‘BoJack Horseman’ interweaves past with present for poignant season four

bojack

It’s been a year since BoJack left his Hollywoo life behind and, subsequently, left us to wonder how the show would follow the genius of season three, which pushed our favorite antihero to a new devastating brink with his costar’s overdose. But season four does the seemingly impossible – by intertwining the past with present, BoJack Horseman produces its most searing season to date.

When we last saw BoJack, he was fleeing Hollywoo in search of…something. Happiness. Acceptance. The ability to feel good about himself, perhaps. His search leads him to The Old Sugarman Place, which belonged to his grandfather and where he and his mother both spent their childhood summers. He fixes up the rundown house as flashbacks of a particularly life-changing summer during his mother’s childhood play, often interweaved with the present day as ghostly images. This is the first demonstration of this season’s peculiar relationship with time – the season covers the longest time span of any other, leaving each character drastically changed by its end.

BoJack meets Hollyhock, a teenage girl who pulls him back to reality and out of his self-deprecating cycle of needing help, looking for help and rejecting help. He’s still haunted by his part in Sarah Lynn’s death and the harm he caused Penny and Charlotte, but Hollyhock gives him a reason to be responsible, to be present, to simply be. It’s not the first time BoJack has shown promise, but it is the most hopeful I’ve been that he will, somehow, eventually, one day get better.

And since BoJack Horseman isn’t just about the titular horse, each member of the gang goes through their own hardships. Season four picks up in the midst of Mr. Peanutbutter’s campaign for governor, which puts a strain on his marriage to a less-than-thrilled Diane. Todd is coming to terms with his sexual identity and meets with other asexuals. Princess Carolyn is still trying to have it all – career, relationship, family. BoJack’s mother Beatrice, a scathing secondary character despised by fans since season one, is the most present (er, physically, at least) she has ever been, much to his chagrin.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 2.14.59 PM

It is Beatrice, of all people, who is the most devastating character of the new season. Through the show’s manipulation of time, we learn how she became so coldhearted and cruel toward BoJack. Episode 11, “Time’s Arrow,” is dedicated solely to Beatrice as we jump between scenes of her childhood, adolescence and marriage to BoJack’s father Butterscotch and is one of the most poignant episodes of the series – I’d equate it to season one’s “Downer Ending.”

But in true BoJack fashion, there is still the “loosely related wacky misadventures.” In episode seven, “The Underground”, the main characters (plus Jessica Biel) become trapped underground for days after a fracking accident and must build a new society in order to govern and survive their underground world. It’s reminiscent of season three’s “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” (a personal favorite of mine) and season two’s “Chickens.” Todd is still finding new ventures to pursue, this time in a terrifying dentist/clown mash-up business that goes terribly awry.

In season four, BoJack Horseman challenged itself. Its ambition and gusto have solidified it as one of the best seasons of 2017 TV and leaves us all waiting impatiently for season five – when this damn horse cartoon will make us cry yet again.

The wit and wisdom of “BoJack Horseman”

Imagine the typical ’90s family sitcom: a lovable, sweater-wearing single father of three adorable children, who teaches those children important values like family, loyalty and honesty.

Now imagine that, after nine seasons of being the hottest show of the decade, the sitcom is canceled, the child stars become forgotten drug addicts and the amiable father character never gets another big role.

This is the story of BoJack Horseman.

BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett) is the washed-up, has-been star of the ’90s hit “Horsin’ Around.” He lives in a “Hollywoo” mansion and does nothing but sit around, get drunk and watch episodes of his old show again and again with Todd (Aaron Paul), a slacker who lives on BoJack’s couch.

Oh, and BoJack Horseman is also a literal horse-man.

Netflix’s newest animated original show, “BoJack Horseman,” puts humans and anthropomorphic animals side-by-side — Penguin Books is run by actual penguins, Navy SEALs are actual seals, and there’s BoJack’s feline agent and on-again-off-again girlfriend, Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), whose office’s hold music is a song from the Broadway musical “Cats.”

BoJack wants to make a comeback to social relevancy by writing a tell-all memoir. The only problem is, he is awful at writing (and, really, responsibility in general). Frustrated, the penguin publishers hire a ghostwriter, Diane (Alison Brie), to whom he dictates his life.

The jokes of “BoJack Horseman” come at you fast, much like Arnett’s previous comedy “Arrested Development.” Whether it’s spoofing Beyoncé lyrics, making fun of broadcast journalism (MSNBSea, in place of MSNBC, complete with a whale as an anchor) or one of the many, many animal puns, you’ll miss a joke or two or five if you blink. Each time you watch, you’ll catch a gag that slipped past you before. There’s even a Buzzfeed article “136 Hidden Jokes You Probably Missed On ‘BoJack Horseman.’”

But be warned. While astonishingly clever and smart, “BoJack Horseman” is also unabashedly crude. There are jokes about Afghanistan, the World Trade Center attacks and the Holocaust. There’s a pop song called “Prickly Muffin,” and a former child star who is heavily addicted to drugs. One episode is titled “BoJack Hates the Troops.” In another episode, BoJack tells someone “Get cancer, jerkwad,” and — spoiler alert — he eventually does.

Watch at your own risk.

But underneath the banter and cringe-worthy jokes, there is a darkness to BoJack. He is sad, self-loathing and terrified of being alone. Despite the tough, uncaring façade he has built for himself, BoJack isn’t the jerk he first seems to be. He’s relatable.

BoJack is lonely. He falls in love with the girlfriend of his lifelong frenemy, Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), an obnoxious golden retriever of below-average intelligence. He is dissatisfied with his life, and wishes he had chosen a different path without “Horsin’ Around.” His parents abused him, and his childhood hero, Secretariat, committed suicide. In a column, Vulture named “BoJack Horseman” the “funniest show about depression ever.”

As the season develops, the laughs don’t stop, but the underlying ideas and concepts become heavier. BoJack, who is notorious for his public social missteps and substance abuse, finds himself asking: “Am I a good person?”

It’s not only BoJack who is facing hardships. His ghostwriter Diane worries she isn’t making a difference with her work. His agent Princess Carolyn realizes the only thing she has in her life is her job. His TV daughter Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal) struggles to come to terms that her time in the spotlight has ended as she’s gotten older.

I watched the entire first season of “BoJack Horseman” in one afternoon. Since that day, I’ve sporadically watched episodes two or three more times. On some level, I think we can all relate to the show. Maybe not the whole “I’m not socially relevant anymore so I’m going to turn to hard drugs,” or the “My life is ruined because my hit TV show was canceled,” aspect, but the longing for connections with other people, wanting to be a “good” person and having the fear that your life is passing you by and you’re not doing the things you want.

As Diane says on the season finale, “That’s the problem with life. Either you know what you want, and you don’t get what you want; or you get what you want, and then you don’t know what you want.”

It’s not just another stupid animated comedy.

Read it on the MOVE website here.

Winter break woes

In the weeks leading up to the end of the semester, I only had one thing on my mind: winter break. Five blissful weeks of no classes, no homework, no studying, no readings, no tests to worry about. Five weeks of doing nothing, binge-watching Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black on Netflix, hanging out with old high school friends, going to see future Oscar-noms at AMC, and eating at all the places I’ve missed while in CoMo, like Costa Vida and Roxberry and Johnny Ray’s. Five weeks of heaven was right around the corner. And after surviving my first semester of college and making the Dean’s List, it was a much needed break.

And I enjoyed every minute of it…for about a week.

In my time away from school, I have fallen into a daily routine: wake up, eat cereal, watch Netflix all day, hang out with my parents when they get home from work, watch more TV, read for fun, go to bed. Wake up, repeat. Sometimes hang out with friends in the evenings. Sometimes drag someone to see Wolf of Wall Street or Dallas Buyers Club or Anchorman 2 with me.

In reality, my life is one big vortex of suckiness and boredom.

I’m suffering from an intense case of Cabin Fever, and I’m homesick for Hatch. I went from being down the hall from friends 24 hours a day to being home alone all day every day with only my 16 year-old sister with Downs Syndrome for company, and she isn’t much of a conversationalist. Most days I’ll go eight or nine hours without even speaking to another person.

I miss my CoMo friends, I miss having the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want, I miss being able to do things spontaneously, I miss everything being within walking range. I miss the school I was so ready to take a break from.

I’m going stir crazy. I’m pretty sure I’m getting carpal tunnel from Facebook stalking and playing an ungodly amount of Tetris. I’ve started taking naps out of boredom. My family is driving me crazy. My mom is already crying over me going back to college (which, remember, is still two weeks away) and keeps saying things like “I miss you, baby,” and “Don’t leave me,” and “Summer will be here before we know it.”

It’s not that I hate it at home, because I don’t. I just really love my school and all the friends I have made there. I’ve been so lucky to have met each and every one of them. I think the main reason I’m so ready to return to Columbia is because the meager 12 days between Thanksgiving break and winter break were arguably the best 12 consecutive days of the semester. And after weeks of looking forward to spending five weeks at home, I found myself unwillingly packing my things after my last final. I didn’t want to leave.

Now my friends from home have already begun to return to their colleges, and I’m still here for two more weeks. It doesn’t matter how much I love movies and television, I don’t think I can survive two more weeks of Netflix binging.

Somebody please save me.