TV Review: ‘Bojack Horseman’ Continues Its Impeccable Track Record in Final Season

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman” stands as the perfect example of this adage. At first glance, the animated sitcom seems like a “Family Guy”-esque spin-off that features anthropomorphic animals rattling off pop culture references. For those who keep going, they discover the most heartbreaking, devastating and emotionally involved show on Netflix. In fact, “Bojack Horseman” perfectly represents peak TV. The greatest stories come in the most interesting packages. Last season may have taken a step down from astounding to very good. Yet, the first half of the final season takes it back to its high point. It may not feature a singular episode as good as “Hank After Dark,” “That’s Too Much, Man!,” “Time’s Arrow” or “Free Churro.” Yet, the narrative takes great steps on the way to nailing a perfect finale for this one of a kind series.

Season six begins with Bojack (Will Arnett) at the gates of redemption. More accurately, he arrives at Pastiches, a ritzy rehab for celebrities. Through many cigarette burn flashbacks, Bojack reflects on the root of his alcoholism and the people it has hurt along the way. This dates back further than his wild night with Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), his former co-star who died during a bender with him.

The key to the show’s continued success rests on its titular character. Bojack joins the likes of Tony Soprano and Don Draper as some of TV’s most lovable damaged antiheroes. Even as Bojack tries to get sober, he still struggles to find out how to right the wrongs in his life. Further introspection highlights how his actions have ruined the lives of so many people in his life. By the last of this batch of episodes, one wonders whether Bojack will ever be able to get a happy ending. Past actions continue to threaten his momentary clarity. We can never fully run away from the bad decisions we engage in. Yet, we can work on ways to move forward.

As good as our central character is, “Bojack Horseman” doesn’t forget about its dynamic supporting characters. The best episode, “Surprise,” revolves around a surprise engagement party for Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tomkins) and Pickles (Hong Chau) that goes horribly wrong. This episode understands how to blend visual humor with a satisfying and emotional examination of a relationship not on good footing. The writing throughout stays sharp. Yet, it excels at its visual direction, as characters move in and out of frame, while always staying out of the sight from the squabbling couple.

Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) struggles with balancing work and motherhood in “Bojack Horseman” Season Six.

Power agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) also gets a standout episode. In “The New Client,” Princess Carolyn struggles with the pressures of being a new mother. Ruthie can’t stop crying, but Princess Carolyn still wants to be at the top as an agent. We’ve seen the storyline before of how working mothers struggle to balance all aspects of their lives. “Bojack Horseman” takes this one step further. Princess Carolyn jumps into additional opportunities, such as hosting a gala for “women who do it all” and appearing on cover stories, because she wants to prove to others that she’s doing all right. Her stress causes her to over-commit, rather than concentrate on her new child. The show never judges her. It merely brings her unique perspective to life.

Comparatively, Todd (Aaron Paul) and Diane (Allison Brie) have much weaker storylines. Diane’s journalistic drive brings her up against a huge corporation, Whitewater Industries. Her corporate crusading also puts her in touch with a cameraman who might just be the kind, sensitive soul she’s needed all along. Meanwhile, Todd pops up here and there as a comic foil. Later, family drama allows him to intersect with Diane on taking down Whitewater Industries. These moments are far from bad. But they never quite live up to the other rich storylines in season six.

(from left to right) Bojack Horseman (Will Arnett), Diane Nguyen (Allison Brie), Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul), Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) and Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tomkins) return in “Bojack Horseman” Season Six.

“Bojack Horseman” manages to stay as topical as ever with its critique of Hollywood. Much of the show revolves around the treatment of assistants in the entertainment industry. After too many indignities, the assistants form a union and go on strike against their bosses. This plot point echoes the recent #PayUpHollywood movement recently trending on Twitter. Some may think the show’s fascination can be too myopic. Yet, its true love is entertainment. It gets the greatest glee over the most specific jokes (my favorite: Saoirse Ronan’s production company “Saoirse and Rescue”). Specificity adds charm and detail to an already vibrant world. It also recognizes how our world and industry changes and evolves in insightful ways.

In short, “Bojack Horseman” looks to stick its landing in ways few shows have. When the final eight episodes drop on January 31, 2020, it could go down in history as one of the most interesting, an unlikely bellwether of peak TV.

Bojack Horseman (Will Arnett) spends time in rehab throughout “Bojack Horseman” Season Six.

“Bojack Horseman” Season Six premieres on Netflix on Friday, October 25th. Eight episodes were screened for review.

GRADE: (★)

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