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.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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