The 21st century has seen an abudance of TV shows that have garnered iconic status such as The Sopranos (first aired in 1999 but majority was released this century), Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. These shows are known for their big budgets and award sweeps season after season. It comes as no surprise that among all of these huge shows that a few are swept under the rug. None have gone under the radar so much as the brilliant animated Netflix series Bojack Horseman. Set in an alternative universe where animals have human characteristics, the show follows the titular Bojack, a “has-been” actor living in Hollywood who is wanting to make a comeback as he deals with his fading star status. Spanning six seasons with the final season split into two parts, Bojack Horseman was nominated for several Emmys but was never the winner which is a huge shame, particularly for its later seasons.
As I have recently decided to start writing on some TV shows I enjoy, I thought it makes sense to write about one my favourites. Bojack Horseman isn’t afraid to discuss heavy topics such as sexism and assault in the entertainment industry and abortion. It’s relevance to real life is what makes it fantastic considering it is an animated show that incorporates a universe populated by humans and human-like animals. The main cast consists of Will Arnett in the titular role, Aaron Paul as his housemate Todd, Amy Sedaris as agent Princess Carolyn, Paul F. Tompkins as celebrity Mr Peanutbutter and Alison Brie as writer, Diane Nyugen and each character is developed brilliantly through the show’s run.
Here are my top 5 episodes:
5) “Fish Out of Water”, Season 3
Kicking off the ranking is this fun episode from the third season. We see Bojack venture underwater for a film festival where Secretariat is showing. The world underwater differs to Hollywood and Bojack as usual struggles to adhere by their rules and regulations, quickly finding himself lost in the process. After successfully returning a lost baby seahorse to his father, Bojack feels jealous that he wasn’t afforded a normal family life as he ventures back to the festival. He tries to rekindle a friendship with director, Kelsey, but his note is blurred and ruined due to being underwater. One thing that the writers do well is incorporating outer social problems into the show so in this episode, seeing how different cultures are to be respected is brought in. In a great move, the episode is predominantly silent because Bojack can’t talk with his airtight helmet on. At first, Bojack doesn’t understand what to do and is frustrated that he can’t communicate but by the end of episode he does understand and it is all capped off with a brilliant gag at the end where there is a button on his helmet that allows him to speak.
4) “The View from Halfway Down”, Season 6
The next entry on my ranking is the penultimate episode of the show’s final season. As Bojack has to face the consequences of his actions, he finds himself in a near-death situation and spends the episode in purgatory where he is faced with various important figures from his past. The result is a surreal half hour filled to the walls with symbolism and realisation as Bojack goes back and forth on whether to go through the white door that lingers on a stage, waiting for him. One by one, each person performs on the stage and goes through the door. The episode feels like closure of this chapter in Bojack’s life as he has to choose whether to go through the door or wake up and face his punishment. Rounding up six seasons of the show seems like a heavy task in just half an hour but this episode is so bizarre and deconstructed that the writers don’t have to follow the rules and instead the audience delves deep into Bojack’s conscience. The standard of Bojack Horseman has been so high and this episode does such a good job of saying farewell.
3) “That’s Too Much, Man!”, Season 3
The third entry in this list is the second episode from the third season. Up to this point, the show doesn’t really delve into a serious tone of darkness but the penultimate episode of season 3 is a turning point. Sarah Lynn, the child star of Horsin’ Around, has been sober for 9 months and her career is thriving. Bojack calls Sarah Lynn up and invites her on a bender where he provides her with alcohol and drugs. The two of them go down a rabbit hole of blackouts and flashbacks. It seems as though the drug use and drinking will never end, even when they begin to snort heroin. What then follows is a brilliant changing of pace as the two friends go to the Planetarium and Sarah Lynn succumbs to a heroin overdose and dies. As Bojack repeatedly says her name and the screen goes black, the seriousness of what has happened changes the entire show for the following seasons as Bojack’s actions have finally resulted in death. It’s an episode that always leaves me speechless because of its horrifying ending. As Bojack and Sarah Lynn look at the cosmic display in the Planetarium, it feels as though they have their whole lives ahead of them and that they may change, the way we see Sarah Lynn slowly die is heartbreaking.
2) “Free Churro”, Season 5
My second place on this list goes to the midpoint episode of season 5 that sees Bojack delivering the eulogy at his mother’s funeral. That’s literally what the episode consists of. Bojack at the podium delivering a monologue. What puts this as second on my ranking is how brilliant the script is. Will Arnett’s performance is fantastic as we watch Bojack pick apart his mother’s last words as he tries to discuss various meanings as well as his usual rambling. With its use of one location and one shot, it would have been easy to assume that this episode would be boring and full of exposition but it is actually the opposite. The brilliance of the writing comes from what Bojack doesn’t say as the audience is forced to read between the lines. Much like the “Fish Out of Water” episode, the best joke in this episode is that Bojack has been delivering his eulogy in the wrong room and has opened up about his past to a room full of geckos.
1) “Time’s Arrow”, Season 4
To fans of Bojack Horseman, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Season 4’s penultimate episode rounds up the story on Bojack’s mother, Beatrice, who has been battling with dementia throughout the season. In this final segment, we see Beatrice meet Butterscotch, an aspiring writer and run off with him, much to her father’s despair. Finding herself pregnant and excited to see what a new life in San Francisco would bring the couple, Beatrice’s dreams are soon crushed as we fast forward some years to see her and Butterscotch evolve into the bitter, heavy drinkers that the show has portrayed them to be. What this episode does is conclude Beatrice’s journey as her dementia begins to deteriorate and actually ties together the background story in a way that isn’t forced. What comes through in this episode is Beatrice’s resilience which slowly turns into anger and regret. Sadly, we see her turn into the person she never wanted to be as she takes out her frustrations on Bojack. She also blackmails their maid, Henrietta, to get an abortion after she falls pregnant with Butterscotch’s child by giving her the money to get into nursing school. It’s a difficult episode to stomach but that’s because Bojack Horseman is a show thay dares to look into the dark side of the human (or animal) condition.
It goes without saying that Bojack Horseman is not the easiest show to watch and has not been without controversy for Alison Brie’s performance as Diane Nyugen, an American-Vietnamese writer but it is a show that isn’t afraid to push the conversation. Having watched the show through several times, I find that I notice new details and joke pay offs each time that makes it a fun and rewarding watch. It is definitely one of my favourite shows and I would recommend anyone to give it a go.
What do you think of my list? Which episodes of Bojack Horseman are your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!