Review: Netflix’s Bojack Horseman

On Oct. 25, part one of the sixth and final season of the critically acclaimed Netflix Original series “BoJack Horseman” premiered. The adult animated comedy-drama series, created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, is set in an alternate-universe in which human beings and anthropomorphic animals from dogs to snails to fish live alongside one another. Aside from this glaring difference, the world of “BoJack” operates in basically the exact same way as our own. Set primarily in Hollywood, the show follows the title character, voiced by Will Arnett, a depressed, alcoholic, washed-up, fifty-something horse, and former star of the fictional hit ‘90s sitcom, “Horsin’ Around.” In his immediate orbit are the four other protagonists, all of whom play critical roles in BoJack’s life and character development, while still maintaining rich backstories of their own.

Upon the release of the first season in 2014, “BoJack” received mixed reviews from critics and viewers alike. The first few episodes do not necessarily have the same tone as the majority of the episodes that follow. At first, it reads like any other crude adult cartoon, just another try-hard attempt at edgy comedy — many audience members are put off by their initial impression, abandoning the show before they can get to its turning point, which arguably comes around the seventh episode, when BoJack goes on his first on-screen epic bender, and the depths of his childhood trauma and subsequent addictions start to reveal themselves. From this point forward, the narrative becomes primarily focused on both ongoing and brief stories of trauma, addiction, depression, abuse, death and the human condition in and of itself. The brilliantly written characters and dialogue make discussion and representation of these topics feel genuine, often resonating to the point of evoking a physical reaction — laughter, an anxious stomach-churning, sometimes actual tears.

Seeing as it is set in an alternate reality, the writers of “BoJack” have significant leeway to satirize certain elements of our world without it feeling too on-the-nose. They regularly make fun of a hip, BuzzFeed-like blog/magazine called “GirlCroosh,” founded by an already filthy-rich mouse named Stefani who is not “doing this to make money” but to “extend [her] personal brand as a real down-to-earth chica who cares about real women.” An important side character, Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), who once played an innocent little girl in “Horsin’ Around,” later becomes a wildly successful, overly-sexualized pop-star and, further down the road, a mentally unstable drug addict. Her character feels heavily inspired by celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes and is used to criticize the toxic environments child stars are engulfed in from a young age and the repercussions this kind of upbrining has in later life. In the third episode of the most recent season, massive corporations like Amazon and Disney are ridiculed for being thinly-veiled near-monopolies headed by men who seem to have gone “mad with power” when, in a threatening meeting with the founder of the fictional company WhiteWhale, it is revealed that a new law has been passed that allows billionaires to commit murder.

“BoJack Horseman” is unprecedented in the way it manages time and time again to, confront the deeply tragic aspects of living as a human within the context of a sometimes comedically absurd world. In its latest season, the show continues to do this, perhaps now with even a slight increase of skill. Part two of the final season will be released on Jan. 31, 2020 — plenty of time to catch up before the (likely heartbreaking) conclusion will be revealed.