So I wrote this ridiculously emo, “all my tattoos are Catholic!!!!”-type piece about the new season of BoJack Horseman, and that’s fine, probably, but I do have a couple extra things to say about this cartoon about a depressed celebrity horse. One small and one large.
The small thing is that the season couldn’t quite figure out what to do with Diane and, especially, Todd. Diane works best for me as stealth-BoJack–someone who doesn’t seem like she’d be a self-destructive nonsense mess, but totally is. Here she’s mostly reduced to standing in the midst of other people’s swirling comedic chaos, rather than creating it herself. (The gun-crazy subplot is an exception but it gets all knotted up with the show’s constant, dutiful attempts to address politics, which is not a thing this show does well.) Todd works best as a guy BoJack tolerates and even helps for absolutely no reason.
The bigger thing is… well, a guy on Twitter said, “i liked the depression horse show… it was funny, to me, how he does the bad thing, and keeps to do the bad thing”
After the harrowing end of last season I hoped we’d get to see some bleak humor wrung from an actual, serious, and sustained attempt by BoJack to change his life. And voila! Because the thing people don’t seem to have noticed about this season is that BoJack takes enormous, shambolic strides toward responsibility. He tries to do right by Hollyhock even at the cost of personal humiliation; he tries to do right by his mother even though he’d like to tell her to take a running jump into a lake of fire; it all blows up in his face, but not actually because of anything he did wrong. It blows up in his face because of the things he did right!
What happens to Hollyhock isn’t because of BoJack’s self-destruction, his Inner Monologue of I Think I’m Kicking My Own Ass With Honesty But Actually I’m Paralyzing Myself or his hilariously wrong attempts to solve problems. (My favorite of these was when he distracted a lady by having sex with her. Sure, it’s disgusting to his possibly-daughter and degrading to both himself and his paramour, but why should that matter?) And BoJack even handles the collapse of his jury-rigged family with what is, for him, frankly shocking maturity. I love that he genuinely grew and changed, I love that it didn’t “work,” I love that he didn’t just immediately and completely give up, and I love how totally miserable it all makes him.
One of the weird things about the whole “promises” part of 12-step philosophy is that a lot of it is true for a lot of people, but all of it feels terrifying, shaming and unattainable for a really long time even after you have sincerely started to turn your life over to a Higher Power. I ignored the whole promises shtik and basically reached a place of, “I need to quit drinking even if it makes everything in my life worse.” It in fact made my life better, you’re shocked I’m sure, but tbh I think the “promises are garbage, let’s fling ourselves headfirst into Suck” mentality is a more reliable basis for recovery.
This was a less consistently-funny season than the previous ones. And more of the comedy took place around the edges, rather than being how the show expresses self-loathing and flailing attempts to change. (My favorite exception was BoJack’s reaction to the Pop Tart fire. We’ve all been there.) Since I got my wish for this season, I shall make a wish for next season: I think it would be hilarious to see BoJack trying to cope with actual positive outcomes of his better actions. How on earth would BoJack cope with things going well?
I feel nice. Oh no, is this the “pink cloud”? Do I feel good because I’m making awful, impulsive decisions? I mean, my decisions seem roughly okay if you grade on a curve, but I’ve never judged that correctly before so I am not very likely to start now. Is–is this how normal people feel all the time?
Ugh, I bet I feel this way because something really terrible is about to happen. It’s unfair that I can have moments of peace of mind when I’m such a worthless piece of garbage. The responsible thing would be to feel worse. Which suddenly I am! Hey, good going, Boj.
Crap, now I feel better. This isn’t working.
I honestly think you could do a whole season of that and I’d laugh and laugh. Add in him being genuinely supportive as Diane spirals into madness, tolerating and even helping Todd for no reason, and trying to make amends to his mom while still hating her and trying to pretend her cruelty was his fault (because that’s taking responsibility, right? this is forgiveness??)… and you could have a season whose comedy gets sharper and more painful even as its disastrous star’s life gets sunnier.