BoJack continues to deliver in its fifth season
Why this Netflix Original series is still one of the best
By Keeghan Rouleau, Contributor
The fifth season of Netflix’s critically acclaimed animated comedy BoJack Horseman takes aspects from each previous season and ties them together in a harmonious haybale of everything that makes this show great. The season immediately feels familiar, with the same fast paced banter and visual gags it’s been pulling since day one: some bits subtle, some bits … not so much.
The brilliance of BoJack Horseman is its ability to guise comedy within its dark content. The show is rich in layers of clever social commentary. Deep, emotional, unique characters with real growth and consistently evolving environments to place them in. But underneath it all are subtle ongoing jokes and visual gags that draw strings from season to season to keep it all familiar. If you haven’t seen the latest season yet and want to avoid all spoilers, stop what you’re doing and sign into Netflix.
The first episode opens with BoJack at a party, dawning a trenchcoat and smoking a cigarette on his balcony while guests mingle around him. After being shot by a guest and falling to the ground it’s revealed that he is on set for his new show ‘Philbert,’ immediately setting the tone for the entire season and foreshadowing the lack of clarity between what BoJack’s reality really is and what’s simply scripted. The show expertly leaves the audience in the dark as much as the protagonist, while making full use of the animated medium to show you as little and as much, as real and as fake, as BoJack sees.
But the show is not just focused on its namesake. While BoJack is busy losing his mind, the rest of the gang have their own misadventures. Princess Carolyn is on the hunt for a child to adopt and in the process uncovers some painful memories. The episode “The Amelia Earhart Story” focuses heavily on Princess Carolyn’s childhood, revealing her path through school, to her career and her dramatic love-life during her teens.
Todd has a mix of focuses this season, with his love-life turning to a dead end and his professional life soaring higher than ever before. His relationship ends with Yolanda after a series of hijinx involving her parents and after trying to find a very ‘Todd’ solution to his sexual conflict with Emily by building a sex robot named Henry Fondle. Henry quickly becomes the CEO of Todd’s company: Whattimeisitrightnow.com — also the network in charge of “Philbert” — resulting in comedic disaster for Todd.
Mr. Peanutbutter, freshly divorced from Diane, gets right back into the dating game when he meets Pickles Aplenty, a pug waitress from the restaurant “elephante.” Pickles is extremely young in comparison to Mr. Peanutbutter, resulting in the first real instance of growth from the dog.
Diane, however, does not handle the breakup with as much enthusiasm. She begins the season and her new life as a divorced woman in a rough spot emotionally. The second episode of the season, “The Dog Days Are Over” shows a distraught Diane impulsively fly to Vietnam in the hopes of reconnecting to her heritage. She unfortunately realizes her real home lies in L.A., crushing her hopes of an escape from her lonely reality. Filled with anger, she forces her way into a writer position on ‘Philbert’ and takes out her frustrations through the show, both towards herself and BoJack, resulting in a horrific fight between the two.
But it’s not all so depressing. One of the things this show does best is accent it’s usually dark themes with sprinkles of visual gags. For example, even something as simple as a giraffe in an airport wearing five different neck pillows strikes a surprisingly humorous chord when preceded by something as contrastingly dramatic as a woman losing her child. All in all keeping the audience in a comfortable middle ground between existentially sad and comfortably entertained.
Overall, the season has some considerable highlights in terms of the shows experimentalism. The episode “Free Churro” is completely contained (with the exception of a pre-title sequence flashback) to a twenty-minute monologue by BoJack, delivering a eulogy at his mother’s funeral.
The isolated episode relies almost entirely on dialogue and features an exceptional performance by Will Arnett (BoJack). The episode is, in terms of acting, everything the ocean episode Fish out of Water back in season three was visually.
While this season builds upon every character arc, every running gag, every piece of history and every bit of trauma, make no mistake, this is not the writers tacking on new storylines and characters to keep the show fulfilled. This is a conclusion to so many storylines in a fantastic way and the beginning of so many more.