I know Rick and Morty often does pop culture tributes, but this might be my favorite one so far. Captain Planet, a show that ended in 1996, was a big cultural part of the 1990s and one that represented the hope and unity we believed would come as a result of the end of the Cold War. Unfortunately, in retrospect, it also was ridiculously naïve. The show’s central theme was that each individual working to stop pollution would save the world. While there are a lot of signs that bringing awareness about the environment has managed to mitigate some of the impacts, like flaming rivers and acid rain, people have pointed out that shifting the blame to individuals rather than the much-heavier-polluting corporations has limited the amount that recycling efforts can actually achieve when combating climate change. This episode only touches on that aspect, but, being Rick and Morty, it takes it in a hilariously dark direction.
Rick and Morty (Justin Roiland) are buying t-shirts when they witness an acid rain attack by a supervillain named Diesel Weasel (Tom Kenny(?)), who appears to be a cross between Verminous Scumm from the Captain Planet series and the Biker Mice from Mars. Diesel Weasel is quickly defeated by eco-friendly superhero Planetina (Alison Brie), who Morty promptly, and successfully, asks out. Morty chooses to pursue Planetina rather than join Rick on their planned “apocalypse bar crawl,” where they go to three planets that are about to end in order to join in the orgies and debauchery that precedes such events. Summer (Spencer Grammer) agrees to join Rick instead, looking forward to the guilt-free orgy, over objections from Jerry and Beth (Chris Parnell and Sarah Chalke). Morty manages to find Planetina again and asks her out again, resulting in them hooking up. When Planetina’s formerly-teenage summoners call her forth at a convention, Morty is accidentally brought with her. This quickly agitates the now middle-aged “Tina-teers,” who kidnap Morty to kill him before selling Planetina to a rich man. Morty escapes and kills the American Tina-Teer (Steve Buscemi), before murdering all of the Tina-teers, freeing Planetina and moving her into the house.
Meanwhile, Rick meets an alien named Daphne (Jennifer Coolidge) on the first planet and brings her along to the next two, much to Summer’s disappointment. Rick insists that what he and Daphne have is special. However, on the third planet, in the middle of the orgy, Summer gets fed up with Rick and saves the planet by destroying the asteroid that’s going to hit it. Rather than being elated, most of the citizens are upset that they have to go to work and live with the stuff they did when they thought they would die. Also, Daphne reveals that she wasn’t really interested in Rick, but was only staying with him to avoid her fate. Rick ends up admitting to Summer that stopping an apocalypse to make a point is something he would do and seems to respect her more. Back on Earth, Morty watches Planetina escalate her anti-pollution efforts from stopping fires to committing arson on politicians and murdering miners. Morty, horrified, breaks up with her. She asks him to reconsider and points out that he violently murdered the Tina-teers, but he refuses to take her back. She tells him off and leaves, with Beth comforting a crying Morty.
This episode is one of the best A-plot and B-plot thematic connections in the series. Both involve the planet dying, but the former evaluates the slow death from climate change that we’re seeing on Earth and the latter involves the sudden and inevitable death suffered by planets undergoing natural cosmic ends. Earth basically ignores it and refuses to take any measure to stop it, with the Tina-teers even trying to sell their champion into sexual slavery. It seems to be a reference to the idea that people will sell out the future of the planet as long as it isn’t concretely going to affect them. Meanwhile, when death is inevitable, people seem to break into hedonism and are freed from the concerns of the future. While I think it’s more likely that a lot of people would try to spend time with their loved ones rather than in an orgy, I’m sure at least some orgies would break out. It’s interesting to note that Summer actually is the only one that saves a planet… but only does it out of spite. I also think that the aliens being pissed at having to go to work was hilarious.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
So, why does Planetina move from just putting out the forest fires to killing miners? Because this might be the first time that she’s actually been out of her rings for a prolonged period of time. The progression of Planetina’s actions is consistent with the idea that she is extremely naive at the beginning (possibly explaining why she would sleep with a teenager), and believes that the solution to pollution is, indeed, the individual. She unfortunately maintains that same belief in the individual, but starts to blame them for not doing “enough.” If she had shifted her focus to punishing the companies or corporate heads that cause most of the pollution, then maybe she could have had more of a point, but she wasn’t willing to break her genuine belief that only individuals can have an impact. So, rather than stopping pipelines or factories, she murders the workers who likely can’t afford to do anything about it.
Overall, I give this episode an
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you next week.
This revenge story isn’t quite what you would expect, but it gets the job done.
Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) is a 30-year-old medical school dropout who lives with her parents (Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge) and works at a coffee shop under her friend Gail (Laverne Cox) and starts dating her former classmate Dr. Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham). Cassie dropped out of college along with her friend Nina when Nina was raped and the school refused to do anything about it, leading to Nina’s apparent death. Every weekend, now, Cassie dresses up and pretends to be drunk in order to trick random “good guys” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Adam Brody, Sam Richardson) into taking her home and trying to have sex with her without her consent, prepared to punish them for what they’re doing. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. It turns out that Cassie is planning on getting back at all of the people involved in Nina’s case, ranging from the women who didn’t help her (Alison Brie, Connie Britton) to the lawyers (Alfred Molina) to the men involved (Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield).
It’s interesting to me that I have gone back and forth repeatedly about whether or not this is a great movie, but I cannot question that it is an effective movie. I’m not sure exactly what the term is for what this movie does, likely because I don’t have any formal schooling in theater or film, but it clearly is designed to make you think about it more than most films. I’d say it is similar to Bertolt Brecht in that the film is designed in such a way that you can’t quite be pulled into it the way that you would with most other films, but instead of doing so by eliminating the fourth wall, this film does it by constantly subverting your expectations on every level. Rather than being able to pretend to be an unseen viewer into the story, the film tries to force you to analyze yourself and those around you in relation to what’s happening by constantly keeping you on your toes.
First, the casting is intentionally done to be against type. All of the guys in this movie that Cassie ends up confronting are usually either love interests or fun best friends in films (Adam Brody, for example). They’re actors who seem harmless and non-threatening, which makes it all the more impactful when we see them start to grope a half-aware woman. In contrast, the guys who we actually can kind of trust are mostly cast by people who play villains, like Clancy “The Kurgan” Brown, which adds to that same effect.
Second, much of the film is based around slow reveals that not everything is what it seems. While the advertising and the opening scene suggest that Cassie is doing is quickly revealed to be slightly different than reality, and the film keeps changing things just enough and not quite explaining everything directly enough that you keep being forced to think about the narrative and that’s how the film gets you in a mindset to contemplate.
Third, the cinematography in many of the scenes are designed to make the audience feel like they’re the bad guy or girl. The confrontations are often directly at camera, making us empathize not with the heroine, but with the people she’s forcing to think about their actions. It’s a brilliant technique, particularly when combined with the other elements above. It compels you to think about your own actions in the past, even, or especially, the ones that you justified to yourself at the time.
More than trying to tell a complete story (although it does that as well), I think this movie was designed to affect the audience in ways that few movies do. It’s making you think about your real life and your actions, whether you’re a man or a woman, and it does it very effectively.
The performances are all fantastic, particularly Carey Mulligan and Bo Burnham. Their chemistry is so strong that it allows for their relationship to move forward in a fairly rapid montage without it being at all distracting. It’s also strong enough that you can buy that a woman who is focused on getting back at men could really find a romantic interest in one.
Overall, without going into spoilers, I think this is a movie that everyone should see. I’m not sure that it’s a great movie in the traditional sense, but it is doing something effectively that many movies can’t. That’s impressive.
ON THE SOFA WITH THE JOKER AND THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN
So, after watching this, we started talking and, after having a fairly long discussion of the movie, we decided that maybe we should convey our back and forths rather than just talking about the film separately.
Faceless Old Woman: Hey stranger.
Joker: Welcome back to the Sofa.
FOW: Well, I do live here.
JotS: Somehow I always forget that. Possibly due to the whole faceless thing.
JotS: In any case, Promising Young Woman. When we saw this, you already knew the ending. Do you think that’s something people should be warned about?
FOW: I read a spoiler for the ending because a critic who saw it at Sundance thought the ending was a reason not to watch the movie at all, and when I read it I thought that maybe they were right. Having now watched the movie, I don’t really agree. I definitely would say that anyone who’s experienced sexual trauma or violence needs to be warned that this movie could be really upsetting or retraumatizing to them. If they really want to see the movie and think that reading a synopsis would make it easier for them to handle, they should.
JotS: Do you feel that knowing the ending spoiled the effect for you? I personally didn’t see that coming and it was pretty profound, but I don’t know that it would be any less impactful if it wasn’t a surprise.
FOW: It’s hard to compare an experience I didn’t have with one I did have. I did feel stressed out and on-edge while watching the movie because I knew where it was going, but that could have been even worse if I didn’t know. It was still an extremely upsetting scene to watch, if that’s what you mean.
JotS: Yeah, that’s what I meant. Side Note: I’ve already put up the spoiler warning, but if you got to this point here’s your second chance to bail. … Okay, well, for those of you who watched the movie or are just reading this, at the end of the film Cassie is killed by Alexander Monroe, the same person who raped her friend Nina years before. I get why people might view that as a reason not to see the movie.
FOW: It’s more complicated than that, because Cassie turns out to have a full contingency plan for her murder that leads to Alex’s arrest. So that’s clever and humorous in a very dark way. Still, at the end of the day, two dead women. It’s not the healthiest message, that you should let a traumatizing event completely consume your life and then you should be willing to die to get the ultimate revenge. On the other hand, that’s such a classic story, so am I unfairly penalizing this movie because I’m worrying too much about these implications?
JotS: I think it’s appropriate to worry about the fact that the movie ends on a note like that. Sure, Alexander is going to jail, but, when you think about it later, Cassie literally tried to cut him with a scalpel after handcuffing him to the bed. He’s rich and there’s a good chance he’d either win a self-defense claim or that he’d plead down to a lesser charge, even after burning Cassie’s body (which is also a crime, kids). But I think this is part of the movie trying to get your attention more than provide a good example of how to deal with trauma. And that ending DEFINITELY gets you thinking. I don’t know that I’ve considered the implications of a film’s ending this much in a long time and I do these every day.
FOW: Specifically, I remember it made an impression on you that Alex was able to kill her when he was only able to free one arm and Cassie had a scalpel.
JotS:I mean, yeah, that’s kind of a horrifying thing I would never consider. Alexander isn’t like a big, muscular guy, and he’s able to kill a woman with only one arm. Guys don’t realize that women are probably very aware of that power disparity. If I were to walk behind a woman on the street, I wouldn’t think about it at all, but she might be on edge because, despite the fact that I’m only maybe average strength for a man, I could probably overpower her. That’s fucking insane and half of the population lives with that all the time.
FOW: Insert reference to the John Mulaney bit where he realizes he’s chasing a woman through the subway station without intending to.
JotS: Speaking of comedians, let’s talk about Bo Burnham.
FOW: See, possibly because I knew the ending, Ryan’s (Bo Burnham’s character) situation is what actually kept me awake at night.
JotS: I cannot blame you. For those of you who are reading this, it’s revealed that Ryan had been a witness to Nina’s rape (which he had seemingly forgotten). Later, after Cassie is killed, he lies to the police about her disappearance. Now, this is a woman whom he had dated for months and claimed to love, but he flat-out lies to the cops about her, knowing full well that she’s probably dead, all just to cover his ass. That’s some dark shit.
FOW: Well, yeah, that was what I said, what you pointed out was that they did a really good job of setting him up as a very likeable, sweet, handsome, charming guy in the first place. The thing that kept me awake at night after watching it was the reality that someone who says they love you, that you’ve let your guard down to trust, someone who’s met your parents, would hurt you to save their own ass. That’s a pretty terrifying reality.
JotS: Yeah, you don’t expect Bo Burnham to be the bad guy. You particularly don’t see it coming after they even make him out to be the injured party when he sees Cassie on one of her weekend revenge outings. You understand completely why he was hurt by this and you feel like he’s the good guy when he forgives her. This movie is built around throwing your expectations off.
FOW: It’s subverting an audience expectation (and as you’ve pointed out there’s a lot of that in this movie) but it’s also about our own expectations in these situations. The movie is already pointing out that there are people you’re told you can trust, like your female friends or the female dean of your school. You’re told those people will have your back when you tell them that something happened to you. Girl power, right? And the movie explicitly shows the reality is they might not! In the worst ways! Secondly, we get an early hint that Ryan has issues when, on his first date with Cassie, leads her right to his apartment and then springs that fact on her. It might seem cute but it’s actually very pressure-y!
JotS: Yeah, but we also see him recognize that she doesn’t like that, realize immediately that he has messed up, and try to apologize and fix it, something that we often see male protagonists do in rom-coms. This movie kind of makes you recognize that a lot of stuff we’re accustomed to seeing in films is actually not great to serve as a cultural example of behavior. And yeah, a big part of this film is that you absolutely never know who a person really is on the inside. One of the only characters who actually recognizes his mistakes is the lawyer, a character that is typically the ruthless one.
FOW: Oh hey Alfred Molina, didn’t expect to see you here.
JotS: Yeah, that’s another subversion. The guy who usually plays villains is the one with the conscience.
FOW: You pointed out they do that with pretty much the whole cast of this movie.
JotS: AND IT. IS. AMAZING. And it really does contribute to the theme that the people that Hollywood or society tells you to trust might not be the ones you really should.
FOW: When Ryan is confronted by Cassie he asks “So you’ve never done anything you regret?” But the thing is, he didn’t regret it, or seemingly even remember it, until he was confronted with it!
JotS: Yeah. That’s the thing. To Nina, it was her life being ruined. To Ryan, it wasn’t even worth remembering. What the hell else has he done that watching a girl get raped at a frat house wasn’t even memorable?
JotS: Then again, maybe it’s a statement on how the rapists get to move on. They get to forget. The victims don’t.
FOW: Everyone gets to forget except the people who can’t. When you do get to Alfred Molina’s lawyer who does actually feel bad about his part in it, Cassie doesn’t continue to berate him for just a little bit longer after that point. She’s clearly so relieved that SOMEBODY acknowledged that they did something bad and ACTUALLY remembered and deeply regretted it. I was moved by that.
JotS: I think it helped that this was right after we had her dealing with both Alison Brie’s character, who didn’t remember that A) Nina had died and B) that she had a video of Nina’s rape on her old phone, and Connie Britton’s character, who didn’t remember the incident really. These were two women who were involved in Nina’s life at the time and they both just kind of ignored it. Then you have Alfred Molina who probably never even met Nina in person and he’s the one who is broken over what happened to her. Yeah, it’s a hell of a moment.
JotS: So, would you recommend that people see this movie despite the fact that the plot ends in kind of a bad place?
FOW: I have to say that watching a cishet man react to this movie made me immediately think “all men should see this movie, including young men.” For everyone else, it’s a reminder not to be complicit in this culture of silence and “forgetfulness.” I hope that some people who see this movie also feel heard – it’s truly maddening when everyone acts like nothing has happened and this movie echoes that situation in a way that could feel validating. And of course, the movie is extremely well done and Carey Mulligan is incredible. But it’s not the fun revenge movie you might think you’re getting from the trailer!
JotS: Or even from the opening scene, honestly, but I agree, I think everyone should see it. It’s not the movie you want, but it’s the movie you need.
Abby Holland (Kristen Stewart) is invited to spend Christmas with the family of her girlfriend Harper Caldwell (Mackenzie Davis). Abby tells her best friend John (Dan Levy) that she considers this to be a positive sign for their relationship. Unfortunately, right as the two are getting to Harper’s hometown, Harper reveals that her family is very conservative and that she is in the closet. She’s told her family that the two are roommates and asks Abby to pretend during the holidays. Abby meets Harper’s parents, Ted and Tipper (Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen), and her sisters, Sloane and Jane (Alison Brie and Mary Holland), with all of the introductions suitably uncomfortable. It quickly gets more awkward when Abby meets Harper’s ex-girlfriend Riley (Aubrey Plaza) and her ex-boyfriend Connor (Jake McDorman). Hijinks ensue.
I’m not going to say too much about this film because I decided to leave it to someone with more insight into the type of relationship that is the focus of the film, but I can say that I didn’t end up liking this movie. I’ll admit that my expectations were high when I saw the trailer to this film and looked up the cast, because these are all talented people. Moreover, I’d just finished Schitt’s Creek and I was begging for more Dan Levy in my life and I’ll never say no to more Aubrey Plaza. In defense of that pair in particular, their characters were two of the absolute brightest spots in the film, but the rest of the cast were mostly given absolutely unlikable characters.
Ted and Tipper are supposed to be a conservative political pair, but Ted comes off as borderline sociopathic about his mayoral race and Tipper is often downright mean to Abby, a person who, to her knowledge, is just a friend of her daughter. Sloane is similarly mean to a stranger. Jane is nice, but is ostracized from her family for apparently not being neurotypical. Then there’s Harper. I looked forward to Mackenzie Davis playing another semi-closeted queer character since she was in the great “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror, but it turns out that her chemistry with Gugu Mbatha-Raw did NOT translate to Kristen Stewart. Moreover, Harper’s character is not just unlikable, she’s almost irredeemable within the movie. She has lied to her girlfriend apparently for months, invites her on a trip at the last minute, makes Abby change her plans in order to accommodate her, proceeds to ignore her or just ask her to deal with stuff, and is revealed to have ruined one of her exes’ lives. It’s even worse because Harper sells Abby on this grand image of waking up together on Christmas, knowing that they would not be able to sleep in the same bed in her family’s house. She promises a big, close, romantic experience and delivers basically none of it. She’s the Fyre Festival of girlfriends.
Overall, I almost want to tell people to watch this film for Dan Levy, but honestly, I would just wait until someone makes a supercut of Dan Levy being amazing on YouTube.
The Faceless Old Woman Who Lives On My Sofa
I told my friend I was watching this film and referred to it as a “holigay movie.” That’s a thing we have now! There are at least two! So I am very glad for that! This just wasn’t what I and a lot of other queer people were hoping for. It was very hard not to read everyone livetweeting this movie as soon as it was available, and I did feel like I was primed to be frustrated by it. Here are some good things about this movie: There are actual gay actors! Playing gay people! It was cowritten and directed by a queer woman! Dan Levy elevates every scene he’s in. In one he’s literally just reading the ingredients on a gas station snack, and I’m still riveted. Maybe it’s because I just finished Schitt’s Creek, but dang. More Dan Levy in movies, please. Aubrey Plaza’s understated and natural style is very refreshing in a movie filled with capital C Characters. The internet had pointed out the obvious screen chemistry between Aubrey Plaza and Kristen Stewart, and I have to agree. I’d like to see them together in a new movie. Maybe one that’s a little more feel-good?
I think this film got caught between trying to be a Christmas movie (sappy, silly, oh no a series of events has knocked the tree over), trying to be a “meet the parents” screwball comedy, and trying to convey realities of being a gay person navigating straight spaces and dealing with a partner who isn’t out to their family. I don’t think it’s impossible to combine these things. I’ve seen writing that moves between serious topics and comedy easily (Brooklyn 99 comes to mind) and this wasn’t that. It made it difficult to fully appreciate the ample comedic talent in this movie – for example, Lauren Lapkus and Timothy Simons get a brief comedic scene as mall cops which probably would have been funnier if we weren’t so upset and concerned by the previous scene. The Christmas tree does get knocked over. It’s just…you feel so bad for Abby (and precious cinnamon roll Jane!) all the time! It’s so hard to root for Abby and Harper when Harper commits so many relationship-ending offenses. And it’s hard to really enjoy the movie when many of the supporting characters are so unlikeable and cruel.
Because that’s the key ingredient in a Christmas rom-com – it has to have some of that sweet feel-good marshmallow sap, and this didn’t offer enough of that. It’s clear to me that many queer people are weary of narratives around sadness and hardship (see: the recent Supernatural backlash.) From reading interviews, I can tell that Duvall really wanted to convey some of the more difficult experiences in her life, and that’s admirable. Especially after this year, however, I think we were hoping for something a little warmer.
One of my favorite shows on television came to an end and it was a bit painful.
Just watch the damned thing. I’ve been telling you how awesome it was since I started this blog. The highlights are:
BoJack (Will Arnett) doesn’t really get a happy ending, but since he’s a rich celebrity he doesn’t get the punishing ending that he probably deserves, either. Even in fiction, justice stops at a certain tax bracket.
Diane (Alison Brie) doesn’t write the book she wants, but instead writes a fun young adult series and finds a wonderful partner.
Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) fails to fix the Hollywoo sign, but also finally gets past his fear of being alone.
Todd (Aaron Paul) gets dropped off in Alaska after… wait, no, he gets a girlfriend named Maude (Echo Gillette), reconnects with his family, and ends up giving BoJack good advice.
Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) gets a happy ending and dammit, she deserved it.
Zach Braff is still dead.
The first thing I say here is going to be personal. If you want the review without my whining, skip down to the next heading.
Because if I don’t, that means that all the damage I got isn’t good damage, it’s just damage. I have gotten nothing out of it and all of those years I was miserable was for nothing.
That’s probably the first line that broke me in the last 8 episodes. Since by this point the majority of my following hasn’t been with me since my original series of posts, many of you might not know that this blog’s very existence was borne out of my failure to create anything meaningful with my cancer. At first, I wanted to write the great American novel before I died at 25. Instead, I discuss the meaning of a cartoon horse’s impact on my life at 32. A few rounds of chemo and enough painkillers to make me ignore the fact that I had more cancer than spinal column pretty much eliminated my ability to write a paragraph, let alone a novel. 7 years later, my suffering has not given me any insight into the soul of mankind or even my own, it’s just left me chronic pain that I try to channel into finding the beauty or meaning in other, better, people’s art. So, hearing someone else say that pain doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t channeled into some grand work was a little rough, to say the least. It crystallized something that I’ve tried to avoid for a while, that I went through something that most people never get to talk about later and yet I never managed to use that experience for anything other than these reviews. Then I realized that having a scene that so perfectly relates to and encapsulates my feelings on something, despite being based around an entirely different experience, is exactly why I love spending time dissecting media. That said, I’m going to try and work on some other, more creative stuff in the future, because maybe I’ll find the words one day. In the meantime, let’s talk about this show.
BoJack Horseman always went straight for the jugular when it came to harsh truths, but damn, did they decide to lay some on this final season. After we spent the first half of the season watching BoJack finally start to actually change for the better, I thought this meant that BoJack would end up finally taking responsibility for all of the things that he had done. Instead, while he does at least deal with it more honestly than he would have before, he still tries to squirm out of real accountability. Princess Carolyn, ever the companion, even tries to help him by getting him to do a television interview. He blames his addictions and his trauma for all of the things he has done, including falling back on the idea that addicts aren’t really in control of their own actions. When he does his first interview confessing to a number of the things that he’s done, he’s hailed for his honesty. He gets to put forth his own narrative in which he’s the victim and people love him for it.
Then, the addiction takes over and he agrees to go back for a second interview. The show less-than-subtly affirmed that ultimately BoJack will always be an addict and he’s not just addicted to drugs or alcohol, he’s addicted to the love he feels when he’s the focus. BoJack had absolutely nothing compelling him to do a second interview and no one would have blamed him for not doing it, but he couldn’t resist a spotlight. Then, rather than getting to put forth his own narrative, BoJack is confronted with the objective facts about what he’s done. Moreover, he’s forced to confront that he has a very bad pattern with women. Even when it’s pointed out to him that he slept with a woman he considered to be his own daughter, gave her the heroin that killed her, avoided calling an ambulance which might have saved her in order to protect himself, tried to sleep with the daughter of an ex-lover that rejected him, and slept with the president of his own fan club (twice), BoJack tries to deny that he was the one with the power in these situations. Finally, though, he does start to get it, just a little, in time for everyone to hate him. It’s brilliant that they spent the first half of the season getting us to empathize with BoJack by showing us more of his background and his efforts to get better, only to brutally remind us that BoJack has done terrible, terrible things and hurt many people in the process.
That makes it even harder when he finds out that Hollyhock has, apparently, decided to keep herself out of his destructive sphere, resulting in him giving up on his sobriety. Then, he finds out that the first thing that he thinks set him on this path, betraying his friend Herb, was always his decision, rather than something he was forced to do. That’s the true last straw and leads to BoJack’s near death and imprisonment.
I admit that, at the end of the series, BoJack doesn’t really suffer as much as I thought he would. In Season 5, one of the biggest themes was that people should not project themselves onto broken characters and use them to justify their own bad decisions. I thought that meant that in the end BoJack would finally be forced to fully take responsibility for his own actions and learn that the only real freedom is when you’re no longer a prisoner to your own guilt and regret. Instead, BoJack goes to jail for fourteen months and that’s apparently enough for everyone to move on. Princess Carolyn even indicates he’s going to be able to restart his career when he gets out. That felt like a cheat, but it’s also kind of an accurate depiction of how celebrity works. Mel Gibson and Mark Wahlberg got to do a movie together recently and both of them have convictions involving hitting people and using the n-word. They never even try to re-address the fact that Jeremiah Whitewhale is taking over the country with impunity and actively murdering people using his billionaire status. Still, at least at the end BoJack’s acknowledging that he has to be responsible for his own behavior.
Over the last few years, this show consistently showed itself to be one of the best-written and most impressively animated series on television. I’m going to miss it.
BoJack Horseman returns for the first part of its final season and holy hell do I want to see the rest of it.
There’s no summary. Just go watch the damned thing. I waited a month to post this, but I still want you all to watch it.
The characters are BoJack (Will Arnett), Mister Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), and Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul). The creator is Raphael Bob-Waksberg. There are too many guest stars to name.
BoJack Horseman is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and yet I fully admit that I didn’t enjoy most of the first season. The thing about the show is that it started out defying the usual tropes of sitcoms by having nothing in the show ever really go away. Things didn’t reset in this world the way they do, for the most part, in animated sitcoms like The Simpsons or Family Guy. Typically the only things that are permanent in sitcoms are when someone dies or gets married or marries a ghost. Hell, some shows write out major characters (like Chuck Cunningham) and then later pretend they don’t exist.
When stuff happens here, it lingers. They sometimes use the audience’s familiarity with sitcom tropes about resets and lost plot points to make us think that something that happened has been dropped, only for it to be revealed that it wasn’t. Instead, BoJack’s fame and wealth and sometimes pure dumb luck keep him from suffering the consequences at the time. We’ve seen BoJack do wonderful things (like returning a lost seahorse child) and terrible things (like leading his friend Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal) to start using drugs after she got clean, resulting in her fatal overdose), and sometimes it felt like those things were forgotten. However, this season makes it clear that they weren’t. Moreover, these things are being remembered just as BoJack starts to remember them, because, as he puts it “I remember everything. I’m sober now.”
That’s what this show appears to be setting up for: The great sobering of BoJack Horseman the show. A big theme of last season was addressing the issue of whether or not people should be looking up to BoJack (or his character, Philbert) or using his depression and self-abuse as an excuse to feel better about their own personal failures. While ultimately BoJack acknowledged that he needed to be better and going to rehab, there’s still a question of accountability. At the end of last season Diane gave BoJack a talk about how there are no good guys or bad guys, there’s just guys and that believing that you’re bad is just an excuse to be bad. He counters that he’s asking to be held accountable and she says that “…no one is going to ‘hold you accountable.’ You need to take responsibility for yourself.” However, now that BoJack is ready to do just that, the world seems to be setting up to take him to task. It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out, but it really seems like they’re preparing to take down more than just their lead. They’re going to try and take down all the people that view him as something to emulate or something to use to excuse their own shitty behavior. I could be wrong, but as that would be the most amazing way to end a show this self-aware, I’m hoping that I’m not.
They also seem to be building a parallel plot that I can’t quite figure out how it’s going to tie-in to the central narrative. A company called Whitewhale, run by a White Whale named Whitewhale (Stephen Root), has begun acquiring almost all of the companies in America and has begun murdering anyone that gets in their way (because Congress made murder legal for billionaires… despite that being a state crime and not a Federal crime in most cases). It could just be a set-up for a plot with Diane trying to take them down, but I am willing to bet heavily that there’s a joke pending involving “Ahab” and “Rehab” that is dependant on BoJack’s newfound taking of responsibility for himself being what finally forces the public to demand the same of all our celebrities.
The end of the show kind of always had to be BoJack being destroyed. I mean, the opening sequence changes every season, but it always concludes with BoJack drowning and looking up through the pool as everyone looks down at him. Does that mean that he’s going to die at the end? Well, possibly. It wouldn’t shock me if the first shot of the last half of the last season is a tribute to Sunset Boulevard with BoJack lying in a pool narrating how he got to this point, only for it to be revealed that he’s now broke and cleaning pools for a living or something. I mean, with all this set-up, BoJack can’t be allowed to end without some form of consequences and BoJack has grown into the kind of person who will accept them.
Either way, the show was amazing, and I’m so sad it’s ending, but also so glad that it existed.
I got a request for a Halloween episode of BoJack and I cannot resist going into it.
Taking place in a world populated by humans and anthropomorphic animals, BoJack Horseman is a show about an equine equity actor named BoJack (Will Arnett) who had a popular, but critically panned, show from the late 80s through the 90s. In this season, he is having a career resurgence on a new detective series. His closest companions are his feline ex-girlfriend and ex-manager Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), his ex-roommate Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul), his ex-ghostwriter Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), and his rival and Diane’s ex-husband Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins). BoJack is an alcoholic and chronically depressed in addition to a host of other vices. In the episodes leading up to this, BoJack had developed an opioid habit after sustaining a back injury, had started sleeping with his current TV co-star, and had just discovered that Diane knows that he almost slept with the daughter of a former flame.
This episode takes place over the course of 4 separate Halloween parties in 1993, 2004, 2009, and 2018. It turns out that in 1993, Mr. Peanutbutter mistook BoJack blowing him off as an invitation to host a Halloween party. So, he invited himself, all his friends, and his first wife Katrina (Lake Bell) over to BoJack’s house. Each of the Halloweens features Mr. Peanutbutter bringing a different wife/girlfriend (or his “Boo”) to the party. In 1993, he took his then-loving first wife Katrina; In 2004, he takes his second wife Jessica Biel; In 2009, he takes his then-girlfriend Diane; and in 2018, he takes his girlfriend Pickles Aplenty (Hong Chau), and yes that’s her real name.
At each of the parties, Mr. Peanutbutter screws up somehow, resulting in him causing a rift in his relationship. In 1993, it’s that he keeps abandoning Katrina to talk to other people against her request, resulting in her talking to Ben Stein and Tim Allen and becoming an adulterous and cruel ultra-conservative. In 2004, he fails to protect Jessica Biel from seeing a mummy, reminding her that she didn’t get the part in the Brendan Fraser movie (she auditioned for the role of the mummy). In 2009, he pressures Diane into going to the party even though she hates parties. In 2018, he talks about his exes to Pickles, including Diane, who is at the party. He realizes that all of the women he dates start out happy and fun, then end up being bitter and mean. Diane tells him that it’s because he keeps dating women in their 20s, while he’s now in his late 40s. They don’t change because of him, they just outgrow him. After Diane consoles Pickles and tells her that Mr. Peanutbutter does always love every woman he’s with, including her. She then reminds him that she’s so much younger than him by saying they’re gonna party more.
So, this episode definitely is something that has to be watched and re-watched to really make complete sense, because they constantly cut between the time periods to draw parallels between the stories. In a brilliant stroke, however, you can almost always recognize what year it is in any scene by what costumes people are wearing. The costumes are probably the best part of the episode, but more on that later.
One of the major themes throughout the show, and one that BoJack himself had recently elaborated on, is that there are no such things as happy endings. That’s because everyone in the show is so caught up in Hollywood (or Hollywoo as it is called in the show) that it tends to blur their reality and, in TV sitcoms, there can’t be happy endings. Because, if everyone’s happy, there’s nothing to watch. BoJack’s inability to ever improve himself in any meaningful way is tied to the fact that he is a sitcom character. However, this episode shows us that Mr. Peanutbutter suffers from the same futility of change, but in a different way. He can’t grow up, something that does NOT affect the women in his life. In each party, Mr. Peanutbutter acts essentially the same, even though it’s over a 25 year period, and each party ends essentially the same. The same is true for BoJack and Princess Carolyn. This is possibly the scariest theme in any of the things I’m going to go over this Halloween: That no one can ever really change for the better. All change is only temporary, because the show must go on, and we’re all the characters that have to become simpler over time so that the grand audience can follow it more easily. We’re leads in our own story, but that means we can’t ever be more than we are when we finally are being observed.
Note: I don’t believe the above, but the idea that maybe it’s true horrifies me.
What makes it worse is that we know how Mr. Peanutbutter’s relationships are going to go because we’ve seen what they’re like in other flashbacks in the show. Katrina will become abusive to him, but will say it’s because he never listens to her, the thing that he promises to do in this episode. Jessica Biel will become obsessed with her own fame, even claiming success from movies like Stealth, possibly because Mr. Peanutbutter can’t stop her from being reminded of her failures like he did in this episode. There’s an entire episode about a fight that occurs between him and Diane because he hosts a surprise party for her, even though he tells her that he won’t ever force her into another party. He never learns to listen to others, no matter how much he loves those other people.
The only other major revelation in the episode is that Todd only became BoJack’s roommate because he offered to hang out so BoJack wasn’t alone after his dad died. It adds a layer to their relationship off of such a simple act.
Also, I can’t help but appreciate the effort that went into all the costumes at the parties. There are three people who wear the same costume each year: Princess Carolyn who goes as Amelia Earhart, a roach who wears a Beetlejuice costume, and a moth who goes as a ghost, but eats more of his costume every year, finally finishing it off in 2018. Other fun costumes are dependent on the year. In 1993, there’s a costume of Ellie Sadler from Jurassic Park and a pair as Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World. In 2004, Jorge Garcia from Lost is dressed as Shrek, there’s a woman as a female version of Cast Away, Mrs. Incredible from The Incredibles, three girls as the Plastics from Mean Girls, a Jack Sparrow, and a very untimely costume that’s a Bugs Bunny knock-off wearing a shirt for the movie “Space Jelly.” In 2009, there’s an octopus as Octomom and a cat as Keyboard Cat. In 2018, there’s a maiden from The Handmaid’s Tale and a Wonder Woman outfit. 2004 likely has the most timely references because the Jessica Biel plot is based more on costume jokes.
The best part about the use of the costumes is to remind us that even if we don’t change, the rest of the world does, but not in a meaningful way. Pop culture moves on, but people are people. Some people get older and leave, like Hank Hippopopalous (Philip Baker Hall) from 1993 and some new people come in, like Flip (Rami Malek) in 2018, but the way the party goes is still the same.
Overall, this is a great episode of the show and of television in general.
The Lego Movie, the movie that should have been crap but instead was a masterful meta-commentary, got a sequel which should have been crap, but instead was a masterful meta-commentary. I wonder if they actually help sales.
It’s been five years since the events of “Taco Tuesday” depicted in the first movie. Duplo/Mini-Doll aliens from the Systar System have repeatedly invaded and destroyed Bricksburg, occasionally taking people and things away with them. In response, the citizens now live in “Apocalypseburg,” a Mad Max-esque desert wasteland. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is the only person who has maintained a positive attitude about their circumstances, something that annoys Wyldstyle/Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), who wants Emmet to be more gritty and dark. Emmet, however, is troubled by a dream of “Ourmomageddon,” which has all of the Lego citizens sucked into a void.
One day, the town is attacked by the General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), who abducts Lucy, Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), Batman (Will Forte), Benny the Spaceman (Charlie Day), and Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie) and takes them to the Systar System to meet the ruler of Systar, Queen Whatevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Emmet takes off to rescue them, with the help of Rex Dangervest, a raptor-training space cowboy archeologist who has chiseled features under his baby fat (Also Chris Pratt).
Also, the whole thing is actually a metaphor for the imagination of some kids.
So, up front, you have to see the first movie for this one to really work well. This movie goes straight into the meta-narrative that was sort of the big “twist” of the last movie: Everything that’s happening is both part of the narrative (i.e. the Lego World) and also a representation of the meta-narrative (i.e. what’s happening in the Real World). Stuff that happens in each one actually impacts the other, however, which almost makes this a pataphysical movie… something that is really unbelievably complex for a children’s film and impressively done so well that this movie is actually really easy to follow.
Unlike the last movie where the revelation is pretty late, this movie makes it pretty explicit up front that the “Systar System” is a representation of Finn’s (Jadon Sand) sister, Bianca (Brooklynn Prince). In fact, if you don’t get that pretty quickly, I’d actually say that the first few scenes don’t really make sense. For example, in the opening battle against the Duplos, the Duplo monsters respond to being shot with lasers with “okay, I eat lasers” and to being hit with batarangs with “you missed.” Anyone who has ever tried to play an imaginary game with a small child will immediately recognize this interaction. What’s great is that you could analyze almost every scene from both the normal and meta levels and both work perfectly. I’m not sure how Lord and Miller keep doing it, but I’m damned glad they are.
The messages of the movie, and yes there are several, similarly work on a bunch of levels, both as the lessons learned by the characters and also the lessons learned by the kids through the characters. Everything is a pretty wholesome moral, ranging from the value of family to the nature of maturity to the fact that it’s easier to be a judgmental dick than it is to genuinely keep opening yourself up to people and hope for better. No matter who you are, there’s something to get out of this movie.
The music is just as fun as the last movie, particularly the movie’s signature song “Catchy Song” which is such an earworm while also being a song about how the song is an earworm. I also would give credit to all of Tiffany Haddish’s songs, which are hilarious and awesome, as well as Lonely Island’s song with Beck and Robyn.
Last, I have to complement how well the movie handles references, much like its predecessor. Unlike the last one, where most of the characters that pop up are just there because Finn’s dad (Will Ferrell) owned the kits, in this one, you can actually figure out why Finn and Bianca themselves would have these figures and the reasons range from funny to borderline profound. My personal favorite is ***MINOR SPOILER ALERT*** the fact that Finn keeps seeing Bruce Willis in ducts… because his dad showed him Die Hard and, as a teenager trying to be “mature,” that’s a movie that you tend to focus on ***SPOILER OVER***.
Overall, I loved this film. It definitely has a few slow scenes which tend to make more sense from the meta-level, but most of the movie is just so clever you’ll forget about it.
A packed cast of comedians star in this film about life in a Fourteenth Century convent.
It’s 1347 in Italy and a convent of nuns is being led by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly). The nuns, particularly the extremely angry Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), drive off the gardener and caretaker Lurco (Paul Weitz), forcing Father Tommasso to look for another one. At the same time, a servant named Massetto (Dave Franco) is kicked out of his position and ordered arrested by his master, Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman) for sleeping with his wife Francesca (Lauren Weedman). Massetto flees and runs into Tommasso, who has gotten drunk and lost the embroideries he was supposed to sell to fund the convent. Tommasso agrees to hide Massetto at the convent in exchange for being a gardener and pretending to be a deaf-mute.
Despite not being able to talk, Tommasso is soon befriended by Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie) who grows infatuated with him. One night, Sister Fernanda’s friend Marta (Jemima Kirke) appears and all of the nuns, including Alessandra, Fernanda, Sister Ginevra (Kate Micucci), and Mother Marea (Molly Shannon) get drunk while they’re being told that sex is amazing. Fernanda takes a drunken Ginevra back to her room for sex while Alessandra and Massetto start to get closer.
At one point, Fernanda kidnaps Massetto and she and Marta have sex with him, seemingly confirming him as a viable candidate for something. Ginevra is upset by this, having fallen for Fernanda. Massetto and Alessandra begin getting physical, but get interrupted by one of the elders coming into the room. Soon, Fernanda again kidnaps Massetto, this time taking him to a coven of witches in the woods who prepare to sacrifice him for a fertility ritual. They’re stopped by Ginevra, who has consumed a bunch of drugs and shows up high, but Massetto reveals that he’s not a deaf-mute while escaping. The group is caught returning to the convent by the visiting Bishop Bartolomeo (Fred Armisen), who uncovers all of the secrets, including that Ginevra is Jewish and that Tommasso and Marea are having sex.
Massetto is sent back to Lord Bruno, but is rescued by Alessandra and the other nuns. They all escape together, passing Tommasso and Marea who have likewise fled, and everyone lives happily ever after, except Bruno’s wife who is probably dead.
This movie is the most bizarre concoction I’ve seen in a while. It’s an adaptation of one of the stories from the Decameron, specifically the first story of Day 3, albeit a very loose adaptation. In the original, Massetto is a man pretending to be a mute gardener for the purpose of, successfully, seducing the nuns. It turns out that they actually choose to take advantage of him, believing that a mute won’t ever tell anyone. Unfortunately, he underestimates their desires, resulting in him having to beg for help from sheer exhaustion. He ends up begging mercy from the Abbess, who ends up keeping him at the abbey as a steward so that he can continue to service the nuns until he’s very old. That particular story, told by Filostrato within the text, would likely have been a very bawdy comedy by the standards of 1353. My favorite line is: “Madam, I have heard say that one cock sufficeth unto half a score hens, but that half a score men can ill or hardly satisfy one woman; whereas needs must I serve nine, and to this I can no wise endure; nay, for that which I have done up to now, I am come to such a pass that I can do neither little nor much.” While that’s not exactly how the film plays out, you can definitely see the influence.
A lot of the quality in the film is the dialogue, most of which sounds like contemporary speech adapted into subject matter fit for the 1300s. It helps that everyone delivering the lines are all comic geniuses, but Jeff Baena, the writer/director/husband of Aubrey Plaza also does a good job of crafting anachronistic situations that are just farcical enough to work. Granted, a lot of the secret to the movie is that it is just 90 minutes. Any longer and the premise would completely have run out.
Every performance is great, but I do have to say that Fred Armisen’s inquisition scenes basically had me floored with his delivery and quips. If you don’t get into the movie, I’d recommend going ahead and fast-forwarding to that sequence just to enjoy 5 minutes of sheer madness.
Overall, I liked this movie. Not loved, but liked for sure. What shocks me is that I hadn’t heard about it before now. Usually when something has a cast this good and I don’t hear about it, I have to assume that it was just that bad, but this actually got decent reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes the audience score isn’t great, but for a film like this that’s not surprising. It’s not going to be everyone’s taste, but if you like the people in it, you’ll probably enjoy it.
*SPOILER WARNING* – This literally just came out, but I couldn’t not add it. I watched it four times in the 24 hours it came out. I may regret this over time.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will acknowledge that this episode hit me especially hard as it deals with giving a eulogy, something that I recently had to do. I know that it feels different than giving a speech or doing a performance or speaking to a courtroom or reciting a monologue. I would not have believed that a show featuring an animated horse could have managed to address all of the complicated elements of trying to summarize how you felt about the life of a person (or horse) that you knew deeply in 25 minutes (let alone the five that I took). However, somehow, they managed to not only nail it, but nail it while having the eulogy be done by a character whose relationship to the deceased was extremely complicated.
The cold open features a young BoJack (Will Arnett) being picked up by his father, Butterscotch (Arnett), who proceeds to give his son a horrifying lecture that concludes with the lesson that you can’t depend on anyone.
We then see BoJack at a funeral parlor next to a coffin. It’s revealed that his mother, Beatrice Horseman (Wendie Malick), has died. BoJack then proceeds to give a eulogy about his mother which alternates between funny, horrifying, poignant, and depressing. That is the entirety of the episode.
I can’t really summarize this episode, obviously. It needs to be seen to be believed. Aside from the cold open, this entire episode is just a speech by BoJack. I’ve never seen anything like it. One of the best monologues in the history of television was at the funeral of Chuckles the Clown on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but that was only 6 minutes and included audience reaction shots. This was over three times that length and the camera never leaves BoJack. We don’t even see the audience until the last 5 seconds of the episode.
BoJack hated his mother, but he didn’t want to. That’s really an insane thing to have a character state outright. Maybe the worst part is when he mentions that he had always hoped that his mother would figure out how to love him the way that she should and that losing her means he finally has to accept that he will never get the love he wanted. Both of his parents, rather than loving him, chose to drown in sadness, something BoJack says he, too, will always chose to do. Because that’s sadly part of the cycle of abuse and depression. In the previous season we had seen how much Beatrice had herself been abused as a child, so she almost became sympathetic, but this episode removes much of that sympathy by reminding us that she knew something was wrong with her and she never tried to change it, even for BoJack’s sake. Instead, she took the love and trust of a child and broke it over and over again, watching her son try to fix it only so that she could destroy it once more, until he never could trust someone again.
The episode’s title comes from what is one of the most uncomfortable but also somehow accurate parts of the eulogy, where BoJack relates that he stopped at Jack in the Box for food on the way to the funeral and the girl at the counter asks him if he’s “having an awesome day.” He opines that he’s usually not allowed to respond to that with anything except “yes,” because that’s a societal expectation, but he tells the girl that his mom died. She cries, horrified at what she’s done, and gives BoJack a free churro. He thinks about the fact that he got a free churro because his mom died, something he later comments was more kindness than he ever got from her.
There’s one external reference I found particularly telling in the episode and, honestly, it might be the only one in it. Butterscotch mentions that Beatrice broke down crying after seeing a production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. If you haven’t read or seen the play, it features a man, Torvald, who, much like BoJack’s father, Butterscotch, treats his wife like a living doll, rather than a person. Some of the play involves his wife, Nora, preparing to dance the Tarantella on her husband’s request, something which her arouses her husband. The Tarantella signified violent movement which was supposedly designed to remove poison from the body. Within A Doll’s House, the idea is that Nora is trying to dance the poison out of her circumstances. This is mirrored within this episode by a story of Beatrice dancing at her supper club, while being watched by her husband. BoJack mentions that those were the only times where he felt that his family stopped drowning and remembered how to swim. If you want to know why Beatrice is crying, I imagine it’s because, at the end of A Doll’s House, Nora leaves her family. Beatrice didn’t, instead choosing to stay around the people who were just as miserable as she was.
This truly is a masterpiece of an episode. The animation and Arnett’s voice acting are unbelievable, all building to a very sincere last thirty seconds, undercut by the last five.
Given that I put one of the episodes of BoJack Horseman on my list of The Greatest Television Episodes while saying it was one of the best shows on television currently, it’s probably fair to say I’m a fan. It’s hard to say whether or not I love the show more after watching this season, but I definitely respect it more for its dedication to improvement. If this isn’t the best season of the show, it is damned close.
BoJack (Will Arnett) starts working on his new show, Philbert, which co-stars Gina Cazador (Stephanie Beatriz), a veteran TV actress who starts casually sleeping with BoJack. Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie) and Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) deal with the end of their marriage, while Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) tries to adopt a baby and produce Philbert. Todd Chavez (“Ya done f*cked up” Aaron Paul) has moved in with Princess Carolyn and is trying to make his asexual relationship work with Yolanda Buenaventura (Natalie Morales).
Some stuff happens. Literally describing any of it would be a spoiler and this season is too good to spoil.
I truly loved this season.
On some level, BoJack knows that its fans trust it by this point and that it can coast a little and play off of some of the formulas it has set-up, knowing that we’ll still find the elaborate gags and surrealist jokes funny. However, what really sets this show apart is its dedication to constantly build upon them. It doesn’t just subvert established tropes, it subverts the subversion, then subverts that subversion’s subversion. Then, sometimes it plays things straight and the tropes that in most shows would be tired and overused are played out like it’s the first time and we remember why we loved those tropes in the first place. This season does all of that and more, but it tries to really blend the darkness and sadness that is constantly in the show with elements of hope and a lot more social commentary.
Part of the beauty of the show has always been that BoJack is aware of how sitcoms work, since he was in a notoriously formulaic one, which gives him an excuse to point out that his life is devoid of growth. But, after spending years having characters in the show telling us how television characters are hopeless because they’re stuck in a sitcom and are never allowed to grow, the series has also been showing their growth. It’s not always in a straight line, to be sure, and there are lots of setbacks, but that’s because that’s how growth actually works. Sometimes you’ll skip the gym because you had a bad day. Sometimes you’ll quit altogether for a while when you start to think that it’s not worth prolonging your life when you hate it. But, then, maybe, after trying enough times, you’ll be a little better. Then you’ll screw up again, but maybe you’ll be better after that. It’s not ever easy, it’s not always even a choice you can make, and life can, and does, kick you down for no reason, but it’s possible to get better. Even a show about characters that are supposed to be stuck in a cycle can remind us that growth really is possible.
Now, you might watch this season and think that I’m nuts and that BoJack is just going to reset after all of this or that he’s reset after the last season, but after re-watching seasons two and three recently, this season really does show that he’s grown. Yes, he is still unbelievably flawed, but he’s past the stage of believing that it’s everyone else’s problem and he’s past the stage of believing that it can’t be changed. Those are both steps towards improvement. Also, the “reset” in this season isn’t entirely his fault, as he is caught up in an addiction that is, sadly, all too realistically portrayed (though it culminates in him doing something unspeakable). At the end of the season, he does something that almost no one else will ever do and asks to be held accountable for all of the things he has done. Because of that, even more than all of the other things, I do get the feeling that he might be becoming a better person… or horseman, whatever.
Another thing I noted was that this show, like Rick and Morty, is often criticized for the fact that it has such a compelling lead that it glamorizes being a shitty person. This season finally makes one thing clear: Even BoJack hates BoJack. You shouldn’t like him for being shitty, you should like him for learning how to NOT be shitty.
Also, it’s not just BoJack that grows with the story. All of the supporting characters have been tested and have changed (except, perhaps, Mr. Peanutbutter, something the season directly addresses). Diane is probably the most notable change at the end of the season, delivering a short speech in the last episode which is both touching and devastating. Princess Carolyn, too, has grown, and shows exactly how much during one episode of this season.
The Good Place once said that it’s our connections to other people that make us want to be better, because we feel we owe it to each other to be better. I think that’s true and I think that’s what makes the characters on BoJack grow, because as the show has gone on their connections have been severed, altered, and repaired, but they’ve mostly deepened through moments of genuine connection, even if they’re rare. The reason why that can happen here, as opposed to most sitcoms, is because things don’t just get dropped. The plots carry on, with things that were skipped over for a season or two resurfacing to confront the protagonists. Hell, they still call it “Hollywoo” after the D got destroyed in season one. That’s really the biggest subversion about the show, particularly for an animated series.
The humor in this season is a step up from the last one, which I thought was a little bit of a drop from the previous ones. They really went back to embracing the “shotgun approach” to comedy that I loved from seasons two and three, where jokes can be puns, sight gags, but mostly brick jokes that are set-up with such subtlety that I sometimes just had to pause, go back, and trace all the steps in order to show the proper respect for how amazing it was.
Like I said, I loved this season. I was a little worried after the last one, but this one just blew me away. All the returning characters were great, all the new characters were great, and the world of BoJack just keeps getting simultaneously more absurd and yet more honest. It’s a reflection of the real world through a mirror that shows our true selves, which sadly are kind of shitty. Still, we can get better… mostly if we have shows that keep reminding us how to do so.
Oh, and one of the episodes is one of the best half-hours of television I’ve ever seen, to the point that I’m adding it to the list of the 100 Greatest Television Episodes tomorrow.