Claudio Cambra reviews the fifth season of critically acclaimed comedy-drama, BoJack Horseman.
Warning: this review contains spoilers
The premise of BoJack Horseman has always seemed kind of silly — a show about an actor horse who is past his prime, in a universe where the coexistence of humans and animals as smart as them is completely normal. And sure, at first, the show seemed to lean into this, using the premise to show the titular character intoxicated and to provide the audience with plenty of animal jokes.
Five seasons later, however, the show has grown far beyond that. Showrunner Raphael Bob-Waksberg has created a cast of diverse and multi-dimensional characters, each struggling to find their place in the world of Hollywood, each with their own backstories, ideas and troubles. Peppered with both absurd and dark comedy, the show has become a hit with critics and audiences alike.
So how does the fifth season fare? Pretty well.
Coming off of a nice ending in season four, the latest one starts off with BoJack surprisingly fine, and almost everyone else falling apart. Diane struggles with the issue of her divorce with Mr. Peanutbutter, who has moved on (sort of). Princess Carolyn continues with the gruelling process of bringing a child into her life by herself, after her previous relationship failed. Todd is shoved into the role of CEO at a large entertainment company. Everything is kind of chaotic.
Which is great, though the season takes its time to build up. The pacing in the first half of the season is a bit slow, though there are a few standout episodes here: ‘The Dog Days are Over’ follows Diane on a trip to Vietnam as she tries to run away from her marital problems, and it excels in both its presentation and its portrayal of her struggle to accept the failure of her marriage. ‘Free Churro’ is an episode that consists almost entirely of a monologue by BoJack Horseman, an excellent curveball where the animation portrays his feelings and his thoughts as well as voice actor Will Arnett does.
It is in the latter half of the season, however, that BoJack’s storyline comes to the forefront. With everyone else busy trying to solve their own issues, BoJack is left to his own devices — something which inevitably ends badly. An appearance from Hollyhock provides some perspective on how the horse actor has lost control once again, culminating in disaster in episode eleven. I won’t spoil it for you, but the season finale at least shows the horse finally taking a real step towards a long-overdue, meaningful recovery.
The introduction of Gina, a new character who plays Horseman’s female companion on Philbert and eventually becomes his girlfriend, is a great one. Stephanie Beatriz brings the character to life and makes a great counterpart to the actor horse as her career starts to take off while BoJack once again begins to spiral downwards.
All of these characters provide the show with platforms to explore a number of themes prevalent throughout the series. Addiction is at the forefront, of course, with BoJack becoming increasingly isolated as those around him deal with their own lives. He often tries to control his own addiction as best he can but, like most addicts, is simply unable to do this without outside help, despite having the best of intentions. He has plenty of excuses to drink and drug himself to death: a complicated childhood, a battery of poor decisions, a lack of meaning in his world — but the fact remains that coping with these problems through drinking is as unhelpful as his own attempts to deal with the problems themselves, and usually lead him to make things worse.
Hollywood’s moral corruption and short-sightedness is again explored in regard to its relationship with feminism, of which BoJack becomes a supporter through insultingly obvious statements like “Don’t choke women!”. Though absurd, the show deftly demonstrates how transparent LA can be in its self-serving support of the cause, and yet how quickly those who live in this world are willing to forgive people who abuse and mistreat women.
All-in-all, it’s like I said: the new season fares pretty well. Despite a somewhat slow start, the show once again proves capable of creating and developing deeply flawed characters who are easy to sympathise with and understand despite these flaws. The way it handles tough issues is both consistent with previous seasons and among the best shown on TV. Honestly? I can’t wait for the next season.