Goodbye Gift Horse: Saying farewell to Bojack Horseman
By Jake Pesaruk
Bojack Horseman first found its footing in its portrayals of sardonic excess, and yet instead of doubling down on that formula—one that was clearly working and still works elsewhere—it chose to mature with its audience.
The show has wrapped up its sixth and final season, opting to split its delivery into two parts. Part one subdues and allows the audience to revel in the crescendo of what appears to be the redemption of America’s favorite sad horse, only for part two to pull the rug out from under us and reveal a theme that the show had been gently sowing the seeds of for some time—consequence.
Bojack Horseman didn’t necessarily awe in terms of animation, or art style, but made a lot of noise back when the term ‘Netflix Original’ didn’t mean guaranteed hit or schlock—a coin flip model that the platform’s original series have been operating on for a while.
The sardonic world of ‘Hollywoo’ functions very much as a snarky looking glass of the rapidly modernizing world, that and the show’s cynical sincerity is what propels the reality of the show to greatness.
But how does the show honour its own legacy in its final season?
Our anti-heroic horse is now sober, and both he and the audience know that even with that major hurdle overcome, there’s the lingering fear that the toxicity of his nature will prevail. Whereas this is very much the case in part one, it doesn’t break down our equine lead, but instead rallies him and propels him to a new life and a fresh start.
We also see the familiar faces of Bojack’s caretakers as they reach their own narrative conclusions in part one. Todd, Princess Carolyn, and Diane all carry on while Bojack is in rehab, and find their own respective versions of peace, or at least lay the foundations for it.
This, in essence, is what part one of the final season of Bojack Horseman is—a foundation—the bones of a happy ending.
Part two does what this show does best and tears it all down.
The final leg of the saga reminds the audience that happy endings are not attainable in this particular world. A complete ‘happy’ ending would be one end of an emotional spectrum, and Bojack Horseman has never dealt with emotional or narrative absolutes.
The final act drags our titular horse down into the pit, just as he was getting his first breath of air after six seasons of self-sabotage. In these final episodes, the narrative breadcrumbs begin to take shape, making the viewer feel a tad foolish for not picking up on these aspects earlier.
The legacy of Bojack Horseman is the spinning of the wool, and then its removal from our eyes. The show’s vibrant color, funny talking animals and osh-gosh-b’gosh wordplay were merely icing on a bleak, sour cake, gently garnished with the sweetness of honest portrayals of mental health, trauma, and addiction that have never been portrayed in this kind of animated medium.
This is in immediate contrast to the final theme the show leaves us with, the consequence previously mentioned. This is all executed by the stellar writing that the series has maintained for years, with the resulting pay-off feeling more like an emotional mugging than anything.
It’s bleak, beautiful and an ending that earned our trust, and then threw it off a balcony window. It’s going to be missed.
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