By Connor Smith
Former Editor in Chief
BoJack Horseman is an asshole. The talking horse (voiced by Will Arnett) is selfish, rude and apathetic toward everyone around him. He takes advantage of close friends and enables their worst habits. Yet, after several seasons of unspeakable acts, I still root for him to be happy. But should I?
The fifth season of Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman” grapples with that very issue. In 12 new episodes, “BoJack” provides stellar commentary on entertainment culture, substance abuse, #MeToo and more — with just enough animal puns and visual gags to remind you it’s a cartoon.
BoJack spends the season working on the set of “Philbert,” a new crime drama in which he plays a rogue detective who’s spiraling out of control. As the season goes on, the line between the world of Philbert and BoJack becomes blurred, especially since the set is an exact replica of BoJack’s home.
“BoJack Horseman” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg uses “Philbert” as a vehicle to discuss how many shows, including “BoJack” itself, glorify unacceptable behavior and make terrible people seem relatable. The writers show why doing so sets a bad example for viewers and Hollywood executives alike. The “Philbert” set also covers how power vultures in Hollywood make a set an unsafe place rife with harassment and exploitation.
This season is loaded with inventive storytelling angles. One episode is told entirely as a Buzzfeed-esque travel guide. In another, “Free Churro,” Arnett is the only voice for 26 minutes. In it, BoJack gives a eulogy. It’s one of Arnett’s best performances in the series. There’s several tangents, and a few great payoffs. One of the most powerful lines is about his time playing the Danny Tanner-type on the ’90s sit-com, “Horsin’ Around.”
“You can’t have happy endings in sitcoms, not really, because if everyone’s happy, the show would be over, and above all else, the show … has to keep going,” he says. “There’s always more show. And you can call ‘Horsin’ Around’ dumb, or bad, or unrealistic, but there is nothing more realistic than that. You never get a happy ending, ’cause there’s always more show.”
Throughout the season, BoJack continues to struggle with substance abuse, but this time he’s held more accountable for his actions — both past and present. Meanwhile, Diane (Alison Brie) and Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) are finally divorced after years of incompatibility; they both cope with it in different ways.
We also learn more about Princess Carolyn’s (Amy Sedaris) upbringing, which includes powerful performances by Sedaris and cameos by Daveed Diggs, of “Hamilton,” and Whoopi Goldberg. Todd (Aaron Paul) continues to stumble to success, as he also explores his asexuality, which, ironically, leads into the most shameless #MeToo metaphor ever.
Though it’s a cartoon with talking animals and absurd gags, “BoJack” always knows how to make you feel. It’s the perfect balance of hyper-accurate representations of sadness and personal strife, oddly relatable characters (given how absurdly rich and detached from reality most of them are) and some good laughs.
Get ready to feel sad. Then laugh. Then get hit with one devastating development after another.
If you haven’t watched BoJack, or stopped midway through season one, now’s the time to binge-watch it all. Otherwise, you’re missing out on something special.