One of the strangest trends in 21st-century prestige television has been the practice of splitting up an acclaimed series’ final season into two parts. Long before “Harry Potter” was made into Part 1 and Part 2, HBO turned final seasons of “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” into Season A and Season B. Was it for filming reasons? Instead, were they trying to milk more money and Emmys out of us? No matter the case, such as “all-time favorites” like “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Game of Thrones” followed suit. Thus, the two-part final season became the go-to flex for shows that were the cream of the crop. “Bojack Horseman” premieres its final eight episodes on January 31st on Netflix. It absolutely deserves to be mentioned alongside all of those “all-time great” shows mentioned above.
The devastating and funny animated tale of “Hollywood” insiders sticks its landing. “Bojack Horseman” does something powerful and bold with its final batch of episodes. It doesn’t just hold its anti-hero accountable for his actions. It asks us why we’ve followed and rooted for a man with a history of deplorable behavior. We’ve been long conditioned to accept, even revere, the male anti-hero (from Tony Soprano to Walter White). With Bojack (Will Arnett), we’re asked to look critically at his actions, even if we’re hoping for redemption. Despite finding a path to normalcy, Bojack cannot escape his past, nor should he be able to. This final season perfectly wraps up the show, which only makes us miss it more now that it’s done.
The final season finds Bojack in a new state of peace. As a professor at Wesleyan, the biggest problem he deals with is over-zealous theater students. Is this happiness? Free from the industry, he feels both out of his depth, but also calmer. Rather than a fish out of the water, he’s a reptile out of turpentine. He can adjust to this new, less toxic landscape. He needs to find his footing.
The best new character from the last batch of episodes, “First Page Paige” Sinclair (Paget Brewster), is about to disrupt this newfound peace. She continues to get closer to the truth of her Sara Lynn (Kristen Schaal) expose, with alcoholic sidekick Maximillian Banks (Max Greenfield) in tow. Her “His Girl Friday”-esque crusade perfectly exemplifies what makes “Bojack Horseman” a unique treasure. No show since “30 Rock” has been able to blend industry-specific humor, deep pop-culture cuts, and strong storytelling beats with such ease.
Light Spoilers to Follow for Those Wanting To Go In Blind
This impending “cancellation” of Bojack opens the door for a broader discussion on what standards we should hold celebrities to and what their statute of limitations is. Over the show’s six seasons, creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg has always maintained their show’s titular character accountable for his actions. Often, as in the final eight episodes, his comeuppance is delayed. One cannot escape their own actions, even after they’ve put it behind themselves. However, Bob-Waksberg and the team take this one step further. They dramatize the PR behind tell-all confessionals. In many ways, the apology tour we witness this season bears a strong resemblance to Bojack’s Oscar campaigning for “Secretariat” a few seasons back. How can one express remorse when that very action has been commoditized for career gains?
Though there’s much to discuss with Bojack, what makes the show successful is its deep roster of supporting characters. Diane (Alison Brie) takes the next step in her relationship with Guy (LaKeith Stanfield), all while under career pressures with her memoir due. The dissonance between her happiness with Guy and stress over work sends her into a spell of depression. She explores anti-depressants, finally finding a sustainable, enough version of joy. However, it pushes her more towards writing a young-adult puff piece, rather than the gritty memoir she envisioned. This conflict feels new and refreshing for Diane. She enjoys the removal that writing YA gives her, though her feelings of inadequacy rise, as she wished her life was more grandiose or tragic to make a remarkable memoir. While this conflict is interesting, Diane’s storyline also deals with medication thoughtfully and smartly.
Diane isn’t the only character taking steps towards self-actualization. Chronic slacker Todd (Aaron Paul) turns a new leaf as he gets his act together. He finally moves off of Princess Carolyn’s (Amy Sedaris) couch and into a new apartment with girlfriend and fellow asexual, Madue. All this maturity allows him to mend his fraught relationship with his mother. This being “Bojack Horseman,” he can’t just go over to her house and talk to her. Instead, we get a hilariously convoluted plot that brings Character Actress Margo Martindale (voiced by the divine actress herself) back into the fold. This heartfelt storyline concludes with a one-liner that had me pausing the show and laughing for full minutes.
Among principal cast members, we get more of Mr. Peanut Butter (Paul F. Tomkins) and his unconventional relationship with Pickles Aplenty (Hong Chau). The show expertly derives conflict from Mr. Peanut Butter’s overriding desire to please at all costs. The relationship bumps these two faces make this one of the more complex relationships on the show. Meanwhile, Princess Carolyn, now a mother of baby Ruthie, continues to struggle with having it all. Every subplot gets its moment in the sun and adds to the rich tapestry being completed in these eight episodes.
Every season, “Bojack Horseman” delivers a single episode that absolutely guts the viewer. Whether it be “Fish Out of Water” (Season 3), “Ruthie” (Season 4), “Time’s Arrow” (also Season 4, its best season), or “Free Churro” (Season 5), there’s no shortage of all-time great “Bojack Horseman” episodes. The penultimate episode, “The View from Halfway Down,” delivers the fantastic final batch of episodes its submission to the “all-time” club. It brings to life all of Bojack’s figurative/literal demons from the past six years together for an ambitious and haunting half-hour. Still, the final eight episodes function as one singular piece of television mastery. It’s hard to be sad, “Bojack Horseman” is leaving us because it gives us such a perfect ending. Its final moments are guaranteed to make a true fan cry.