Big-picture, existential concepts have never seemed more real than in the final episodes of “BoJack Horseman.”
Other cartoons — “South Park” does this the best — take pertinent issues in society and reveal an alternative perspective through a lens of witty, comedic commentary. Light-hearted laughter has proven again and again to be a sure-fire way to get people to examine themselves and question whether or not their own world views are based in reality.
While “BoJack Horseman” dabbles in humorous context — primarily through puns, sarcastic quips and visual gags made possible by the ridiculous world in which the characters are set — the show finds its strengths by tapping into the darkness so common in the minds of people everywhere.
And no one’s mind is darker than that of the titular horse-person, BoJack.
The first eight episodes of season six, which aired back in October, showed BoJack’s recovery from alcoholism. BoJack escaped the confines of his old, debilitating routines in ‘Hollywoo’ by accepting a teaching job at Connecticut's Wesleyan University. Meanwhile, a duo of fast-talking reporters attempt to destroy BoJack’s public image by exposing his role in the overdose and subsequent death of his former “Horsin’ Around” co-star and internationally beloved celebrity Sarah Lynn.
In one standalone instance of gotcha journalism, BoJack is forced into a TV interview conducted by a television pundit hell-bent on showing how much of a “stupid piece of s—” BoJack actually is. With his public image tainted forever and the world pegging him as the man who killed Sarah Lynn, a sober and more mentally stable BoJack must learn how to overcome the mercilessness of the woke public.
This is where the show begs for deep introspection. Who are we as the viewers to judge others only by their portrayal in the media rather than their true intentions? Is the destruction of one life worth the collective satisfaction of perceived retribution over someone with zero malice?
Here, “BoJack Horseman” takes an unexpected stand by asking these questions, as it’s a historically left-leaning show, evidenced by points they’ve brought up about the dangers of capitalism and the perceived racism of football mascots. On the other hand, the citizens of Hollywoo have been known for their tendency to overreact, often representing the epitome of mob mentality. The show itself could be construed as an argument against being sheeple, as the wildness of the Hollywoo culture always leads to ridiculous, nonsensical happenings.
Eventually, the pressure mounted against BoJack leads him to relapse, and in one fell swoop he breaks into his old house and passes out drunk and high in his swimming pool. In a supposed pre-death vision, he meets every prominent character to die during the show’s run, including Secretariat, his former idol, who was a stand-in dad for BoJack. Secretariat reads an autobiographical poem entitled “The View From Halfway Down” about his final thoughts when pummeling toward the ground after a leap toward suicide.
This original piece of literature is a triumph even outside the context of the show. It’s a prime example of how the cartoon goes to extra lengths to reach deep into the psyche of every viewer’s common fear, concern and existentialism.
Throughout the final eight episodes, BoJack’s former ghostwriter and long-time cynical confidant Diane works through the pros and cons of depression medication in her new home in Chicago. In a few genius sequences of childish animation, Diane’s medication-addled thoughts are impressively realistic, as the haziness of her own negative self-worth lead her to struggle with writing her memoirs. She eventually concludes her sorry past is “good damage,” as she wouldn’t be who she is today if it hadn’t been for her previous trifles.
These bits of wisdom don’t just help to round out the characters in the final few episodes, but are also widely relatable to those who have found themselves in similar situations. BoJack ended up surviving to live another day, and as he and Diane sit on the roof in the final scene of the final episode, they metaphorically rise above the chaos below and lean back in repose as their minds finally find a place of peace.
Show creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg has been beyond open about his frustration regarding the show’s seemingly unwarranted cancellation and Netflix’s eagerness to get rid of shows they deem arbitrarily unworthy of renewal. Regardless, the unexpected cancellation didn’t deter the BoJack team from ending the show with a perfectly satisfying and utterly heart-wrenching string of final episodes.
“BoJack Horseman” revels not only in the accomplishment of inner peace, but the trials and tribulations along the way.
This article was modified at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 to delete an extra word