Season Five’s Strongest Moments
It’s no surprise the latest season of BoJack Horseman is (with little room for doubt) the strongest in the series so far. We’ve already come to know the characters: who they are, why they are, and what made them that way. We’re aware of the stakes: living their lives, these people constantly put their health and sanity on the line. Just waking up, they risk psychological destruction; they risk destroying each other every single day. The show’s world has grown large enough to provide endless ammunition dumb-but-awesome animal puns and smart-but-accessible meta-humour. And best of all, the quality has never dropped off. Each season experiments with what was already done in the previous, adding new flavours, new toppings into the mix. Funnier than before. Darker, more introspective. No wonder it only seems to get better.
So, just for the fun, here are the strongest (and then weakest!) moments in Season 5:
The 7 STRONGEST Moments:
#7 - Todd Moves In
Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos is a great episode. Flavoured heavily with meta-humour, sight-gags and situational farce, it follows four Halloween parties over a twenty-five year period. (And it should be known, I LOVE time travel stories—even if it’s just the audience who’s doing the travelling.) For this series, it’s actually pretty cheery in tone, which is a nice change of pace. Near the end, after the episode’s heaviest moment, a partially-implied phone call where BoJack learns his dad just died, we get a brief interaction where Todd thinks his host is sad because the party’s over, and offers to hang out for a while. Disconsolate, BoJack agrees, telling him to stick around as long as he wants.
That’s it. But I love it.
Todd’s years crashing on BoJack’s couch, has been a major element of the series so far. Trivializing this with such a dumb (funny) origin, immediately after referencing one of the series’ most emotionally intense and reflective episodes (Free Churro), makes you feel like you’ve done a fly-by on an active volcano. Close enough to get a sunburn. But fast enough make it out of there with a smile.
#6 - Diane Reacts to Philbert
Head in the Clouds is an episode with a lot to offer. There’s the delightful antics of popsicle writers, Abel Ziegler and Ziggy Abler. There’s Todd’s sex robot, Henry Fondler, taking control of the internet clock company. There’s a very dark moment when BoJack argues with Diane and she demands to know what went down in New Mexico. But most of all there’s Diane’s reaction to the art she helped create.
Because Philbert (the show) is BoJack (the show). A series about a vulnerable, but maybe irredeemable character, tripping through life, just trying to figure everything out. Allowing an audience to root for with such characters, are we implying a drive to redemption that doesn’t really exist? Do arcs around people like these encourage us to forgive hurters and abusers in real life, when no steps have been taken to curtail hurtful or abusive behavior? Do such arcs suggest to abusers that they deserve forgiveness? All these questions—and a touch of meta-criticism to boot—are neatly tied into the thirteen seconds where Diane to express her concerns about the show. Not bad at all, really.
#5 - Asexual Hijinks
In Planned Obsolescence, Todd meets his asexual girlfriend’s hypersexual family. Everyone sneaks around trying to have—or not-have—sex with everyone else. The sisters dress up as and pretend to be on another. The mother puts on every garment she owns for some reason. And Todd finds himself sliding all over the house on a slick of homemade lube. No deep analysis here. No hidden meaning. Just classic farce. Inspector Clouseau would be proud.
Though it’s also pretty hilarious that the scene ends with us being told they just sat down, had a respectful conversation, and everyone walked away happy. It makes the farce, all the funnier by contrast.
#4 - Wife/Wife Story Dynamics
Int. Sub is one of those experimental episodes I mentioned in the opening. It gives us a married couple (BoJack and Diane’s therapist, and Princess Carolyn and Todd’s corporate mediator) telling each other about their respective days over dinner. This offers up some great sight gags, pretty decent situational comedy, and great character work and arc development. But the moment that really shines in this episode is when the two wives negotiate the best way to simultaneously tell their stories.
A bit more meta-humour here, and it’s wonderful. (Yeah, I really like that stuff.) Also, in nineteen seconds, they perfectly describe series’ whole narrative formula. And it’s such a good formula it’s funny and intriguing just to hear it described! I don’t know; maybe this moment is tailored specifically to me, a story geek, but I sure did find it extraordinary.
#3 - BoJack Strangles Gina
The Showstopper is perhaps one of the series’ heaviest episodes. For obvious reasons. Lost in a haze of drugs, paranoia and hallucinations, BoJack ends up strangling his girlfriend Gina while shooting a scene, nearly killing her.
This show has always been the best at one thing specifically: suggesting to you that a bad thing might happen, making you terrified that the bad thing is going to happen, and then showing you the bad thing happen. This moment falls hard into that category, and boy is it a powerful one.
#2 - The Interview After
The Stopped Show is the next episode after the choking scene. In it, BoJack and Gina do a TV interview where they lie and tell the world it never happened. Tonally, this moment is WAY lighter than the previous one. Yet I found it AT LEAST as disturbing.
Because this is the moment where Gina demonstrates a built-in knowledge that she can have justice, or she can have a career, but never both. BoJack doesn’t get it because he’s lived his life in a position of power. He doesn’t get that telling the world what he did would define her as a footnote in his story. And she has to BEG before he agrees not to share it, not to steal what’s left of her agency. BoJack just wants to make it right here, but his every impulse guides him to do what would mitigate his feelings of guilt, not what’s best for Gina. Even after she tells him.
As the real world looks with ever-greater scrutiny, at the things men do to women, this is perhaps, the series’ most topical moment. It perfectly illustrates a power imbalance such as would discourage a victim from coming forward. Along with the privilege of not understanding that such a thing exists. It’s fucked up in the show, just as it’s fucked in real life. And it’s a powerful god damn scene.
#1 - BoJack Gets a Churro / Talks Becker
But season’s strongest moment belongs to the episode, Free Churro, in which BoJack eulogizes his dead mother at a funeral. Just the whole episode. The whole thing is one moment—a little one-man show—and it’s fucking brilliant.
I mean, if you had to pick a BEST part, it would probably be when he circles back to the Jack-in-the-Box employee giving him a free churro then transitions to talk about the TV show, Becker. But really, it’s the whole episode.
Now just for fun (and just because I’m me), here’s what didn’t quite work this season. You should know, it’s a short list and I had to get pretty nit-picky to fill it out.
The 3 Weakest Moments:
#3 - Margo Returns
A mysterious mute, after washing up from the ocean and living with nuns for two years, turns out to be Character Actress Margo Martindale.
Actually, I loved this moment. I really did laugh out loud. The only thing is, nothing comes of it. It’s a setup with no payoff. I have little doubt we’ll circle back next season but until then, it feels like a promise unfulfilled.
#2 - Ascending the Staircase
After choking Gina, BoJack hallucinates climbs a hallucinated stair case which he’s now seen on a number of occasions. At the top he finds the escaped giant BoJack balloon that’s been wandering the city and will eventually find its way to Character Actress Margo Martindale. Cut to credits.
If the Margo Martindale revelation was setup without payoff, this one offers a payoff so unsatisfactory, so devoid of meaning that there might as well be none.
#1 - Peanutbutter Cheats
This is actually three moments, making up most of an arc, but they’re pretty closely connected so we’ll count them as one.
After fighting with BoJack at the premier party, Diane gets a ride home from Mr. Peanutbutter. He comforts her in the car and then she invites him to come up. I don’t like this because it’s a fucking cliché. I’ve seen it SO many times and it never gets better. It never approaches interesting. It makes me like the characters less, sure (if that’s what you’re going for), but more out of annoyance than anything else. It’s the same reason I didn’t like the moment when Diane tells Mr. Peanutbutter they’re not getting back together, or when Mr. Peanutbutter proposes to Pickles. It’s all just so . . . predictable.
But as I said, I’m getting pretty nit-picky here. BoJack Season 5 was some of the best television I’ve ever seen and I’m already stoked to find out what they’ll do with the next one.