Bojack Horseman Season 3: First Impressions

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I promised myself I wouldn’t watch season 3 of Bojack Horseman until I had finished my exams. I also told myself I wouldn’t write about it. Yet here we are. Pour yourself a glass of whatever it is you drink.

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I don’t quite know where to start. I guess that’s how everyone feels in the wake of a Bojack season finale. Like so many of Bojack’s misadventures, the show too barrels through your life and disappears without a word. In the previous season, Bojack decided to make A Change in his life after apparently hitting rock bottom. But in season 3, Bojack has managed to find some spoons in his pocket and is trying to dig his way out of his life like a prisoner. That was a great metaphor and I’m standing by it.

The narrative of the season generally revolves around Bojack’s Oscar campaign – his newest fixation, aimed to distract him from his unshakeable depression. Although it is briefly touched on, Bojack doesn’t even seem mad that Secretariat has none of the heart that he and Kelsey Jannings worked so hard to create, or that he never actually acted in it. But we’ve always known that Bojack simply wants to justify his existence, and acting is his best shot at doing that. It seems like everyone in Hollywoo is dealing with this too. Dianne’s character edges closer to Bojack’s as she struggles to keep her marriage with Mr. Peanutbutter (one word) afloat. As per usual, Todd has his own wacky subplot that ends with Bojack betraying him. And Princess Caroline endeavours to keep her agency running, but begins to wonder, “What’s the point?”

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Bojack‘s third season is its strongest yet. My heart is heavy as I write this, so it feels strange to praise the show’s humour right now. But, I think the writing is more consistent and effective than ever. (I particularly enjoyed watching (cartoon) Jimmy Fallon get hit by a bus. I am forever in debt to the writers of Bojack for providing me with that imagery. It soothes my soul.) In the past, I have always found the cut away scenes to be intelligent, but this season I found them intelligent and actually funny.

The show’s trademark melancholic tone continues to emotionally batter me. You know, when Bojack first started, it felt like those serious moments were so poignant, that they came together by accident. As the show gets more bleak, or at least more comfortable with being ‘real’,  I can feel these monologues coming on. That’s not to say that they are poorly written, just that this is the kind of show that Bojack has turned into. Anyway, I commend the writing team for executing these scenes without making them convoluted, repetitive and just plain shit.

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The question that haunts Bojack is: should we be defined by the choices we make? Can Bojack still be considered a ‘good person’ if his self destructive tendencies lead him away from his morals?  Are good theoretical values worth anything if we don’t follow them? Should being self-destructive give us second chances and allow others to forgive us, so long as they can identify with us? After watching season 3, I would say that Bojack is teetering towards, “No.” And it’s right. You can’t continue to make excuses for people’s decisions just because you can relate to them as a person. Bojack communicates this well as it deals with the consequences of Bojack’s actions in season 2.

Everyone knows that success won’t make you happy. Bojack knows this too, and yet, when the show isn’t examining Bojack’s thoroughly shitty choices, it’s analysing why Bojack can’t find fulfillment in his triumphs. Beyond Bojack, we watch Princess Caroline beginning to realise that her entire life might actually be defined by her role in show business. Dianne also attempts to regain some stability in her life, without the crutch of a fulfilling job.

While I’m harping on about morals and fulfillment, it would be remiss of me to not consider the other question the show poses: are happy people inherently happy? Bojack has been pretty gung-ho with exploring the idea that Bojack is, simply, broken. But in season 3, this idea is also beginning to infect Dianne and Princess Caroline – the two people that understand Bojack best. This is because they see part of themselves in Bojack, and we are starting to see this side more and more. Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter aren’t happy all the time, but the show portrays them as two idiots who have managed to stumble upon happiness. In Bojack, happiness is a lock that only some of us have the key to.

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The highlight of the season was the fourth episode – ‘Fish Out of Water’. Bojack goes to a film festival in the Pacific Ocean – a hauntingly foreign place where everything looks normal but the language and culture is very different. It’s Lost in Translation meets Bojack Horseman.  There is nearly no dialogue in the episode and instead, relies on a nifty little soundtrack to tell the story. It’s beautiful, a little experimental for the show and in my opinion the best episode of the season.

Speaking of which, this season began to tweak with the episode formats. There is the aforementioned underwater episode, incredibly detailed and accurate flashbacks to 2007, but also an episode narrated by Bojack via a phone call with a suspiciously insightful LA Gazette employee and another episode with some of that quirky story-book style art that we first saw in season 2. We also see the show take on abortion and drug addiction in an explicit, if not a bit gendered and wh*rephobic, way. Some great cameos include Mara Wilson (i.e. the girl who played Matilda and has grown up to be awesome), Weird Al and Raúl Esparza (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies).

Bojack Horseman continues to grow, as the titular character seems to regress. Once again, the Netflix Original Series serves another great season examining the familiar themes of depression and the nature of happiness without beating a dead horse (ha ha).

Bojack Horseman: Season 3 (2016): 9/10

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