“I remember everything. I’m sober now.”
When the announcement was made that BoJack Horseman season 6 would be the final season, I got scared. I was legitimately nervous over whether this damaged horseman and his friends will find some peace and happiness or plummet even further into melancholy. Each season of BoJack Horseman has explored a different stage of this pained character’s journey towards fulfillment. This series has handled BoJack’s development in a highly delicate way, but this final season examines the fear behind moving on and whether he’s truly ready to go back out in the world and be okay. So even though the news that this is the end for BoJack scared me, I realized that this season these characters are far more petrified about what will come of them. It’s as if they can sense that the end is nigh.
Right before BoJack volunteers to go to rehab at the end of the show’s fifth season, Diane tells him, “You need to take responsibility for yourself… You’re never going to be ‘good’ because you’re not ‘bad.’” This final season shows just how much BoJack takes that advice to heart. In very typical BoJack fashion, he manages to make taking responsibility for your actions and turn it into a contest or a way to antagonize others.
It’s impressive the way BoJack Horseman season 6 treats BoJack’s stay in rehab. It takes some time for him to get a grasp on what he’s actually doing in there, even if he thinks he’s making headway. BoJack does the work and confronts past demons, but what’s important is that he wants to do this. It’s also a very mature approach to therapy and rehab, even if he does turn accountability into a shield of defense in some respects. It’s genuinely touching to watch him help others stick with their sobriety. It feels like the natural final act for the character. All of this work leads him down a selfless path – it’s the perfect place where he can actually do good and not feed his previously destructive tendencies.
This season BoJack is much more a force of helpful change than he is one of destruction. When BoJack does make mistakes, there’s an earnestness to them and they feel different from his past indiscretions. Even after BoJack is able to move beyond rehab, the real world has a much scarier sheen to it. He’s haunted by all of his past deeds and the ways in which he’s messed up now that he doesn’t have something like alcohol to wash away the painful memories. It’s an insightful, realistic look at sobriety that the series doesn’t belittle. The way in which BoJack now feels vulnerable and like an outsider in the world isn’t unlike if he just got out of prison. This season hammers home how innocuous things can now be newly dangerous to BoJack.
One of the darkest and most important moments in both the history of the series and character is his association with Sarah Lynn’s drug overdose. It’s an event that’s always bubbling under the surface, but hasn’t been directly addressed in a while. Now that BoJack is in the Pastiches rehab center he’s forced to deal with this past traumatic event in a big way. Sarah Lynn’s name is even the phrase that begins this season as BoJack flashes back to rock bottom. Her role in BoJack’s life and how he let her down is incredibly important to his inner pain and this season really wants you to understand that.
Not just the memory of Sarah Lynn, but all of BoJack’s major catalysts return in this final season in a cathartic way. They assess truly how much BoJack has grown and if he’s able to healthily process old wounds. This season appropriately explores the nature of where BoJack’s addictions began in the first place, his need for acceptance, and how these vices are so baked into his DNA.
This final season has BoJack at the precipice of improvement, but every major character matures and breaks new ground this year (even Todd). Each episode in the first half of this season is essentially structured around a different character’s dilemma as BoJack checks in for support. Everyone experiences different forms of compromise and codependency. BoJack and Diane’s relationship remains a pillar of the series. Their time together remains brief, even more so than in previous seasons, but every moment they’re together is electric. They share an important, caring bond that goes beyond actually being physically together.
Beyond its complex characters, this season of BoJack attacks plenty of timely, important issues, like the increasing proliferation of mega-corporations, the need to turn everything into a franchise, or the risk of Hollwoo(d) assistants going on strike. These touches all add an appreciated injection of realism into the series, which helps ground it from its more unorthodox urges.
BoJack tackles heavy issues, but its sense of silliness isn’t lost in this goodbye season. There are copious background gags, pop culture, and movie references that are laugh out loud funny. There’s a running bit that involves tying sheets together into a rope that gets more hilarious each time and rewards the season’s binge-friendly approach. Each episode also boasts such layered, clever storytelling, even when the plot itself is relatively simple. The series presents a grueling break up and emotional lows through wacky farce and extreme visual comedy gags. Estranged families are brought together through absurdist kidney heists. It’s shocking how well BoJack Horseman balances these extremes.
In addition to everything else, BoJack is a series that looks beautiful and this season utilizes some very strong stylistic effects to creatively represent things like the fog of alcoholism or the haze of insomnia. They are moments where the show gets as smart with its visuals as it does with its script. There’s a brilliant episode that largely looks at Princess Carolyn’s efforts to juggle motherhood and a chaotic job that perpetually features a reminder of her baby that nags through the entry and further wears down Princess Carolyn (and the audience).
This is the only time that BoJack Horseman has divided a season up into halves and it’s a strategy that works both for and against it. The longer overall length of these two half seasons of eight episodes allows these episodes to breathe a little more. This season takes its time and properly lets the internal conflicts fester before things start to move. The sixth and final season of BoJack Horseman is unsurprisingly an emotional and cleansing package, but it does feel like only half of this story. The first half of this season builds BoJack up and prepares him for the harshness of reality and it looks like the following eight episodes will try to tear him down and see what’s left.
BoJack Horseman season 6 feels inspiring and empowering in a way that the other seasons haven’t. That being said, there are still no shortages of devastating gut punches and raw moments of humanity. It wouldn’t be BoJack Horseman without them. With now only half of this final season left, BoJack faces a tumultuous tug of war with his past and his future. He’s finally done the work and reached a healthy place of calm. Let’s just hope that what follows in the final eight episodes doesn’t bring him back to Pastiches, or even worse, reunite him with Sarah Lynn.
The first half of BoJack Horseman’s sixth and final season premieres October 25th on Netflix. The second half with air in January of 2020.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, and Bloody Disgusting. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and that Hannibal is the greatest love story ever told. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.