TV Review: ‘BoJack Horseman’ Gets Darker Than Ever and Reaches Even Higher Highs

To say that “BoJack Horseman” remains one of the best shows in the Netflix stable would be an understatement. The series continually pushes the boundaries of what an animated show can do. In many ways, the series feels like “The Wire” or “The Sopranoes” for animated television, breaking new ground on an episode to episode basis. In one of the few shows where the episode still matters, “BoJack Horseman” pushes new boundaries of what’s possible. As it experiments with the form once again, it is impossible to ignore the greatness of “BoJack Horseman.”

This season, “BoJack” dives deep into the events of the past seasons. It paves new ground as the entire cast dives into a new series “Philbert.” BoJack (Will Arnett) stars and begins dating his co-star Gina (Stephanie Beatriz). Todd (Aaron Paul) becomes a network executive overseeing the show. Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) produces the “Philbert” with Diane (Alison Brie) and Flip McVicker (Rami Malek) writing the show. Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Thompkins) work through their divorce and new relationships.

Netflix let “BoJack” dive deep into the trauma of sexual assault and bad behavior by men in Hollywood. It doesn’t pull punches, and sadly tells the truth about men getting multiple chances even after they’ve proven to be garbage. Rather than focus on bringing in ridiculous or extraneous plots, this season almost entirely deals with the emotional fallout of various events across the show’s history. The character most on trial is our leading man, BoJack.

The emotional heartbeat of the season comes from a trio of BoJack, Diane, and Gina (voiced by newcomer to the series Beatriz). Each gets multiple standout moments that absolutely rip your heart out of your body. The knock-down drag-out fights between Diane and BoJack create an honest assessment of Hollywood. The rise of Gina in Hollywood gives her one of the best moments of the year in television. This season does not waste a moment. Every episode feels like a self-contained gem, and in the era of television that effectively killed the episode, that means something. Some of these episodes will go down in the television canon, and at least three come to mind as some of the best in the series yet.

The concept of what forms and animated series can embrace is breathtaking to watch.  “BoJack” crafts one of the best monologues and bottle episodes in animated history. Even more impressive, it accomplishes both in the same episode. It’s a tribute to Arnett that he can hold the episode together and again showcases his brilliance as a vocal performer. Another is written in 2nd person, lambasting articles that use the form as a gimmick. Simultaneously, it explores a writer trying to distance themselves from the tragedy that is their life. Through the use of the form, we learn more about the emotional state of a character than we have any right to understand. It’s the best-written episode of the season and could go down as one of the best of the year.

The satire is biting once again, but what else is new? Shows like “True Detective” and “Westworld” are mocked this time around. Both have shown tendencies to be confusing just for the sake of it. For a stretch, we get a point-of-view of “Philbert” from the perspective of the show. We later learn this comes from an addiction to opioids. The implication, that you must be on drugs to actually understand the show, is priceless. The strangeness feels familiar in all the wrong ways, chastizing inaccessible stories in the process.

It also turns on the men who do not understand the consequences of their actions. Most appropriately, BoJack becomes the target of the show’s anger. The character should be unforgivable. BoJack singlehandedly led to the death of Sarah-Lynn. He nearly began a relationship with an underage girl. Our series turns the gun on itself. In a week where a director cast his sex offender friend in a film and almost got away with it, this could not be more relevant. The voices of women like Diane are silenced in favor of rewarding the men with no morals or understanding about the problem at hand.

While “The Simpsons” may always be the “best” animated show in the history of television, “BoJack” might be the most daring. The effect is crafting an entirely unique and breathtaking experience. “BoJack” will never be a populist hit in the way it deserves. Despite this, the story of a horse will make you feel things deep in your soul. It’s going to cut deep, but its worth every second.

What do you think of the new season of “BoJack Horseman?” Can this show finally come through with the Emmys? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments below! 

‘BoJack Horseman” will release its fifth season on Netflix on Sept. 14, 2018. 

GRADE: (★★★★)