For an animated series that stars a talking horse, Netflix’s BoJack Horseman gets as real as humanly possible and goes to shockingly honest and dark places.
Each season of the relentless BoJack Horseman has been pushing BoJack the character a little further towards bettering himself, while also running the risk of burning the whole thing down. This year, more than any other, sees BoJack confronting his past and who he really is as the notion of family and responsibility begins to loom over him. On top of all of that, it still manages to be some of the most biting, intelligent satire of Hollywood and the entertainment industry that you’ll find on television.
With BoJack Horseman’s fourth season available to stream on Netflix, we had the luxury of speaking with the show’s creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, about BoJack’s continuing journey of maturity, why the idea of family is so central to this season, and if there’s an end in sight for the sharp animated sitcom.
DEN OF GEEK: Last season really left me heartbroken and I had the feeling that maybe BoJack can’t find happiness. So I was really happy to see this year looking at his roots and having him examine his past in order to better himself. Did that feel like the necessary direction to take the character at this point?
RAPHAEL BOB-WAKSBERG: Yeah! That’s an interesting question because we’ve always explored—it’s been a pet theme of the show–figuring out where he’s from and why he is the way he is. It did feel like we should particularly go off of what BoJack says at the end of season three, “I come from poison and I poison others.” So it felt like as we introduce this new relationship with Hollyhock, the audience by now understands BoJack’s fears and what he’s afraid he’s going to do to her and that relationship.
At the same time though we wanted to explore not only where BoJack is from, but more than that, to also explore what he’s from is from. We’ve seen his mother before through flashbacks and what she’s done to him, but now we see that she has her own story. So we explore that and this idea of how every beginning has a beginning and that there’s no true origin for this pain or this wound. You could probably go back to her father and see what things were like there and then go back a step even further…But also, does that stuff matter? Can you just move on from it all? It’s not necessarily about who’s fault it is, but just the idea of learning to forgive. We talked about that a lot this season.
Absolutely. And you do a good job at showing both sides of all these relationships. The season’s also not just about BoJack, but really about the whole Horseman and Sugarman lineage and this history of abuse that you explore in a really poetic way. Mrs. Sugarman even has this one line where she says, “I can’t be with people and I can’t be alone. I don’t know how to get better. Please, fix me.” It’s so easy to picture that line coming out of BoJack.
Oh definitely. I think that was a big thing that we were dealing with regarding BoJack, especially in that episode. He gets out of last season feeling like he’s poison and that he can’t be around other people. Clearly his only solution is to isolate himself until he realizes that that’s not a permanent solution either. That’s not who he wants to be. What he needs to do is find a way to reconnect with the people from his past and be better to them rather than just run away and jump on grenades.
Another thing that I really liked about this season is seeing how BoJack is segregated from most of the cast. It feels like everyone needs him less when he suddenly needs them more, which is an interesting dynamic for the series to find itself in.
It was a fun kind of game to sort of look at the end of last season and go—Well okay, that first season is like all about BoJack. He is in the A-story of every single episode of that season except for one, which is a Princess Carolyn episode. But even then it’s very much focused on her relationship with BoJack. In season two we start to explore some of these other stories and begin to give each character their own arc.
By the time we got to this season, it was like, “Okay, can we have characters going without interaction between each other for a long time?” I think there’s one scene in the whole season that has all five of the main characters in the same place. Other than that, characters will pair off or we’ll do A- B- C-stories that don’t even connect to each other. For me, it was really fun to get to explore that and learn a different way of how to make this show.
Moving on to the rest of the cast, I was really happy to see you guys digging deeper into Todd’s asexuality. There are some really beautiful scenes there and Todd really grows up in a lot of ways this year. Talk about discovering all of that stuff with the character and what Todd’s dealing with this season.
Well a big part of Todd’s story this year is exploring his asexuality and we really wanted to do that respectfully and correctly. We actual had an asexual woman come in and talk to us about her experiences as well as asking her what she’s tired of seeing in the rest of the media’s portrayal of asexuals. Not that there have been many, but there’s still enough to upset people. So one of the things that she told us is that she’s tired of seeing asexuals portrayed as these childish characters. So immediately I went, “Oh boy, we’re in trouble…” That’s who Todd is!
We of course couldn’t change Todd, but we did try to show that his asexuality was not a function of him being a bit of a case of arrested development. Part of the challenge this season was going deeper into all of that, but we thought part of what makes Todd special is that he’s not solely defined by that. That’s not why people liked him for the previous seasons. So we also wanted to make sure that he has plenty of crazy adventures that don’t relate to his sexuality at all because why would they?
We also discussed what’s Todd role is in the universe of the show and we discovered that he is kind of always there in ways that people take for granted. People just think he’s sitting on the couch all day, but he’s constantly going on missions for people while having a great attitude. So to have BoJack be the one that finally does appreciate that was an interesting place to take their relationship.
There’s definitely a feeling of growing up and maturity going on this season. That certainly opens up the question of how much more of this story do you think there’s left to tell? You’ve really put BoJack through the wringer, but it also still feels like you’re just starting a new chapter in a lot of ways, too.
Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t have a 6- or 7-season plan in my head or anything. We just go year by year and if we still have stories to tell, we’ll keep telling them. I definitely think that it’s such a fun world to explore where there are so many different kinds of characters and stories to have fun with. I get surprised every year and every idea I have on my own, I’m always like, “Could that be a ‘BoJack’ thing?” and almost always it can be due to the wide framework that we’ve built for this show. This is such a great outlet that I wouldn’t want to say goodbye too, but at the same time we want to make sure that we’re being true to the story and not overstaying our welcome. But at this point I have no idea when that will be.
BoJack Horseman’s entire fourth season is currently streaming on Netflix