bojack horseman season 5 review

BoJack Horseman returns for another brilliant season depicting the often tragic lives of several animated characters living in Hollywoo. Season 5 finds BoJack going to some very dark places while asking: is it too late for him to get better at this point? Our spoiler-free BoJack Horseman season 5 review continues below.

Can BoJack Horseman get better? And what if he “gets better” only to discover he’s still just an asshole? That’s one of the questions at the heart of BoJack Horseman season 5, which finds the animated series in top-form. If you’re looking for the most accurate portrayal of what it’s like to live with depression, look no further than this often silly comedy about a cartoon horse. For five seasons now, BoJack has turned misery into comedy, and vice versa. And it’s done so honestly, and believably. More often than not, shows don’t quite understand how to portray depression. Not BoJack – it’s all here: the self-loathing, the nagging voice in your head, the trauma, the absolute certainty that everyone is sick of you. That sounds pretty bleak. And it is. And yet, BoJack Horseman remains consistently hilarious. The series finds brilliant ways to equally balance its darkness and its humor.

Season 4 ended on an uncharacteristically upbeat note for BoJack. Our eponymous horse-man discovered he had a long-lost sister: Hollyhock, a teenager previously thought to be BoJack’s illegitimate daughter. The final image of season 4 is of BoJack smiling while on the phone with Hollyhock, leaving us to think that maybe, just maybe, things are going to be okay.

It doesn’t take long for season 5 to smash that assumption to smithereens. Because BoJack Horseman understands there’s not a cure-all for what plagues BoJack. And that’s why he’s back to his self-loathing when we catch up with him in season 5.

In the grand scheme of things, life is going well for BoJack. He’s starring in a new cop series called Philbert, and he’s falling into a relationship, of sorts, with his co-star – voiced by Stephanie Beatriz. And yet, the doubt and misery lingers. And so does the self-destruction through substance abuse.

That’s the main storyline running through this season, but BoJack shines brightest when it goes off into unexpected directions, and tries new things. One of the best episodes of previous seasons was virtually dialogue-free, as BoJack found himself under the sea. Season 5 takes some risks like that as well. One particular stand-out episode involves BoJack giving a eulogy. Aside from a quick flashback before the opening credits, the entire episode is devoted to BoJack standing before a crowd at a funeral home, talking. That’s it. There are no flashbacks or quick-cuts to what he’s talking about – we just watch him, talking. And it works – and works considerably well. It’s an episode that builds and builds, setting up incredibly dark and twisted jokes that pay off in the end. Will Arnett’s performance here deserves special attention, as this episode is literally a one-man-show for him.

bojack horseman season 5 trailer

Another standout episode involves Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie) traveling to Vietnam in the wake of her divorce from Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins). Diane uses the trip as an excuse to write a blog post as part of her job, but the post turns considerably dark as she continues to plug away at it. She hopes to connect with her roots, but finds that considerably difficult. She’s an outsider here just as much as at home. Oh, and she has a new haircut!

Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) continues to hope for a family, and a good portion of the season is devoted to her quest to adopt a baby. We also get a glimpse into her past. Is it dark and depressing? You know it is.

Like previous seasons, BoJack Horseman season 5 tackles topical issues. Last year had a brilliant (and soul-crushing) send-up of the debate surrounding gun control. This year confronts the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, with mixed results. During the course of the season, Todd (Aaron Paul) builds a sex robot (don’t ask), and that sex robot ends up becoming the CEO of a company. Needless to say, this is a powder-keg waiting to go off. The results are amusing, but lack the acerbic bite of last year’s gun control episode.

BoJack season 5 goes to some considerably dark places, and it takes things even further by underscoring the fact that we’re not supposed to like BoJack as a character. He’s not someone we should aspire to be. He is, in fact, a really shitty person. One of the season’s highlights involves a scenario in which Diane starts writing scripts for BoJack’s show Philbert. Diane ends up adding depth to the character – who is a lot like BoJack – and it backfires. Audiences end up loving Philbert and feeling sorry for him, much to Diane’s horror.

And that question keeps coming up, again and again: can BoJack get better? And what does getting better even mean? By season’s end, BoJack is headed in a new direction, but there’s a terrifying sense that nothing will work out in the end. That it’s all hopeless, and useless. But then again, that could be the depression talking. The important thing is to take the first step towards the possibility of something better, and then take the second step after that. And then keep going.

BoJack Horseman season 5 premieres September 14, 2018 on Netflix.

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