“Bojack Horseman” Season 4 – Of Lost Innocence and No One Being Born Broken

  “Bojack Horseman” Season 4 is the best season of the show thus far. It is easily one of the most depressing but it gives growth to it’s characters and reveals their brokenness in different ways. This season gives dimension and the status quo from past seasons can’t be established again, our characters have changed too much. This is the strength of the show and what really makes the show succeed over past seasons, which have also been great, but not reached these heights.

The story involves Bojack missing for over a year as her rebuilds his childhood home in Michigan as we learn about his Mother Beatrice’s backstory and how she became broken and abusive. Eventually he returns back to L.A. where Mr. Peanutbutter is running for Mayor and Hollyhock comes into his life, believing Bojack to be her father. From here the story unfolds as Bojack has to face his himself as the rest of our characters do the same in their struggles.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Power of Perspective – One of the most powerful aspects of storytelling this season is the power of perspective. We get an episode from Bojack’s point of view where we see his self-destruction from his point of view and self-hatred, we see Beatrice in her decaying mind and the last of her memory as it fades and we see Princess Carolyn dreaming about her story being told by a future ancestor telling her class about how Carolyn had got through the trouble and became a hero. Each one is sad as it humanizes these characters, even as we see them hurting themselves and those around them. The perspective from their point of view gives us an ability to empathize with them, even if we don’t agree with what they may do.

Loss of Innocence and Cycles of Abuse – A major theme this season is loss of innocence and cycles of abuse, and how from it we see why people don’t trust or allow themselves close to others. Whether it is Beatrice witnessing her father’s abuse of her mother and her, her abusive husband and from that how she brings out her brokenness on Bojack which he later brings back on her from the abuse he received as a kid. This is a cycle that most of the main cast is going through but this season lazer focuses on Bojack and Beatrice as the way to show it and it is done amazingly.

Integrity and Change – This is the first season where Bojack finally grows and changes, and he does it by owning his crap. We see this when he takes Princess Carolyn’s contract and thanks her for all she’s done for him and owns how terrible he’s been…we see this in how he still has a relationship with his half-sister Hollyhock after he finds her fathers and tells them about how his mother was the one poisoning her and from that they have a relationship again. He even helps her find out who her mom is, when he’d been not really looking for it because he didn’t want to lose her and just wanted someone else around so he wouldn’t be alone. Bojack owns all of this (really for the first time this series) and he grows. It is because of this he has chance to possibly be friends with Todd and others he has hurt again someday, he finally took the first steps and has changed in recognizable ways.

There was so much that worked about this season and some things that I didn’t write about but will mention here, Todd comes out as asexual and finds a support group of others like him as he becomes empowered and comfortable in his identity and Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane’s relationship falls apart as their ways of showing they care about one another end up falling apart as their core personality strengths and flaws become too much. Seriously, this is a powerful season and one I’d highly recommend if you are already watching the show. There wasn’t anything that brought it down for me.

Final Score: 10 / 10

 

 

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“BoJack Horseman” Season 3 – Individually Great Episodes But Overall Narrative and Ending Bring it Down

Bojacks3

   “Bojack Horseman” Season 3 is probably the weakest of the 3 seasons so far. It isn’t bad, by all means it is still great…but after the levels met in the last two seasons this one doesn’t cut it as it ends up suffering from a disjointed narrative and a strange end that feels slightly contrived and doesn’t answer any questions in regards to Bojack and the choices he made this season (or only in the vaguest sense answers those questions). There are some amazing stand alone episodes that are the best of the show so far (that I’ll talk about further down) but overall this season never reached the heights of last season.

      The series was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and is a Netflix original show…showing that only does Netflix get drama but it gets animation too as I’ve been watching this season for 3 seasons now and have yet to be dissapointed.

     The main drama this season is Bojack’s destruction of his relationships and his pursuit to win an Oscar for “Secreteriat” all the while dealing with his own inner demons as his friends face theirs and deal with the new relationships in their lives and Bojack.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is beautiful and is easily one of the things that keeps me coming back to the show. The visuals are smooth and there are a few episodes that illustrate this beautifully.

The Dark Comedy – The dark comedy is still fantastic as our characters are put into and put themselves into awkward situations that reveal their darker sides or the cynical hopeless world they are a part of.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of this show and even though I found some character decisions that were chosen to be a little contrived, there was a lot of good especially for characters like Todd.

Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter deals with loss for the first time when his brother goes in for surgery, and his kindness finally pays off when a random idea he had of buying a bunch of strainers leads to him rescuing Ocean City and with it getting everything and being a hero in this world. (is next his fall like Bojack’s and Carolyn’s?)

Sextina Aquafina – Is more than just a quick talking pop star…in this we see her use the popularity of her getting an abortion (not really getting one but faking one, Diane Nguyen is the one who is getting one) and in the end when she gets pregnant we see she wants a kid. This character grew on me a lot. Also her music video is hilarious.

Princess Carolyn – Carolyn is pretty much running in circles this season but I like seeing her backstory and how it was in relation to Bojack that she first got inspired to be an agent and it is when he leaves her agency and their friendship ends that she starts it up again after it ends.

Emily – Emily is Todd’s friend and is wonderfully sarcastic and weird. I really like their dynamic as she is explorative and really like Todd and they are similar. You see why they are so close but also how they are so different. Emily has awareness, Todd doesn’t.

Todd – Todd finally calls Bojack out and leaves him after all of it (the last betrayal was sleeping with his best friend Emily) and we learn that he isn’t gay or straight and doesn’t know what he is (sex freaks him out). He is oblivious and overall pretty sweet in this.

Ana Spanikopita – Ana is a powerhouse who is only out for success but is also normal and vulnerable and it makes her relationship with Bojack interesting. She is good at letting go, where he can’t…

Diane Nguyen – Diane like Carolyn is shafted this season. I didn’t feel like she had an arc. Most of what she does is reacting to and being there for Bojack. I like that she helps Mr. Peanutbutter grow and that she shows she is great at social media…but we don’t really learn anything new about her. I still put her as a pro though, I like how she interacts with characters.

Sarah Lynn – In this we see Sarah Lynn’s fall as she eventually dies from a drug overdose after going on a drug and alcoholic rampage with Bojack. This season really showed how alone she was and that because of how popular she was so young…she never got the chance to form real relationships and in the end her only real friend was Bojack after he saw himself as having lost everything.

Bojack – Bojack hurts his friends and loses them and goes on a drug fueled rampage with Sarah Lynn leading to him reopening old wounds, living in his guilt and shame and finally running away. I liked it when he tried but I hate the spiral largely because it hasn’t ended…

You Can’t Fix Everything – Sarah Lynn stays an addict, Bojack regresses to where he was before, Princess Carolyn repeats and Diane treads water…all our characters are broken and can’t be fixed.

“Fish Out of Water” – This episode has no speaking in nearly the entire episode. Everything is told through music and sound and it is beautifully done as Bojack tries to make up with Kelsey for never talking to her after “Secreteriat” failing each time he tries to communicate.

“Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” – A fantastic abortion episode that reveals Sextina has more awareness than she’s given credit for and the power of music and humor to empower against fear as well as the power of narrative as it relates to media. One of my favorite episodes in this entire show.

“Stop the Presses” – This is a great episode exploring Bojack’s selfishness as he sleeps with Todd’s best friend Emily and we see how afraid he is to tell Todd and how that fear dominates him and how for him each new mistake and failure is tied to past ones and it is the reason why he’s forever digging his hole.

The Cons: The Ending – Bojack runs away after it is revealed he was never nominated for an Oscar. His possible daughter calls Carolyn’s new firm and Mr. Peanutbutter is a hero for saving Ocean City from a giant thing of pasta. T

The Way Things Fell Apart – Things seem to be going alright initially but he starts pushing people away after Princess Carolyn fails to get him one of the things he wants for future acting jobs…from here it just spiraled as he couldn’t answer the question of what he’d do after he won the Oscar…I get his guilt complex but this felt contrived.

Pacing and Focus – The pacing felt off this season as it felt like Bojack’s toxic choices didn’t make much sense given the characters around him helping to push him to focus (whether Ana or Carolyn) and even though he didn’t listen and was consumed by guilt…I felt more could have been done to show him doing the work. This felt like Season 1 Bojack and it made the pacing disjointed as it felt like they wanted focus wholly on Bojack or more focused on those around him.

   This season had a lot more cons than the last few seasons of the show but once again, this is a show worth checking out and Season 3 is still gold in so many ways. If you’ve been here this long you’ve gotten to know the characters and some of the ways they change or deal with pain is fascinating as it reveals so much about them. This is also the season we get the most into Bojack’s head, which in many ways made the series weaker in my opinion, but I at least understand why…it’s just a shame that they’d undo all the progress he made last season to show how toxic he is. Much like Walter White or Francis Underwood…he’s a bad guy who has some level of good in him buried under so much bad that you just want him to capture that good and live it more than the bad…given the nature of this show, I don’t know if that will ever happen. I can’t wait to see how it ends though, this season is well worth your time.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

“BoJack Horseman” Season 1 – A Nihilistic Comedy With Depth

Bojack Horseman

     It took a while but I finally got through Season 1 of “BoJack Horseman.” I got to say I’m impressed. It is heavy, depressing and funny and ends up having a great payoff. I look forward to seeing where the future seasons go. This is a show that didn’t seem to know where it was going at first, it just seemed like a day in the life like “Horsing Around” (the sitcom BoJack stars in) but it gave it’s characters arcs which turned it into a very strong and funny show.

     The show was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and airs on Netflix.

     The story involves the once famous sitcom actor BoJack Horseman from “Horsin’ Around” trying to recapture the glory days and be loved by people again which leads to him taking on a ghost writer named Diane Nguyen. From here things unfold as BoJack’s own demons come back to ruin whatever he touches.

The Pros: The World – The World is full of humans and humanoid animals who have traits similar to the animal they are drawn from. Princess Carolyn is a cat and has a scratchy post, etc, It’s really cool and fits the offness of the world the story takes place in.

The Animation – The animation is great and flows really well. When BoJack does a drug trip near the end of the season it is really shown too as they get super creative with some of the images he sees and the animation (such as erasing the lines around him). It’s very well done.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack fits the nihilistic feel of the world and the world of Hollywood it draws from. Patrick Carney did a fantastic job. The opening theme is great too for capturing the loneliness of the characters.

The Characters – The main characters are the strongest part and really help capture themes of purpose and loneliness. There are a few side joke characters who I enjoyed too and listed as pros just because they were so funny.

Neal McBeal the Navy Seal – This characters is funny as he gets into a fight on television when BoJack takes his muffins that he had called. He gets justice though and pulls BoJack onto Mr. Peanutbutter’s reality show to get an apology, though it still gets intense as BoJack tries to get him to support his thoughts in regards to war. BoJack and Neal’s fight on television is one of the show’s funniest moments.

Pinky Penguin – Patton Oswalt plays this nervous Penguin who just wants to see his children. He’s a great character as he is extremely anxious and desperate but manages to pull it all off. He is one of the few completely sympathetic characters in the show.

Princess Carolyn – Amy Sedaris is hilarious is Princess Carolyn…BoJack’s agent who is all about her work and has an on and off relationship with him. She’s ruthless and great and at the end of the day truly cares about BoJack. Her arc is becoming top of her game and moving on from BoJack as we see her start dating again after Diane’s book is successful and her and BoJack begin making the “Secretariat” movie.

Todd Chavez – Aaron Paul is great as BoJack’s live-in roommate who is always doing drugs and partying. He has a great mind though and we see that BoJack keeps him down which leads to him leaving BoJack which leads to a somewhat establishing of boundaries when they become friends again. He’s the character who is successful when he tries.

Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter is overly positive and can be a bit of a dick like BoJack though he super loyal if he likes you. He is a fun character, though he doesn’t really have an arc beyond marrying Diane after getting over his insecurities of failing in his marriage. I like the character and think is a great contrast to both Diane and BoJack. Paul F. Thompkins does a good job.

Diane Nguyen – Diane is my favorite character on the show. She’s the ghost writer who writers BoJack’s memoir and helps him see all the dark things about himself he denies. She is also a bit of an outcast and comes from a pretty loud and abusive family. Her arc is finishing the book, getting over her fears of failure and commitment and marrying Mr. Peanutbutter and establishing boundaries and friendship again with BoJack after he kisses her. I can’t wait to see where her arc goes next season.

BoJack – BoJack came from an abusive family so became a celebrity because he just wanted to be loved. He’s narcissistic, egotistical and cruel but can also be kind and vulnerable. We see all of this over the course of the season and his arc is being honest with himself and accepting how alone he feels. He gets his dream role though of playing Secretariat, who was his idol as a kid who killed himself when he cheated at racing. Curious where BoJack’s arc is going to go as we see him admit to his mistakes and actually grow a little.

Loneliness – Loneliness is a major theme. All our characters are and deal with it in different ways. Diane with Mr. Peanutbutter, Carolyn with work, BoJack with women, drinks and acting and Todd with drugs. It’s a powerful theme that the show executes really well.

Good People? – One of the main questions of the show is the question of good people existing. The shows answer to that is no as egos get in the way and people are only their base selves. I agree to some degree but also think the show contradicts itself when we get the times of depth from characters like Diane and BoJack who are more than their traumatic childhood and hurt.

Okay: Side Characters – There are a few celebrity side character but I didn’t really see them as characters. They felt like guest appearances rather than characters within the narrative. From Colbert as a Frog and Naomi Watts as herself…they existed for the sake of the plot and that was it.

Sarah Lynn – She the former child star from “Horsin’ Around” gone crazy with drugs and that is the extent of her character. She brings out the worst of BoJack’s tendencies and her character never really goes anywhere. She works within the world at least.

The Cons: Early Show Meandering – Early on the show doesn’t feel like it has focus. It establishes are characters are lonely and self destructive but we don’t really get anything beyond that. The story really doesn’t pick up until Diane and BoJack start developing their relationship and that is where the solid arcs begin.

  This was a great show, even though it didn’t really find it’s footing till about a third of the way through. By that point though I was in and wanted to see what happened to the characters and how their relationships would unfold. The characters and themes are really what make this show great and in my Top 3 American Animated Shows currently though I’d still put “Gravity Falls” ahead of it. This shows gets my recommendation and I can’t wait to watch the next season.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10