When the 2010s began, adult animation was coming into a new era. The turn of the decade brought us Bob’s Burgers and Archer, with Rick and Morty waiting in the wings. When Netflix first started making original content in 2014, BoJack Horseman was hailed as one of the streaming platform’s flagship series. Initially the show pitched itself as a cookie cutter adult cartoon with an “edgy” protagonist. However, it was very clear from the beginning that the show had something deeper to tell us.
BoJack Horseman follows the life of a washed up actor living in Hollywood. Throughout the story we see our protagonist struggle to find fulfillment through his life and career. As a self-loathing alcoholic narcissist, BoJack fits the anti-hero archetype that’s been trendy in many recent TV shows. Set in a universe where anthropomorphic animals and humans coexist, the diverse designs and colorful settings contrast the show’s melancholic tone. The show boasts a solid supporting cast, from BoJack’s agent and occasional girlfriend Princess Carolyn, to Diane and “frenemy” Mr. Peanutbutter. For the past six seasons the show explores a wide range of topics, from the dark side of entertainment to trauma. The major through-line of the show is the human experience and trying to figure out one’s place in the world.
This season is split into two parts, with part one releasing back in October. Part Two follows BoJack after he left acting to become the head of the Drama Department at Wesleyan University. Despite working to be a better person, BoJack has yet to reckon with the fallout of his past actions. As the audience we see that it’s already affecting his closest relationships, something he’ll confront later on.
The show’s nihilistic outlook gives its comedy and drama the ability to play off each other. This dynamic gives many of the comedic and light-hearted scenes an air of tension; it also paralyzes you with dread. Episode 15, titled “The View from Halfway Down,” really tugs at the viewer’s heartstrings and displays peak storytelling from the writing staff. In that episode there are profound discussions about legacy, purpose and the finality of death. Through its chilling imagery and dialogue, the series takes time ask deeply unsettling questions about the nature of our existence.
Hollywood is at the receiving end of critique and vicious jokes. Los Angeles is seen as having a dark underbelly disguised only by a pastiche of glitz and glamour. In BoJack’s time at Wesleyan, we see how show business affects the way young creatives view art and the navel-gazing culture surrounding the arts in general. When allegations involving BoJack reach the press, we see in real time how the media fails to hold celebrities accountable. The show stresses that even if someone has “changed,” that doesn’t mean they’re completely off the hook.
BoJack Horseman, through its great storytelling and interesting commentary, delivers some of the most heartfelt television seen in a long time. From Will Arnett’s gravelly voice as BoJack, to Paul F. Thompkin’s cheery rendition of Mr. Peanutbutter, the voice acting was top notch all around. The creation of so many storylines that not only connect back to the main themes of the story but intersect in a jazz-like tension is a testament to the dedication the creators put into this show. It’s also worth noting that the show was willing to explore subjects through its characters in such a delicate manner. That puts it a cut above not just most adult cartoons, but most TV shows in general. If you want great comedic storytelling with deep philosophical quandaries, BoJack Horseman is worth checking out.