“Yeah, well what are ya gonna do? Life’s a bitch and then you die, right?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes life’s a bitch and you keep living.”
It’s very rare that the final moments of a show that’s spanned six seasons provides a means for the screenwriters to seamlessly and effortlessly sum up the entire point of the series, but, go figure, if any screenwriters could do it, then the screenwriters for the finest show of the latter half of the 2010s, BOJACK HORSEMAN, could manage.
BOJACK HORSEMAN is similar to SPRING BREAKERS (yes, the Harmony Korine film from 2012 that undeservedly has a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes because critics are often dense) in that it is both a product of the decade it was created in, while also managing to perfectly capture and satirize the decade in which it exists. BOJACK HORSEMAN, more than maybe any piece of television I’ve ever experienced, manages to wonderfully grapple pressing topics that matter in today’s society. These topics range from (but, are not limited to): addiction, depression and dealing with mental health issues, sexual identity, motherhood and the difficulties that that makes being career orientated, the vapidness of the entertainment industry, familial abuse and struggles, the incessant need of society to protect male villains, sexual assault, etc, etc.
The series debuted on Netflix in 2014 and very quickly became one of the faces of Netflix, along with ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and HOUSE OF CARDS, which both debuted in 2013. While some critics were quick to dismiss as a dumb new animated comedy with some cute visual gags but nothing to really say (to be fair to them, two of the first three episodes of the show are the two worst of the show, and the first four episodes all rank in the bottom-16 of the series; it doesn’t quite hit its stride and take off until the fifth episode, “Live Fast, Diane Nguyen”), the critics who stuck with the show were rewarded with an incredible second half of the first season and what followed is some of the most impeccable storytelling ever. The second and third seasons would rank up there as some of the best seasons in the history of television, and while the latter seasons never quite hit that peak again, they still remain inarguably some of the most relevant and essential television experiences in an era jam-packed with wonderful television at every turn.
On January 31st of 2020, Netflix debuted the final half of the sixth season (let’s call it “6B”) of BOJACK and promptly, the best running show on television ended (making way for the next show up, SUCCESSION, which, similarly to BOJACK isn’t the easiest show for people to start, but also takes off at the fifth episode and has a second season that is one of the best seasons of television ever). Season 6B starts off pretty well (especially the second episode, which is a Diane-centric episode, usually some of the strongest in the series), dips a bit in the middle, and then provides one of the most harrowing penultimate episodes of the series (BOJACK is known for this) and then finally, a more than satisfying conclusion.
Season 6B picks up where 6A left off, in that BoJack has begun teaching drama at Wesleyan University. This intro episode was effective because for one of the first times in the series, we get to see an older, more mature BoJack actually excel at his job and almost look at peace and comfortable. Up to this point in the series, regardless of all the pain BoJack has caused other people, it’s undeniable that he has immensely struggled all throughout the series, and seeing him actually start to find some relief from all of his pain is truly lovely to see. He’s clearly good at his job, and in a world where this could ultimately be where his life ends up and this wasn’t a TV show where conflict and tension were necessary to keep the story moving, it’s nice to imagine him finishing here and changing the lives of young actors for the better. Of course, that can’t happen, because this is BOJACK… but the thought is nice.
The show quickly transitions to catch the audience up on Diane in the second episode of 6B. The second episode of season five, “The Dog Days Are Over” was also a Diane-centric episode and while that one outshines this one (that episode is one of the ten best the show has to offer), “Good Damage” is one of the strongest episodes from these final eight. Diane-centric episodes are usually superb. I would argue that she’s the most compelling character of the show since the show began (it’s also no coincidence that the show takes off back in season one on a Diane-centric episode).
Seeing Diane struggle both with her mental health (something Diane finally truly addresses after six seasons) and how it affects her art and creating (being on antidepressants versus being able to create but being off of the meds and being unhappy) and seeing her finally grapple with the past trauma her family gave her and how she always hoped to make that damage valuable by turning it into art was particularly effective. The way the character struggles with the changes she experiences and the way her boyfriend, Guy (voiced by LaKeith Stanfield, who continues to never miss) handle everything with love, support, and compassion is also really heartwarming. It’s unfortunate that Alison Brie probably shouldn’t be the actress doing voice work for this character (she’s white and voicing an Asian-American character and has episodes that deal with her Asian identity) because she does a truly remarkable job in BOJACK.
The season then proceeds to wrap up the storyline that began last season with Mr. Peanutbutter and Pickles (voiced by the always charming Hong Chau), and while their story does eventually reach a conclusion, bringing back a storyline that felt so inconsequential to these final eight episodes was somewhat irksome. The episode that wraps the story up isn’t even particularly bad (it’s pretty okay!), but it’s a mostly forgettable episode in the final act of a show that has been anything but forgettable. Of the primary characters, Mr. Peanutbutter has the least amount of time devoted to his conclusion, and that’s probably fair, seeing as he’s struggled the least and had to endure so little compared to everybody else. Still, it was nice to see him growing and changing even at the end of the series. He has a final conversation with Diane that is quite lovely.
Aaron Paul, who was always involved in the best show in the world for all of the 2010s (2010-2013 with BREAKING BAD and 2014-2019 with BOJACK), as Todd has always been the lovable goof of the show, moreso than any other character, but there is an argument to be made that no character experiences more growth throughout the show than Todd, too. He starts the series as a freeloader with a lot of creativity but no real means to harness that, and by the end of the show, he’s self-sufficient, living with his asexual girlfriend because of a dating app for asexual people (that he created) and mostly, satisfied and happy with life. The way in which he deals with BoJack in the end of the series is starkly different than the way he did at the start. Their final scene together mixes the perfect blend of humor and earnestness.
One thing that was missing from this final half-season was a Princess Carolyn-centric episode. Like Diane, Princess Carolyn is another one of the strongest characters in the show and episodes devoted solely to what she’s going through usually excel (see: “Ruthie”). Unfortunately, there wasn’t any room for a Princess Carolyn-centric episode in these final eight, but seeing her become growingly exasperated with BoJack’s bad behavior and sketchy past despite their friendship is fascinating to watch, especially when considering that she is a raising a daughter. One has to wonder if all the times she’s dealt with him has ever made her stop and think about the people (namely, women) he has hurt. It seems like there is a good stretch during this final run where it appears to be a little too much for her, which is a nice bit to add.
Whenever people talk about the greatest Will Arnett performance of his career, most people will reference Will’s work as Gob Bluth in ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (and he is great in it), but, now that BOJACK has concluded, it is beyond easy to say that the most notable work of his life has come from the depressing horse show for which he does the voice-work for the titular character. Arnett has that gruff, bass-y voice that can produce both glib, dry sarcasm and painful and pathetic desperation, which is what made his work as BoJack so masterful. This season is no different and the work he did in the penultimate episode, “The View from Halfway Down” is especially spectacular. Arnett is hauntingly good as the title character.
While I won’t give away any spoilers, as I watched the penultimate episode of season six (the penultimate episodes are usually the best episodes from every season (most notably, “Downer Ending” from season one, which is my favorite episode of BOJACK ever)), I was almost shocked and excited that the creative team was taking the story in a way that I thought would’ve made a ton of sense and felt well-earned. Upon finishing that episode, I was comfortable in saying I had just watched one of the best episodes of BOJACK ever.
When I saw the finale, at first, I was a little disappointed because it felt like they went back on an idea that would’ve been really satisfying, but upon watching the finale again, it’s the perfect ending and exactly as it should be. It provides closure for all of the characters present, has some wonderful callbacks from previous seasons, and even features a marriage between two shocking characters that makes total sense. The final rooftop scene is some of the greatest dialogue the show has ever featured, and the use of Catherine Feeny’s “Mr. Blue” left me emotionally devastated. It all ends so extraordinarily.
It’s stunning that the most emotionally gripping and human show of the past six years was a show where an anthropomorphic horse was the protagonist, but such is the case. Season 6B of BOJACK landed the ending for one of the greatest television shows ever (yes, ever) perfectly and everybody who got to experience the wild, heart-wrenching, brilliantly amusing masterpiece of a show is better off for it.