This was definitely a change that helped improve the series in its early stages.
Overall, the season was another great success for Bojack Horseman, if maybe a slight step back from the near perfect previous two seasons. Bojack’s story is as compelling as ever, but the supporting characters take a step back in terms of their narrative intrigue. The way the season ends leaves plenty of reasons to be excited for more to come with this show, however. As of now it hasn’t yet been announced to be returning for another season, but knowing Netflix and how things are left, it seems inevitable.
Spoilers for Season 5 of Bojack Horseman
Well, we have to start with THAT episode. Yes, of course, I am talking about “Free Churro.” It seems like each of the past couple seasons Bojack has had one episode that really separated itself from the rest in terms of its creativity and uniqueness. This episode was certainly that, featuring a eulogy from Bojack at his mother’s funeral and THAT’S IT. It exists in the same realm as all of my favorite and most memorable television episodes of all time, in that it was so overly riveting I could not possibly take my attention away from the screen. When it was over, I laid there frozen, needing a few minutes to process what I had just watched. Arnett’s performance was nothing short of extraordinary, and he deserves all of the accolades. Years from now when people look back on this series, they will remember this episode and Season 3’s almost entirely dialogue-less “Fish Out of Water” with pitch-perfect clarity. Bojack Horseman knows how to leave an impression.
As for the end of the season, Diane checks Bojack into rehab in a very heartfelt scene. Clearly this should have happened a long time ago for Bojack, but it was really great for Diane to be the one to help him make that leap. As for her, we see her “ride off into the sunset” with The War on Drugs playing over the background, which I found to be incredibly moving. She seems to be in the best place she has been in a long time, riding the high of helping her best friend get help. With Todd, he has “killed” Henry Fondle Old Yeller style. He has given up his entrepreneurial endeavors and is moving forward freed of his stresses. Princess Carolyn finally gets to adopt her baby, and she is elated. Mr. Peanutbutter intends to tell Pickles about his affair with ex-wife Diane. Instead, he asks Pickles to marry him. This is all leading up to some compelling storylines for next season, and it will again be a torturous wait for more Bojack Horseman.
All 5 seasons of Bojack Horseman are available for streaming on Netflix.