Netflix can be a bit overwhelming at times. There is such a tremendous amount of content to cycle through that it’s no surprise that people keep watching things like The Office instead of drowning in the current of content. If you’re like me, you’ve spent entire nights trying to figure out what to watch only for an hour and a half to slip by and still no choice has been made. Of course, now it’s too late to start something new and you’re frustrated so you just put on something familiar and pay more attention to your phone then the show. Netflix has a show for just about everyone. You like teenage witches with teen angst? Netflix has a show for you. You want to watch a documentary about an NFL tight end who turned into a murderer? Netflix has a show for you. Failed music festival? Netflix has a show for you. Charming, serial killer who does a charming yet creepy voice overs? Netflix has a show for you. Monsters? Netflix. Weirdos? Netflix. People growing old together? Netflix. Vampires? Netflix.
You get the point.
What’s funny is that with all this content through all these original shows, documentaries, and movies the one thing that stands above all the rest involves an animated horse.
We are two short weeks away from the conclusion of BoJack Horseman and I’m starting to believe that I’m not emotionally strong enough for these last eight episodes. Each season of BoJack Horseman has been a personal endurance test of how much emotional turmoil one can take before turning into a weeping heap on the floor. I wear seasons of BoJack Horseman on my soul. This isn’t an exaggeration. Some seasons, like season three, took me weeks to get over and others, like season five, might have seriously affected my psyche heading into a birthday. BoJack is not an easy character to watch which doesn’t mean he’s not interesting. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The problem is he’s a train wreck. A character who so desperately wants, needs, to be a good person that his pursuit spirals him deeper and deeper down these dark tangents when he fails. He’s a modern-day Greek tragedy in a lot of ways.
Television has long gravitated toward the idea of an antihero. The Tony Sopranos, the Vick Mackies, the Walter Whites all fit this mold of characters we root for even though we know better. Sure, we’ve turned on some of these characters because at some point their actions become too reprehensible to overlook. There’s only so many times you can poison a child or kill/betray a loved one before the audience turns on you. BoJack is no different and he’s right at home among these iconic characters. But there’s a difference. In the case of BoJack, he’s one hundred percent aware that the shitty things he’s doing are shitty. He just can’t help himself. He wants to but he’s incapable. It’s tragic. There have been a number of times where I’ve looked at BoJack and felt like I couldn’t go on. I want to believe that BoJack can be redeemed but he tries so hard to convince you that it’s an impossibility. Which puts so much strain on your relationship. When Todd looks at him and says “Bojack stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you! It’s not the alcohol, or the drugs, or any of the shitty things that happened in your career, or when you were a kid! It’s you! Alright?… what else is there to say” it not only is one of Aaron Paul’s most emotionally charged, poignant monologues but perfectly captures our relationship with BoJack. Because it’s all true.
Until the first half of this final season that is. For the first time, I believed that maybe BoJack could be redeemed. That maybe he was coming to terms with who he is and what he’s done. These first eight episodes had a serious turn for BoJack. There was accountability. There was this willingness to move forward and as a viewer, I felt that I could move forward with him. That all these terrible things that have happened over the course of these previous five seasons could finally be put to rest. All the mistakes. The guilt. The manipulations. The using. The abuse. The ruined friendships. The ruined relationships. The death. Maybe there could be a silver lining to all of this. This was a different feeling to any other season of BoJack Horseman… hope. I bought in and I believed.
And then the mid-season finale happened and it all came crashing down.
BoJack may have found peace and acceptance but “A Quick One, While He’s Away” asks the more important question- does BoJack Horseman deserve to be redeemed. After a feel-good season we are reminded of almost every terrible thing BoJack has done throughout this series run. We see the ripple effects of the lives he’s touched and it made me think of a line from the series finale of The Shield. “This is what the hero left on his way out the door.” This quickly becomes an episode that somehow comes at the best and worst possible times.
Unlike Walter White, I was willing to try and forgive BoJack. He’s tortured. His bad choices can be malleolus but they don’t come without guilt or remorse. But when you watch “A Quick One, While He’s Away” and everything is brought to the forefront like that… it’s hard to believe that redemption is possible. It’s hard to believe that you even like this character. I’m not sure if I like BoJack Horseman but I do feel for him and perhaps that’s the bigger message here. You don’t have to like a character for them to have an emotional impact on you. That even the crappiest of people can resonate in some form or another.
I think with BoJack though, we watch because we do care about this effed up horse. There have been moments in this series where I have felt incredibly uncomfortable. Everything that happened in New Mexico. The events on the Philbert set. Everything involving BoJack’s mother. There have been a number of moments where the emotional toll was just too high and I didn’t think I could continue watching yet I still clicked the next episode. I told Netflix I was still watching. I needed to keep watching and I was rewarded with episodes like “Free Churro”, “Fish Out of Water”, or the very ending of season three with the wild horses. These moments were heartbreaking but hopeful. I understand that BoJack is a monster and so does he. This is how he’s different from Walter White. BoJack is a tortured, ruined, entitled soul and because of that, he’s done some terrible things in life. These final episodes will make him accountable for all of it if “A Quick One, While He’s Away” is to be believed. And it’s here where we’ll fully understand the depth of BoJack Horseman. Sometimes you have to face the choir and a character who has so desperately seeks to be a good person will be given the opportunity to face his demons head-on. To maybe change, learn, and grow.
I want to believe that the underlining message of this series is hope. That you can’t change the past but you can let it shape you in a more positive light. I know that there are going to be in tears. I know that I will wear these episodes for days to follow. That’s part of the perverse beauty of BoJack Horseman. But with all the Stranger Things, Orange Is the New Blacks, and The Crowns, it’s Netflix’s animated program about a damaged horse that shines the brightest. By the end, we may still wonder if BoJack is a good person but there is no question that he’s been a tremendous television experience. One for the ages. One with all the feels.