In August 2014 the Netflix original, “BoJack Horseman”, first aired. Nearly six years later it ended on a quiet note, partially resolved.
Although it’s not for everyone, the show has garnered a reputation among fans for its gritty and realistic depiction of life, mental illness and addiction, despite being an animated show with anthropomorphic animals who are also “Hollywood elite.” The main character, BoJack, offers an interesting take on a protagonist by being flawed to the point of being unlikeable, yet undeniably “human'' in that state, unlike villain-protagonists you may have come across before.
Throughout the show, BoJack is a bad person, or horse, as it were. He struggles with that, trying to justify himself, fix himself and most of all escape himself. Over the years viewers have seen the story of BoJack’s life as one of struggle and failure, but in this last season things began to change.
Season 6, BoJack’s final season, was released in two parts. Episodes 1-8 were released on Oct 25, 2019, and 9-16 on Jan. 31, 2020. In both parts we see something entirely new from BoJack, something beyond the cycle of trying and failing we are used to. In the first half we see BoJack actually go to rehab, become sober and begin to turn his life around.
He still makes mistakes but the simple fact that he is sober for most of this section is completely new to the viewer. He really seems to change. He apologizes to many of his friends and stops dyeing his hair, letting the natural grey show through. The grey hair embodies his transformation so accurately and concisely because the viewer always knew he was older, but he was clearly never mature. Now, by letting his age show he is showing that he is giving up his outgrown facade of that young sitcom star and is trying to be more mature.
He even gets a job as a professor at Wesleyan University. For the first time in his life it seems like he might have a chance to be happy. Then arrives part two.
Even since season 1 the show has given us a question that it never was going to be able to answer: is BoJack a good person? Sure he does bad things but does that make him truly bad? Evil even? His actions, although selfish, are not done with the purpose to hurt others, so is he, himself, bad? No one knows, but like his friends we stay with him regardless.
Despite what he does he is punished with little more than anguish. His friends don’t leave him, he’s still a star. The final section of the show gives us something new: BoJack now has to pay for what he’s done and there is no better time to do so than when he thinks he has finally left that old BoJack, the “bad” BoJack, behind.
“Acting is about leaving everything behind and becoming something completely new,” BoJack repeats over and over in preparation to teach his first acting course. This theme of rebirth is not new to the show, but finally BoJack has actually been able to remake himself, right? The intro sequence has changed, opening a shot of BoJack’s house but now with a starry sky behind it in reference to Sarah Lynn’s death. We see Sarah Lynn as a child. We see BoJack with Herb and then Herb dying of cancer. We see Tesuque, New Mexico, the site of one of BoJack’s biggest mistakes.
This pattern continues, showing references to the worst things BoJack has done in the show. And, unsurprisingly, as the second part of season 6 begins things quickly go downhill. Two reporters that are trying to find out the truth about Sarah Lynn’s death, which BoJack was more involved in than he let the police know. They also begin to uncover what happened in New Mexico, where BoJack bought teenagers alcohol and nearly slept with his friend’s teenage daughter.
BoJack Horseman looks at the justice of repercussions, of good and evil without any judgment and without any answers. “They can’t get me on old shit, I’m a different person now,” BoJack says when he realizes the journalists are threatening to destroy all the work he did to get himself to the sober, kinder position he is in. But they do “get him”. The truth is uncovered and every bad thing he did is public knowledge. Everyone hates him and he loses everything. Finally, after a drunken incident where he breaks and enters and almost drowns, he goes to jail.
The show ends on a delicate note. Almost all of BoJack’s friends have moved up in life, and him? He’s in prison. That’s where we leave him. It almost seems like when we left him at rehab, and perhaps when he gets out he will fall back into his old, bad patterns, but we don’t get to find out. Personally, the ending does not feel very satisfying, but in a show where the point is, for lack of better phrasing, life is hard and nothing is going to wrap up prettily, maybe it’s fitting.