Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Stars: Will Arnette, Allison Brie, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris
Spoiler Warning Ahead
When I began this show I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I definitely did not have any idea where this show would potentially go. Because of this quarantine, I have had to reach out to different media in an effort to occupy my time while being cooped up in my house for the foreseeable future. I had heard some things about BoJack Horseman and thought to myself, “why not watch something to pass the time”.
In the beginning, that is just what this show was for me, something to pass the time. This was one of those shows that you put on before bed and fall asleep to. In Season 1, we get what is advertised. A story about an anthropomorphic horse in an anthropomorphic world. Animals live amongst humans, almost to the extent where humans become the minority. We get BoJack, a former television star who is coasting off his success in the ’90s and indulges his life in booze, drugs, and sex. It is the typical Hollywood wash up story that has been seen and told for so many years.
During this first season, this show was a “before bed” watch, that kept me just engaged enough to care about the characters and the story. Over time, I became more aware of the story, and this show went from being a “before bed” watch to a “full attention” watch. The use of animals amongst the humans was different, and BoJack was a character where, in the beginning, you wanted to see him succeed. The humor was there, but at the end of Season 1 and through Season 2, the tone of the show began to change. Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg did a remarkable job of pulling in the audience just enough that we would begin to trust wherever he went with the show.
What happened next is something that only he could have seen coming. Something that the audience likely didn’t see, and even the voice actors and crew were probably caught a little off guard as well. This show went from being a satirical and funny look on Hollywood and became a very real and honest look on issues that most people struggle with daily. And these are not issues like getting fired or sending the wrong text like you would see in a normal sitcom-esque show. These were issues that dealt with alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, self-loathing, self-destruction, toxic masculinity, toxicity in general, and most importantly the inherent need to feel like a good person.
This was the scene that I think changed BoJack Horseman from being an oddball comedy to being one of the most honest shows in television history. Throughout the rest of the show’s runtime (which concluded this year in 2020), we see BoJack move along with the show. I refuse to believe he ever fully changes as a person, and I believe that is because the underlying notion this show is trying to prove is that people don’t change. This show begins and ends in almost the same place for BoJack, but the question of “is he a good person” is one that cannot be answered fully.
Because the fact of the matter is no, BoJack is not a good person. He does good things for people at times, but he is not inherently a good person. He is Walter White-like in the fact that there is a part of him that believes what he is doing is right, but in reality, it is just mistake after mistake that he never learns from. This is not necessarily his fault, as we see many times throughout the show that there were factors in his life that led him down the path he ultimately chose. I use the word chose, because that is what ultimately happened. This show is built of choices and takes us down the paths of who makes the right ones and who makes the wrong ones.
While BoJack did have struggles in his life, as a child and as a TV star, it was ultimately the choices he makes that give him the personality he longs to. The choices he makes are directly affected by the choices others made before him, but it is his choice to follow in their footsteps that makes him the man he is.
However, even though BoJack might not be a good person, and this is hard to say because I see a lot of myself in BoJack, he is an important person. He changes and alters the lives of people he comes in contact with one way or another. As we see in the end, even if BoJack’s life is in the same place as the beginning, no one he knows is. Princess Carolynn is getting married and has a kid, Todd has a job he loves and his own place with a mature partner, Mr. Peanutbutter has his own show that isn’t built off the tails of ‘Horsin’ Around’, and Diane is living in Chicago and is a successful writer. None of these would have happened without BoJack being present in each of these people’s lives, and Diane even says this when, and I am paraphrasing, she mentions that there are people who are meant to be a part of your life, but not meant to be in your life. Of course, this isn’t a good feeling for BoJack as it was his failures that led to others’ success, but it is this that becomes the truly “good” thing he does. Corduroy Jackson-Jackson says in the penultimate, and best, episode that a good thing can’t make you feel good. What BoJack has accomplished might ultimately be the only good thing he has ever done, and the very ending of the show, the moment where only the upper half of BoJack and Diane are in the frame and “Mr Blue” by Catherine Feeny plays proves this to be true.
Neither BoJack or Diane feel particularly good about where they are or what has happened, but they both know that BoJack has done good things for so many people, basically by doing the wrong thing. BoJack has to live in this moment that he is a screw-up and that because of his screw-ups, everyone around him succeeded. Everyone, but for him.
The real reason the question of “if BoJack is a good person” cannot be answered fully, is because this show isn’t staking its claim in good or bad people. BoJack might not be inherently a good person, it might be his choices that led him to that, and his choices might have been swayed by issues of his past. But what this show tends to stake its claim on is that BoJack Horseman is a person. That is the whole outcome I got after 6 seasons of watching this horse traverse through life. BoJack, like each and every one of us, is simply a person. There simply is no good or bad, and there is no right or wrong. We are all people living and trying to do our best. In the end, having BoJack be a horse became not just a funny gag for television, but became something that gave each and every person who watched this show something to gravitate to.
I never thought I would watch a show that dealt with the heavy-handed issues like this one did. This article does not even begin to scratch the surface with truly just how powerful and effecting this show can really be. It is not a happy show, but an honest one, and one that personally I needed at the moment. You do not have to be a good or a bad person, you just have to be a person. By being a person, means making mistakes and making bad choices. These choices might not always feel good, but they could be doing good for other people. The last line of the entire show is said by Diane and goes, “Sometimes life’s a bitch and you just keep living”. This line is a culmination of everything over the show and a realization that there is no reason to think about what happened or what is going to happen but to just keep living and fighting through some of the worst of times. No one is better or worse than anyone else, and ultimately we are all floating in the same boat down the same rocky waters. It is melancholic and immensely sad, but it is also brutally honest, and something I have never seen a piece of media portray so perfectly. This is the greatest TV Show I have ever seen.
Best Season – Season 3
Best Episode – S6 EP 15 “The View From Halfway Down”
- Best episode of TV I have personally ever seen.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
IMDb: 8.7/10 (#99 All-Time Show)
Available on Netflix
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.