This BoJack Horseman review is spoiler-free. Read our BoJack season six part one review here.
“We’ve all been damaged, but it’s good damage because it makes us more who we are.”
Recovery is hard. Progress is hard. Life is hard. Those are the overwhelming truths in these final episodes of BoJack Horseman.
The first thing that BoJack tries to tell his students in these episodes is that acting is about leaving everything behind and becoming something completely new. All of the work that BoJack’s done has made him feel completely new, but it’s not because he’s left everything behind, but rather because he’s learned how to accept it and truly find peace with himself. Of course, the most frightening thing about sobriety, responsibility, and even yourself is that these things can all get so far away from you.
Watching these final episodes, I’ve felt both the highest highs and lowest lows for BoJack Horseman the character. It’s a realistic, fractured trot to the finish line that helps BoJack Horseman end on such a brave, important note. The final episodes filled me with such a crippling level of anxiety, but with BoJack Horseman I wouldn’t have it any other way.
BoJack has finally made progress in his life and he feels like he’s been able to mature past his unhealthy compulsions and make genuine growth as a person. However, that growth unfortunately coincides with some of BoJack’s dirtiest laundry getting exposed. These final episodes poignantly explore the idea that improvement isn’t something that you can decide on your own and that you’ll be always be held up to other people’s metrics, no matter how much you’ve changed. This news forces BoJack to consider if he really has matured and if there is ever a way to completely atone for your sins and accept responsibility. Even apologies can turn into exercises in narcissism.
BoJack Horseman has looked at BoJack’s progress as a person in many creative ways throughout the show’s six seasons and this final batch of eight episodes continues to highlight BoJack’s inner fears and doubts through challenging metaphors. Since BoJack has shifted away from the self-serving world of acting and in favor of a career as an educator, his lectures and exercises with his students become a new, imaginative window into his psyche. Just when BoJack thinks he has a decent grasp on who he is and why he’s driven to do the things that he does, these fresh perspectives force him to reconcile with his inadequacies in unexpected ways.
BoJack creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg hasn’t hidden the fact that this two-part final season was originally envisioned as two complete seasons. This condensed structure was definitely felt during the first half of season six and it still feels present here to some extent. Certain episodes breeze through months of time in a way that feels like they probably would have been given more room to breathe if the season wasn’t so compact. That being said, there are other episodes that all play out over the course of one continuous night. This economical structure works a little better than it did in the first half of the season.
The large chunks of time that fly past BoJack in a matter of seconds even feel representative of his more laid back existence. Occasionally this can be jarring or disruptive, but it occurs during moments where BoJack feels equally unsure of himself. The structure and pacing brilliantly matches BoJack’s own mental state.
BoJack begins this season in an isolated place, but what’s important is whether his friends are there for him when he hits the bottom and needs them the most. The first half of season six features major developments for every single character and these final episodes continue to show how they’re easing into their new lives, as well as rocking the boat in some big ways. A major source of tension this season comes from BoJack’s frayed relationship with his sister, Hollyhock. BoJack’s universe gets a lot smaller at Wesleyan and so the people who are in his proximity gain a lot more significance.
There’s a fresh dynamic as BoJack and Hollyhock try to occupy the same space together, but much of the fun is erased from their relationship as Hollyhock struggles to accept him. This pained brother-sister relationship becomes a serious focus for the final leg of BoJack’s journey. Both BoJack’s friends, and the audience, will have very complicated feelings over who BoJack Horseman is, but that final stage of analysis is what this last season is all about. BoJack comes to terms with the idea that his entire legacy and all of the good that he’s done could be completely erased.
In many ways this show has been just as much about Diane’s troubled journey to find happiness, as it has been Bojack’s. One of the densest and most visually complex episodes of the season delves into Diane’s chaotic writing process and provides an illuminating look at her through a stream of consciousness structure. It’s one of the most authentic looks at depression and doubt that I’ve seen on television. The first half of BoJack season six didn’t really feature any ambitious structural anomalies, but these new episodes that aren’t afraid to push the limits of animation and storytelling with the little time that they have left. There’s even an existential journey on the subject of death and sacrifice that feels like a fusion between Samuel Beckett, Luigi Pirandello, and Bob Fosse in its surreal execution. The season also plays around with a very fluid chronological structure that frequently overlaps and creates a layered, ornate story.
Intense character studies and gutting melodrama are rampant within BoJack Horseman, but the series is still as frustratingly funny as it’s always been. There is so much to marvel at here, whether it’s through the brilliant social commentary, the way in which seemingly disparate storylines dovetail together, or the verbal gymnastics of the show’s Frasier-caliber wordplay. I was frequently rewinding scenes just to properly appreciate the wealth of comedy on display. As introspective and morose as these final episodes are, they’re still rich in humor and find a comfortable balance between the show’s tonal extremes.
It’s only appropriate that these final episodes of BoJack Horseman have the character thinking about the legacy that he’ll leave behind as the series prepares to do the same. BoJack has been instrumental in proving that there’s an audience for adult animated dramas that aren’t afraid to get sad and brutally real. There’s already been a large influx of these kinds of animated shows since BoJack’s creation. But the big difference here is that BoJack Horseman wasn’t trying to be edgy or do anything revolutionary. It just wanted to tell an honest story about a realistically flawed man and it’s done that just as beautifully as prestige dramas like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. Quite honestly, BoJack Horseman deserves to be looked at with the same reverence as those series. I’ve learned just as much about myself and about human nature through this show as I did through those.
BoJack Horseman has helped usher in a new renaissance of mature animated television and it’s so gratifying to see it stick the landing and end relatively on its own terms. Every episode of BoJack Horseman poses the same question during the show’s closing theme: “Am I more man than a horse? Or am I more horse than a man?” In the end, BoJack Horseman was more man than horse. As an imprecise, damaged individual who reluctantly tried to repair himself, he was one of the truest men of all.
BoJack Horseman season six part two is out on Netflix from Friday the 31st of January.