“Bojack Horseman” Season 5: As Dark and Hopeless as We’ve Learnt to Expect

Will Arnett and Aparna Nancherla in "BoJack Horseman"

By television standards, it is still up there but by Bojack Horseman standards, it could possibly be seen as more of the same. But then again, what else could we expect?

When it’s good, it’s very very good and when it’s bad, well, it’s still above average. Season 5 brings our favorite characters entirely new challenges that still revolve around their ever-present, inevitable circular character flaws.

One one hand, we see Princess Carolyn searching for a baby to adopt and we get to learn a little bit more about her backstory. Touching moments are of course interrupted by her ringing phone and the reminder that balancing her incredibly demanding career with her persistently declining personal life is likely impossible. Still, after Season 4’s constant delivery of tragic events thrown in Princess Carolyn’s direction, it’s refreshing to see her pursue her dreams of motherhood and reveal her softer, empathetic side again.

On the other hand, Dianne and Mr. Peanutbutter are separately coming to terms with their divorce. For Mr. Peanutbutter, throwing himself into a new relationship with a fun, young pooch is the simple solution for recovering from heartbreak. For Dianne, however, the heartbreak hits harder and she finds herself back in her first apartment and heading to Vietnam in a hopeless attempt to rediscover herself. Her story is remarkably believable, especially considering she is a cartoon woman mourning her relationship with a golden retriever. Her new ‘I’m over you and a new woman’ haircut was a brilliant touch too.

As for Bojack, if it wasn’t made clear in previous seasons, it’s become clearer than ever that Bojack is broken, seemingly beyond repair. His new show ‘Philbert’ explores a dark protagonist who bears so many resemblances to Bojack that his on-set apartment is almost identical to his real-life apartment. The clever meta-writing to highlight the ways Bojack as himself and Bojack as Philbert intertwine becomes increasingly dark as our antihero spirals further into addiction and psychosis.

Highlights of the season include its treatment of the #MeToo movement. It artfully takes the issue seriously through its exploration of toxic masculinity and the silenced female voice while also being darkly comical. Jokes are made at everyone’s expense but at the crux of the season finale and the ‘Bojack the Feminist’ episode is a highly nuanced social commentary which is both humorously satirical and dead earnest at once.

The season was perhaps not as firing as it could be on all available cylinders. The episode ‘Free Churro’, where Bojack delivers a mess of a eulogy at his late mother’s funeral is powerful but also drags on far too long. At times, it feels tiring watching Bojack make the same mistakes, over and over again but then again, perhaps it would feel like a betrayal if he grew as a horseman.

Overall, Season 5 succeeds in bringing new storylines and providing us with new character developments while also retaining the frustrating hopelessness of each narcissistic character. The show continues to remain true to itself, providing us with revitalizing satire alongside the odd pitifully brilliant animal gag.