Once in a while, a piece of media comes along that makes you feel vulnerable and existential, yet at the same time comfortable and reassured, as if it’s been pulled from the very achings of your own soul. That might seem melodramatic for an animated “comedy” show about a talking horse person and his array of wacky sidekicks, but “BoJack Horseman” is the most human show I think I’ve ever watched. It manages to capture so many emotions at once, all without being overbearing, patronizing, or a complete tonal mess. It’s funny when it needs to be, difficult when it needs to be, and overwhelmingly heartbreaking in a way I didn’t think possible. Every time you think the show has reached a point in which it can’t make you feel any worse, it somehow manages to push the boundaries of misery even further. And yet it also somehow manages to be one of the most uplifting and reassuring depictions of depression, mental illness, and existential dread I’ve ever seen.
So, when you inevitably have to end such a monumental show that has gathered such a massive following in both critical and commercial spaces, it can seem almost impossible not to disappoint. After all, we’ve seen it happen constantly, time after time, whether it be “Lost,” “Dexter,” or “Game of Thrones.” When you have something so massive, how can you possibly not mess it up? Well, while BoJack Season 6 isn’t without its flaws, I feel comfortable labeling it as one of the best conclusions to a television show I’ve seen, with so many character arcs getting the closure they need to leave you with a sense that while the show might be over, the people within its universe will continue living long after the animators have stopped drawing them. It’s amazing how far the show has come, and although I was one of the few people who actually enjoyed the first season and didn’t find it obnoxious, to see it evolve into something so much more than a madcap comedy has been absolutely fantastic. The sheer amount of growth displayed by the writers from beginning to end is astounding, and I will definitely be following the work of Raphael Bob-Waksberg for years to come.
But enough singing the praises of the overall series, how does Season 6 match up in comparison to the rest of the show? Well, for starters, it’s much longer than any other season, half because of the split release dates and half because Netflix cut the series prematurely, so I’m assuming the BoJack team tried to get as much done as they possibly could with whatever time they had left. And goddamn, did they get a lot done. Right from the start of this season, BoJack seems like a much more mature and developed character than he’s ever been, spending time at rehab and getting over his crippling alcoholism. Other seasons have also focused on the self-help aspect of BoJack’s life, from using therapy podcasts and audiobooks to labeling his vodka bottles so he only drinks so much per day. But here it seems much more sincere, as BoJack has finally relinquished the façade of control over his own addictions and has since put his fate in someone else’s hands.
This is theme of relinquishing control and learning to accept the consequences of your own actions is something that drives the entire story of BoJack forward throughout the season. Sober and reflective, BoJack now has to live with every shitty thing he’s ever done, no matter how long ago it was or how much he’s changed since. No matter what you do today, nothing can change the past. And as cruel of a message that might seem, it’s one that is extremely prevalent in modern culture, especially with the rise of the internet and the fact that everything anyone has ever said or done is likely catalogued on some social media site, where it can remain accessible until the end of time. BoJack has changed. A lot. But no matter how much resentment, anger, and disgust he has towards the person he used to be, that person still existed and still hurt a lot of people. You can’t fix everyone, and you can’t take anything back. All you can do is learn to accept the consequences of what happened and move on as a better person.
Without spoiling anything, it also becomes clear that BoJack’s real addiction is to structures and cycles. When he was on Horsin’ Around, he delivered his lines clearly and mechanically, blurting out the same catchphrases week after week without being challenged in any way. Whenever he felt guilt or shame, he would drink and most likely do something awful in the process, which would then proceed to make him feel more guilt or shame, causing him to drink more, repeat ad infinitum. Even when he goes to rehab, he finds it extremely difficult to leave, as he’s become used to the structure of going to therapy, talking in group discussions, and returning to his room to repeat the cycle the next day, even when he’s technically “cured.” It’s heartbreaking to watch him struggle so much to break the structures that have essentially ruled over him since he was a child, but it ultimately informs the audience that BoJack is not a character that can change easily. Change is a difficult, messy, and often unsuccessful process that can take multiple tries before it really sticks. By the end of the series, we see that BoJack has changed, but how long will it really stay? Can he actually maintain this new life he wants for himself or will he be doomed to repeat the same cycles he’s always known? That’s left up for us to decide.
In terms of criticism, my main issue with this season is that the time skips between events are extremely long, especially towards the end of the show. It’s obvious that the BoJack team had a lot more they wanted to say and do with these characters but given the limitations imposed on them by Netflix, they tried to hit as many of the important points as they could before sending off these amazing characters for good. However, this does create a weird sense of pacing that can be hard to follow when certain events are separated by weeks, months, or even years within the same episode. For a show that usually stuck to a pretty tight timeline on an episode by episode basis and only uses time skips for a laugh, these gigantic jumps leave a lot of details up to the audience, with only the most important bullet points covered in the actual show.
Personally, I also found there to be too much time wasted on an ultimately pointless romance between Mr. Peanutbutter and Pickles. I think anyone with half a brain could see that their relationship was not going to work out but having them spend an entire episode working through their relationship problems only to literally break up off-screen in a two second scene that’s thrown away for laughs just felt like a lot of wasted time in a season that could definitely benefit from even more expansion on BoJack’s journey. And to be honest, I didn’t really care for the early 20th century reporter characters that are introduced at the literal last second and basically only exist for the writers to throw in as many gag lines and tongue twisters as they possibly can. I think it would’ve been much more impactful for the people eventually responsible for tearing down BoJack’s image to be much closer to him, whether that be the manatee from Manatee Fair or the even Diane with her hard-hitting downer journalism company.
Despite these flaws though, BoJack Season 6 is a worthy conclusion to a show I feel confident in calling an absolute masterpiece. The second to last episode in particular is one of the most harrowing and hard-hitting suicide PSAs I think I’ve ever seen. Nothing has ever made me feel the way that episode did. BoJack Horseman’s realistic and unapologetic view of reality is something that has obviously touched a lot of people and I don’t think we’re likely to come across a show with such a staggering quality of writing and humor any time soon. It’s brutal, moving, and ultimately bittersweet in a way that makes perfect sense for the character’s journey up to this point. BoJack Horseman is absolutely singular, and I adore it for that. It will likely be remembered as one of the greatest animated shows of all time, and it’s completely deserving of all the praise it gets.
Season Rating: 9/10 – Fantastic
Overall Series Rating: 10/10 – Masterpiece