BoJack Horseman Season 5: a great addition to a phenomenal show
Since its launch in 2014, the Netflix original BoJack Horseman has risen to unprecedented levels of popularity both with critics and audiences alike.
Before I review season five specifically, a bit of background is necessary to understand exactly what type of TV show this is; BoJack Horseman is not the average comedy. There are but few words that could capture its essence. Brutal. Unconventional. Depressing. Dark. It has the most bizarre style and structure I’ve seen in any TV show.
Like most shows, it has setup, character progression and a resolution. Unlike most shows, BoJack Horseman takes each element and twists it into its own unique pretzel. The setup is unexpected; minor characters unexpectedly become major characters early on; small mistakes cascade into bigger ones, leading down rabbit holes of different storylines; words slipped out casually become important parts of the story episodes later.
The character progression is equally strange. In most shows, characters become better—or, in stories following anti-heroes, worse—building to a climax where they reach their zenith. In BoJack Horseman, characters often go around in circles; sometimes they slip back, renege on promises; sometimes they stagnate for entire seasons. It’s out of whack, and almost random. No writing teacher would ever encourage this style—perhaps no sane person would. But somehow, it works. It feels natural and real, almost to a fault, yet just stopping short.
And finally: the resolutions. To say happy endings are rare in BoJack Horseman is a grotesque understatement. Very occasionally, you’ll see one, usually involving a minor recurring character. Endings in this show can be sad, violent, or sometimes non-existent, just like in real life.
Season five builds on the work of the previous seasons—BoJack’s past and character are explored in even greater depth. The show previously explored hard and uncomfortable topics like drugs, relationships, abuse, celebrity culture, politics, sexuality, mental health, and a plethora of other sociopolitical and cultural issues. However, in season five, they go above and beyond.
While the topic of sexual harassment and so-called “bad men” getting away with their misdeeds was explored previously, this season zooms in on it, hinting at 2017’s #MeToo movement. And as usual, it tackles the issue with a degree of nuance and subtlety that few shows can match. It takes a look at the mistakes each main character, especially BoJack, did to get themselves in the situation they’re in. And, as usual, subtle messages about hypocrisy and personal accountability are thrown in.
It’s deep, heart-rending, and sometimes downright depressing. However, season five’s ending was more hopeful than anything that has come before it, and gives the audience a glimmer of hope: that they’ll see their favorite character get a happy ending.
Season five does lack the intense gut punch found in the previous four seasons; it’s more subtle in it’s message, and while that may be a positive for some, one could easily argue that BoJack’s initial appeal came from that former brutality. It’s also slightly tamer comedically, but the difference isn’t something you’ll notice unless you comb through each season to find flaws.
While not quite on the level of overall quality as the previous seasons, it still remains an amazing show to watch. I, for one, would certainly recommend watching season five; it will change you.