Yes, Netflix’s Bojack Horseman has, for the third year in a row, given fans a lot to think about. Amidst silly puns, dumb & clever humor, and the whole “animals living as humans” thing, the theme of depression and lack of personal fulfillment hit all of our faces as our anti-hero struggles again with self-love and relationships. The third season, merely six hours long, was an incredible treat and here is a recap/review on the entire thing.
Major Spoilers for the Season 3 of Bojack Horseman. Trigger Warnings for mentions of suicide, pedophilia, drug abuse, death, and abortion.
Abbreviations guide: BH for Bojack Horseman (the show); BJ for Bojack Horseman (the character); PC for Princess Carolyn; Mr. PB for Mr. Peanutbutter; TBHS for The Bojack Horseman show.
Episode 1: Start Spreading the News
We start off with a very tired Bojack at New York – his dream of being an actor in a successful movie and serious contender for the Oscars is coming true except for the part where he isn’t exactly in the film as it’s all CGI in a movie that is not what he signed up for. His defensiveness of his sitcom, Horsing Around, is very tenacious because that was the last time he was actually in fact 100% sort of happy. He is accompanied by Ana Spanakopita – one of the highlights of the season – and Todd. A fun fact: in BJ’s hotel room, you can see a painting of a horses running freely in a field which reminds of the last scene of the season.
Todd’s only function in this episode is comic relief and being meta – well, to be honest, I feel like Bojack Horseman, the show, offers a lot of critiques to some tv shows (like Game of Thrones) in lampshading format like his “Sometimes, I just am places”. However, there is a nice scene where BJ is nice to Todd in direct reflection to last season finale where the two of them become friends again – too bad it’s one of the only instances of the season.
Back in LA, we are introduced to Judah, the lumberjack-manbun very efficient assistant to the regional manager Princess Carolyn as she started her own agency company VIM. Diane is also working for PC and on her marriage as she is reaping the aftermath of having lied about going to the war torn Kordovia for two months.
In this episode, we start with something that goes on all season where the show can’t make up its mind on whether it wants to make fun of the so called “SJWs” or it sides with it. The whole “Has ‘dyke’ been reclaimed yet? I literally can’t keep up with it” is very contrasting to some more ‘progressive’ season arcs like Diane’s abortion treatment.
Showing a care for continuity, the previously mentioned Jill Pill is introduced, but doesn’t lead to anything really. Despite Bojack saying last season that doing theater would bring him happiness, he is very quick to turn it down. She did however jumpstart the Cuddlywhiskers (not a cat, surprisingly) arc which is a big foreshadower for how the season ends and possibly how the next season will go on about.
As this episode is the premiere, it also sets off a few threads that will be picked on as the season progresses: how Bojack feels immensely guilty of what he almost did to Penny (a great showing of how triggers work, btw) and Mr. Peanutbutter’s Spaghetti Strainers – something that could possibly replace the term Chekov’s Gun as it was literally being lampshaded all season long with dialogues that included “The more the wait [on what the strainers would be used on], the bigger the payoff”. One thing though that happened and was completely forgotten: what the hell did Ana do with the Manatee Fair reporter?
Episode 2: The Bojack Horseman Show
BH gives us an entire flashback episode so we could have some context on how The Bojack Horseman Show came about given we were only told there was one in the season two finale.
Like most flashbacks, the show uses a very purposeful anvilicious way of establishing time frames (“Generic 2007 Pop Song”, uggs, HD DVD, fedoras, parkour, Fergie…). Todd’s asexuality is seeded in this episode as well as another Chekov Gun – Seaborn Seahorse Milk. Some other fun tidbits were nice like the reference to Michael Vick having a dog fighting thing and calling Mr. PB, Jessica Biel talking endlessly about Justin Timberlake, Krill & Grace (“that show made wonders for the krill people), Character Actress Margo Martindale being in the table read of TBHS, the introduction to Diane’s friend as well as people from other seasons appearing like Diane’s ex-boyfriend and Mia, the mouse from the Hollywood Stars and Celebrities: What do They Know? Do They Know Things? Let’s Find Out production team. Oh, and let’s not forget about another instance (a running gag by now) of Mr. PB talking to an offs-screen Erica.
In any case, TBHS failed big time. Turns out being edgy doesn’t always pay off. Most important than that, we see how BJ’s relationship with Princess Carolyn started and how it carried unhealthily for years giving more context and texture to the big fight later in the season.
Episode 3: Bojack Kills
This episode was mainly a filler, but a great one. The subtle condemnation of Sea World plus a defense of sex workers in a thinly vailed “Whale World, where sexy stripper whales are a lot of fun for the whole family” was simply amazing. Diane is divided between couples counseling, working for Bojack & trying to avoid him altogether.
Diane: It’s not about being happy. That’s the thing. I’m just trying to get through each day. I can’t keep asking myself, “Am I happy?” It just makes me more miserable. I don’t know if I believe in it, real lasting happiness. All those perky, well-adjusted people you see in movies and TV shows? I don’t think they exist.
The big moment of this episode was when BJ & Diane finally found Cuddlywhiskers and he tells them that “in order to be truly happy, one must give everything up”. For me, that summed up pretty well the message of the season for BJ, but it took a couple more episodes – and a big moment in his life – to really get it.
Cuddlywhiskers: Sometimes you need to take responsibility for your own happiness.
Diane: You don’t think that’s a little selfish?
Cuddlywhiskers: I don’t know what to tell you. I’m happy, for the first time in my life. I’m not gonna feel bad about it. It takes a long time to realize how truly miserable you are, even longer to see it doesn’t have to be that way. Only after you give up everything can you begin to find a way to be happy.
Episode 4: Fish Out of the Water
This episode shows Bojack going underwater for a film festival in order to promote Secretariat as a serious contender for the Oscars. However, he meets Kelsey Jennings (the first director to Secretariat) for the first time and he has a hard time figuring out what he wants to tell her. Plus, in a cartoonish way, his message never gets delivered and he ends up having to look after a seahorse baby. The episode was beautifully animated and told a great story despite being nearly conversation-less. It feels gratuitous though that he, ultimately, fails at sending his message to Kelsey, but also appropriate. You start to really feel bad for him because the narrative is tireless in the lack of rewarding. Is it acedia or a representation of life itself? The highlight for me, though, was that last song that played (Oberhofer – Sea of Dreams) that really set such such a perfect and melancholic mood.
Episode 5: Love and/or Marriage
Secretariat premieres and, for once, Bojack can be relieved as it becomes a box office success. As he and Todd go out to celebrate, he crashes a wedding rehearsal (POC Lesbians!!!!) and almost fucks everything up by accidently making Tanisha (one of the brides) realize she is unsure about getting married. Thankfully, in one of the amazing cathartic speeches this season has to offer, BJ manages to change Tanisha’s mind.
Tanisha: “So, what, I should just settle?”
BJ: “Yes, thank you, exactly. Settle. Because otherwise you’re just gonna get older, and harder, and more alone. And you’re gonna do everything you can to fill that hole, with friends, and your career, and meaningless sex, but the hole doesn’t get filled. One day, you’re gonna look around and you’re going to realize that everybody loves you, but nobody likes you. And that is the loneliest feeling in the world.”
Todd meets his ex-girlfriend Emily (from 2007) and they concoct a ride share app for women (nice!), but when Todd doesn’t want to have sex – he is quite clearly avoiding it like he is scared -, she ends up going to the bar and meeting a drunk Bojack – the two have sex, which, again, despite not being off character for BJ, seems too gratuitous given he became “real” friends with Todd just a couple of episodes ago and was trying to actively be nice. As a fun fact, some of the people in the background of the bar have appeared in the series before like Jake and Maggot Gyllenhaal and a girl from one of the early S1 episodes.
In the meantime, Diane meets a very Taylor-Swift-Squad-esque group of friends called The Snatch Batch and goes through a bit of a drug induced trip (one of the several in this show) which gives her the ‘ability’ to tell Mr. PB what she really feels and it’s a nice moment… until she finds out she is pregnant.
Episode 6: Brrap Brrap Pew Pew
This episode is sort of… divisive. The show is clearly trying to be progressive and pro-choice, but it maybe turns itself into what it is trying to satirize: teenage popstar Sextina Aquafina (sadly, not voiced again by Aisha Tyler, her voice in season 2) accidently becomes the face of the pro-choice movement and releases a very violent video where she sings about killing babies which are aliens in her belly – the gag is she is not pregnant. Diane takes issue with this as she is actually getting an abortion and seems to be the only rational person there.
I understand that creating a satire on this issue was the point, but I’m not quite sure they gave off the message the way they expected. However, the narrative tries to justify itself as a young woman at the abortion clinic tells Diane that a song like “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew / Kill that Fetus / Abort that Fetus” actually “makes her feel strong” and “when you can joke about it, it makes it feel less scary”. Okay. I can buy that this is the point the episode is trying to make but, still, they joked about quite a controversial topic in ways that can give margin to ambiguity and the show seems both aware and pretty okay with it.
Episode 7: Stop the Presses
In a sort of unusual series of flashbacks format, this episode followed Todd and Emily starting Cabracadabra – the ride sharing app for women – as well as Bojack trying to cancel a newspaper subscription. BJ and Emily are very awkward to each other because both of them feel guilty about what happened and don’t want to tell Todd. Bojack is also handling a new ad campaign for Secretariat as well as his newly found relationship with Ana. This particularly arc seems to be giving BJ some sort of “character growth” as, even despite seeing Ana as who she really is behind all the masks she puts on daily, he still wants to be with her. Also, the ads Bojack wanted backfired in a beautiful manner because, you know, only a limited number of things can go right at once for our protagonist.
There’s also the return of the beloved Character Actress Margo Martindale who is currently running away from the public/police after her stunts last season. Honestly, I am such a big fan of this particular running gag (and pretty much every other one i.e. Erica, Randy, and honeydew tasting badly) because it always a treat to see what will happen next for this real life character. Also, the Gone Girl references were amazing.
Episode 8: Old Acquaintance
This episode tried to turn previous seasons ‘villains’ into heroes showing how perspective can influence what a ‘hero’ and a ‘villain’ is. Rutabaga and Vanessa Gecko are trying to get their client to be the lead of a new YA franchise (which, by today’s standards, would flop when you consider this trend is dying down) while Princess Carolyn is pushing this role for BJ who is also considering a more intimate and small role in a new movie by Kelsey Jennings and trying to escape the revival of Horsing Around called Ethan Around. We also find out that Sarah Lynn got sober, which seemed like a very nice path for the actor turned singer.
Diane and Mr. PB go to the Labrador Peninsula (!!!!!!!!!!!!) to visit with Captain Peanutbutter and his grim and dark vibes towards life now that he was diagnosed with a condition on his spleen. This lead to a very nice moment involving the three of them and gave more depth to Mr. PB and his relationship with his family.
Episode 9: Best Thing That Ever Happened
In what can be considered sort of a “bottle episode”, Bojack and Princess Carolyn fight at Elefante as he is trying to fire her for fucking up in the previous episode. Honestly, I sided with PC in this episode because BJ is not a good person and, given we saw how bad he was in the past, someone who would be terrible to work with. I think the narrative wanted us to side with her while all the same seeing BJ’s position as a valid one. The two of them are probably my favorite characters and an episode focused on a fight between the two was very bittersweet for me specially when, in the end, BJ did end up firing her in a sort of “mean” way – like, this was BJ continuing the cycle of “plot cruelty” as he often is the one we feel sorry for as things don’t go his way, but now he was the agent to a very unsettling ending.
Episode 10: It’s You
It’s finally the moment we’ve been expecting all season – Oscar Nominations. This episode was incredibly funny and also incredibly sad. That whiteboard in which Mr. PB and Todd write their own noms is full of gems. Honestly, their own plot was the comic relief given how dark the episode turned.
Bojack got nominated, but doesn’t feel any different – this screams of depression and how expectations can either make or break you; the way achieving your goals not always make you feel accomplished and it’s hard to explain why even to yourself. However, he decides to party all the same and that’s when he screams at Diane – who was full of good intentions and got a very good moment where she reflects about PTSD**** – and then finds out he wasn’t nominated after all.
Bojack ends up telling Todd he had sex with Emily and that’s when Todd finally explodes at Bojack; it’s such a powerful and supposedly cathartic moment that I have to include here:
Todd: You can’t keep doing this! You can’t keep doing shitty things, and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay! You need to be better!
Bojack: I know. And I’m sorry, okay? I was drunk, and there was all this pressure with the Oscar campaign. But now… Now that it’s over, I…
Todd: No! No, BoJack, just stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you. It’s not the alcohol, or the drugs, or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career, or when you were a kid. It’s you. All right? It’s you.
Episode 11: That’s Too Much, Man!
As the aftermath of the previous episode, Bojack invites Sarah Lynn to go an alcohol & drugs bender leading the actor to break her stablished sobriety streak of 9 months. Bojack’s guilt of possibly messing Penny’s life comes out again as he is desperate to make amends, but don’t know how. This was a very interesting topic for this show to look into as it dealt with pedophilia and the trauma it sets upon the abused person. It also shows again how bad it can be to be triggered by something that reminds the person of the abuser – in this case, the abuser itself showing up uninvited after a day long stalking session.
Sarah Lynn, all the while, is sort of having an existential crisis while both being enabled by and enabling Bojack into carrying on with his plans. They go to Ana’s house and, for the gajjilionth time, this show gives us another beautiful speech that says so much about the characters of Ana and Bojack – this being the only real piece of information we know about the publicist, but yet, being enough for us to understand her motivations.
To be honest, Sarah Lynn’s death became a little predictable as we closed in to the final minutes, but it was a blow nevertheless – and a bad one. As much as her arc could be seen as completed, I can’t shake this feeling that this was just another case of fridging to aggravate Bojack’s manpain. It felt like a commentary at young Hollywood stars who go through dark paths because of the pressure and demands of fame (we all saw how bad Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes got, but we all root for their recovery and well-being as they managed to get better), but also a disservice to a character who we have been seeing since early season one.
Episode 12: That Went Well
As the season ends, it’s time for the season Chekov Guns to go off. An ocean-madness driven Character Actress Margo Martindale engages in a game of boat-chicken with a ship containing a shitload of pasta. They wreck causing all the spaghetti to go onto the sea as it cooks up and threatens to destroy Pacific Town. Mr. Peanutbutter and the whales from Whale World, using the spaghetti strainers and a Mad Max: Fury Road homage, save the day! The bigger the wait, the bigger the pay off!
We get some resolutions as Todd’s Cabracadabra is sold for a lot of money and he seems to make peace with Emily. He also sort of comes out as asexual and it’s a nice moment for a character who is ultimately a comic relief (Hooray! Representation!).
Mr. PB gets his share of the money and seems to be okay with Diane – who is going to work at Girl Croosh, a new feminist blog. In what reminded me a lot of a season finale of Parks and Recreation, his ex-wife (Tammy I much?) arrives and says that Mr. PB could go for the position of governor of California. He is also being managed by PC, who apparently found out that what she really wants to be is a manager – that plot was actually a happy one with she finding some sort of true love and a new career.
Bojack however is sad by everything that happened. Just this season he managed to not be nominated for an Oscar, have his relationship with Ana be over, fight with PC and Todd, fuck up Penny, and cause the death of Sarah Lynn. He drives off into the sunset and closes his eyes possibly attempting suicide, but suddenly stops the car as he sees the very image of the painting in the first episode: a herd of horses running wild on a field. Is this what is left for him? Giving up everything so he can start being happy?
There’s also the big reveal that Bojack has a daughter, but that is mainly going to be explored next season.
This was another excellent season of Bojack Horseman. Netflix delivered a batch of episodes that absolute holds under multiple viewing, show character growth, more instances of depression, despair, and failure of wish fulfillment. My only complains are, as mentioned, the way it seems to want to make fun of things like ‘ableist terms’ and ‘gender non conformity’ while all the same trying to show progressiveness – a bit of Poe’s Law maybe? I just think that it gives enough space for viewers to agree with these ‘critiques’ which would lead to more vitriol at the people who need these spaces in media for representation. Like, this show acknowledged these things, but instead of endorsing them to try to achieve normalization, they decided to joke at it. The other complaint was Sarah Lynn’s death.