Fans of the acclaimed Netflix animated series Bojack Horseman are in for a real treat. The first part of season six premiered a month ago, on Oct. 21; as the timing of this review suggests, I needed some time to reflect before I wrote this review.
This is Bojack’s final season, news that was announced by Netflix upon the premiere of the trailer. The second half of the season will premiere on Jan. 31, 2020. The arrival of this season was ensconced in virulent conjecture and hearsay; numerous news outlets and internet forums have drawn a link between the show’s animators’ bids to unionize for higher wages, and it was a seemingly sudden announcement by Netflix that season six will be the show’s final season, a statement that contradicted many prior statements by the series’ creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg. But all of this context is immaterial if the series itself fails to retain that gorgeous mix of comedy and stark realism that we horse-fans of the horse-man know and love, right? Does it live up to the hype?
Bojack is back, ladies and gentlemen, in a different kind of setting that he has ever encountered before: rehab. After the brutal ending of the last season (quick recap: Bojack gets addicted to pain pills and violently strangles his show’s co-star in drugged-out haze, before finally listening to Diane and going to rehab) many viewers are probably wondering if they can ever sympathize with the eponymous mount ever again. And surprisingly enough, with a little on-screen soul-searching and a dash of Will Arnett-style charisma, you totally can. Bojack’s guilt and ardent journey towards becoming a better horse are actually rather compelling — not nearly as compelling as the previous season’s descent into hell — but you still really want him to succeed.
The other characters are mostly entertaining. Mr. Peanutbutter’s arc is funny, Princess Carolyn’s is heartwarming and Todd does nothing, as per usual. The dialogue is as quick and witty as ever, the acting impeccable as always, the animation as glossy and seamless as any adult cartoon out there. There’s just one miniscule modicum of a problem.
The writing, while entertaining, is the tritest it has ever been. Much of this appears to have something to do with the brevity of this semi-season; for after all, the previous seasons all had four episodes more for the storylines to breathe. However, the rushed-ness clearly isn’t quite the sole reason, for the ideas themselves are quite dull as well. With the exception of Bojack, most of the characters return to already-trodden-ground, or simply remain stagnant. Princess Carolyn has a bit of an arc with her new baby, but it is completely and utterly apparent from the first frame of the season what the arc is going to be: at the beginning, new baby makes life difficult for Princess, but she persists like she always does and works through it. A viewer with even the minutest understanding of storytelling conventions could figure that one out.
Diane, however, was probably the most egregiously underwritten character. Her coworker, a buffalo named Guy, becomes her new love interest immediately after the show introduces him. Then the writers attempt to introduce this “will-they, won’t-they” tension, which worked great for established characters like Ross and Rachel on Friends, but not so well when one of the critical parties is a hand-drawn buffalo we viewers barely know. This kind of writing is utterly tensionless; if these writers were hired to support a tightrope walker, said walker would immediately plunge face-first onto the unforgiving circus floor and die.
And the politics, oh my god the politics. The show’s portrayal of political dilemmas are entirely black-and-white. Complexity and nuance have never come extremely easy for Bojack Horseman, but now the show just shoves its messages down the throats of the viewers in the most ham-fisted, patronizing and pandering way imaginable. One example is their “satire” of mega-corporations: the fictitious company White Whale. This corporation is evil, run by an evil whale that is literally a murderer. And that’s it. Bojack has eschewed any semblance of nuance in favor of pandering to the audience of underpaid millennials who watch it.
In conclusion, season six of Bojack Horseman is a must-see for fans who have stuck around this long. But maybe don’t get your hopes up too high.