Full Spoilers Ahead
Following six years of laughs, tears and heartbreak, it’s time for BoJack Horseman to say goodbye. Since its premiere in 2014, the Netflix animated comedy has been nothing short of ground-breaking. Not only does it make you laugh your ass off every episode, but it’s portrayed mental illness in an honest light that was never seen on TV before. As a person who suffers every day with severe depression, it was refreshing to see the highs and lows of the illness given a platform.
A show about an 80’s sitcom has-been who happens to be a horse turned out to be the best series of the decade. If you’re still turning your nose up at BoJack Horseman after all these years, it’s your loss. It is a show that has picked me up with its laughs and reminded me that it’s okay to feel lost. Returning for its final eight episodes there was an unbelievable amount of pressure on the series to wrap things up satisfyingly. As with everything about the show, BoJack Horseman’s ending is perfect.
Following the cliffhanger at the end of the first half of the sixth and final season, reporters are on the tip of confirming BoJack’s (Will Arnett) involvement in Sarah Lynn’s (Kristen Schaal) death. This is along with Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla) discovering what BoJack did on that fateful night in New Mexico.
We were all waiting for BoJack’s world to come crashing down. Except it doesn’t straight away. We resume season 6 with ‘Intermediate Scene Study w/ BoJack Horseman’, the one episode of the season that isn’t fuelled by drama. Here, BoJack finds joy in teaching drama. It’s the first time in a couple of years where we see him truly happy. Arnett, who is on stellar form for the entire season, changes BoJack’s tone of voice to show off the character’s new found passion.
The episode also features a terrific running gag where BoJack’s students repeatedly invade his AA meeting to the point that he snaps at a student who’s genuinely seeking help. While we’re all happy for BoJack there’s an unbearable sense of dread that he’s going to get his comeuppance. When the episode ends with Charlotte (Olivia Wilde) ringing BoJack to tell him to tell the reporters to leave her daughter Penny (Ilana Glazer) alone, BoJack and the audience collectively gasp for air as we all realise that the end is coming.
Season 5’s ‘The Dog Days Are Over’ saw Diane (Alison Brie) move to Vietnam where she rediscovered her passion for writing and life. The episode was Brie’s strongest of the show as we witnessed her character getting back on her feet. This season’s Diane centric episode ‘Good Damage’ sees her at odds with herself once again. Although she is taking her anti-depressants and in a loving stable relationship with Guy (LaKeith Stanfield) she can’t seem to escape her past. Determined to write her memoir, Diane hits rock bottom when she is unable to write about her past traumas.
While ‘The Dog Days Are Over’ narrative was coherent, ‘Good Damage’s’ is all over the place as Diane is unable to form sentences about her past. The episode raises a question that I never thought of before; is trauma worth it if it doesn’t have a part to play in your success? Brie is heart-breaking as she cries that she doesn’t want to be alive anymore.
It’s here that we see the damage that BoJack has caused. The weight he placed on her shoulders throughout the show’s run is unforgivable. I applaud the series for its normalisation of anti-depressants. Without making a joke or a big deal out of it, Diane gains weight due to her medicine; a side effect the media never tells people about. The episode concludes with Diane realising that she needs to move on from her past in order to survive, a decision that later shapes the final scene of the show. The rest of the season sees Diane living her new life with Guy and the turbulence that comes with a new relationship. For the first time in her life, the turbulence is good for her.
The writers of the show made a bold decision in deciding to wrap up many of our beloved side characters’ stories in side-plots at the halfway point of the season. Neither Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) or Todd (Aaron Paul) have their own episode as it was decided that BoJack’s descent towards darkness needed to be fleshed out as thoroughly as possible.
Ultimately this ended up being a great decision. Princess Carolyn’s story concluded back at the end of season 5 when she finally achieved her dream of becoming a mother. This season sees her land her dream job as the runner of her own studio and fall for her long-time friend Judah (Diedrich Bader). After all the heartbreaks she suffered over the years to finally see her find true happiness warms the coldest of hearts.
Todd completes his evolution from couch surfer to a successful young man as he finds love with Maude (Echo Gillette) and reconnects with his estranged mother. For a guy who began the show determined to make a rock opera the kid sure has come a long way. It’s a testament to the abilities of Paul that he turned one of television’s most absurd characters into a sweet soul we all rooted for.
Mr. Peanutbutter’s storyline was the worst of the previous batch of episodes as he’s trapped in a relationship with Pickles (Julia Chan). In typical BoJack Style, the writers end their relationship in a line delivered offscreen. It was almost as if the writers gave up on the story too. It would have been nice to witness Mr. Peanutbutter’s discovery that he’s happier alone instead of him just stating it. Perhaps, the character’s rushed ending was worth it purely for ‘Birthday Dog’, a show so good it had its own noble prize made for it.
While the rest of the gang are getting their happy endings BoJack plummets lower and lower. ‘Xerox of a Xerox’ deals with the aftermath of the Sarah Lynn story going public. Surprisingly, the lead character handles the situation poignantly and gracefully. Admitting in an interview that he is too blame for the actresses’ death and that he regrets it every day.
Instead of moving on when the public accepts his apology BoJack decides that he wants more love and sets up a second interview to milk sympathy from his fans. Instead, Biscuit Braxby (Daniele Gaither) confronts him over his constant use of power over women before revealing that he waited 17 minutes before calling for an ambulance after Sarah Lynn overdosed.
It’s at this moment that we have to ask ourselves why we support BoJack. Can we accept substance abuse as the real reason why he continues to ruin lives? Up until this season, BoJack was a terrible person. It was time for him to pay for his actions. This raises a valuable question. Do we deserve to be punished if we truly changed or are certain actions simply unforgivable?
After an admittedly forgettable adventure with Vance Waggoner (Bobby Cannavale), a douchebag who belongs in Entourage, BoJack reached his breaking point. Hollyhock writes him a letter that we never get to read or hear. All we know is that whatever BoJack’s sister said to him led him to destroy his sobriety. It’s a shame that Hollyhock didn’t get a final scene in person, but seeing the distress on BoJack’s face says all we need to know.
BoJack’s last chance of having a family is ruined. In response to this, he turns to the one thing that has always been there for him; intoxicating substances. Following a meeting with Angela (Anjelica Huston) in ‘Angela’, BoJack agrees to a re-edited version of ‘Horsin’ Around’ where he is no longer in it. With no chance of ever leaving a legacy, everything he has done in order to keep his career alive was for nothing. The episode ends with Bojack watching his first audition tape. The cut from past BoJack who has awe and wonder in his eye to present BoJack who watches on helplessly as he truly hit rock bottom is brutal.
BoJack’s penultimate episode ‘The View from Halfway Down’ is the greatest episode of TV I have ever seen. Set inside BoJack’s mind as he hovers between life and death, he reconnects with all the people he’s lost over the years. It’s hard to put into the words how surreal of an experience this episode is. From a dinner where everyone talks of the best and worst moment of their life to a talent show where the acts perform their last show before entering the abyss forever, this is an honest conversation about death that stuns all the senses.
Sarah Lynn turns a traumatic lesson BoJack taught her as a kid into a haunting song that she based her life off of. BoJack’s mother Beatrice Horseman (Wendie Malick) twirls her ribbon as she dances to the music her brother Crackerjack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) plays as they both fade away. A hybrid of BoJack’s father and hero Secretariat (Arnett pulling double-duty) reads a poem detailing his thought process as he committed suicide. The fear in Secretariat’s voice as he realises that he made an unfixable mistake is terrifying.
With the darkness surrounding them, BoJack’s mentor Herb (Stanley Tucci) gives the central character some startling words of comfort right before he dies, “There is no other side, this is it.”. The instant-classic entry ends with BoJack begging his mind’s version of Diane to stay with him on the phone until he dies leaving the viewer left not knowing what happens next.
If the show was to end here it would be hard to have any complaints. This is a perfect half-hour of television. Writer Alison Tafel deserves endless praise for her work on this episode. Never before have I had to sit and think about an episode of television for a solid hour after watching it. Death is the scariest thing in the world and Tafel made it 10 times more terrifying.
The final episode of the series ‘Nice While it Lasted’ begins with BoJack’s lifeless body in a hospital. Series creator and writer of the final episode Raphael Bob-Waksberg takes pleasure in trolling his audience as it’s revealed that this is BoJack’s death scene from ‘Horsin’ Around’. As always, no matter what he goes through, BoJack lives to see another day. Unfortunately, due to trespassing into his old house, he is given 14 months in jail. The prison life suits BoJack to a tee as he gets to avoid the real world and his self-destruction that always comes in it.
Our last adventure with BoJack takes place out of prison as he is granted release for one day to attend Princess Carolyn’s wedding. There is no dramatic plot twists or revelations, BoJack and the audience get to visit old friends one last time. It’s a perfect finale as each interaction stays true to every character.
Mr. Peanutbutter tries to fix the Hollywood sign only to reveal to the world that it now says “Hollywoob”. The character is so mad that he gives his go-to sign company a warning. Todd saves BoJack from a panic attack, giving him a prep talk about how he will beat his addition and stay sober no matter how many times he falls down. He does this using ‘The Hokey Pokey’ as a rather beautiful metaphor.
BoJack and Princess Carolyn dance at the wedding together. It’s a beautifully directed scene by Aaron Long who does a stellar job for the entire episode. While they dance with one another BoJack tells Princess Carolyn that she’s the smartest woman he knows and to never doubt herself. This is the moment when I started to believe that maybe BoJack really has changed, leaving his ego out of the day as all he wants is to show his friends his love.
The final scene of the show sees BoJack meeting Diane on the roof to have a conversation in a nod to the first episode. This time both of them know that this is the last conversation they will ever have, one that starts rough as Diane tells him that he left her a drunken phone voicemail during his trip to The Halfway Down telling her that she’s to blame for whatever happens to him. The shame on BoJack’s face is unbearable as we know that he has an illness that he can’t beat, yet what he said to Diane is unforgivable.
Diane decided not to let BoJack hold her back for the first time since she met him as she married Guy and moved to Houston to begin their life together. It’s a triumphant discovery to see that Diane is finally living freely without anyone holding her back. BoJack is faced with deafening silence as he says that it would be funny if this was the last time they ever talked to one another.
It’s at this moment they both realise they don’t need each other anymore. Diane has already moved on from BoJack and is all the better for it. While BoJack internally promises himself never to hurt his friend again. The last thing we hear is them commenting on how it’s a nice night as the series concludes with a minute-long shot of Diane and BoJack peacefully watching the stars as ‘Mr. Blue’ by Catherine Feeny plays.
In the end, there is nothing more for the show to say. After six years of breaking walls in its depiction of mental health, the show doesn’t give a definite ending. In life there’s no permanent conclusion. Life keeps going no matter what happens. There is always tomorrow. As Diane says to BoJack on the roof: “Sometimes life’s a bitch and then you keep living.” What happens next to the characters doesn’t matter. They’ve all in some way found peace for the time being. Who knows if it’ll last? If not, it was nice while it lasted.
Thank you, BoJack Horseman, for changing the lives of me and many others. We’ll miss you.