‘BoJack Horseman’ season two review
By Alex Stanton, Staff Writer
Most of what makes BoJack Horseman such a brilliant show comes from its strict adherence to continuity. It goes without saying that watching the episodes out of order will make for a messy viewing experience. Anyone who hasn’t watched the debut season shouldn’t even attempt season two.
Slight spoilers may follow!
From start to finish, the show itself—its second season in particular—earns itself a place in the pantheon of animation. It can be considered the first animated comedy-drama, a skewering satire of Hollywood show business as it is in the 2010s so hilariously dark that no light can escape it.
Simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, BoJack Horseman represents a serious upgrade in the realm of adult animation, comparable to the creation of the genre in the 1970s with Ralph Bakshi’s Fritz the Cat and the late-’90s pop culture supernova South Park.
Back in the ’90s, BoJack Horseman (flawlessly voiced by Will Arnett) was on a famous TV show called Horsin’ Around, a sitcom starring BoJack as the titular horse who ends up the sole caregiver to three little orphans. As is the fate of most television programs though, eventually Horsin’ Around was cancelled.
BoJack Horseman picks up 20 years later and follows a depressed, over-the-hill BoJack. He putters along, reluctantly surrounded by roommate and de facto human best friend Todd Chavez (Breaking Bad co-starAaron Paul in his voice acting debut), feline talent agent Princess Caroline (Amy Sedaris), ghostwriter Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), and BoJack’s frenemy/fellow ’90s sitcom star Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins)—a yellow lab who’s high-energy to the point of annoyance, but downright impossible to dislike.
BoJack Horseman derives a good chunk of its humour from the pun-like, stereotypical behaviour of the anthropomorphic animals that co-exist with humans in BoJack’s world. Considering they’re merely short puns, they surprisingly always manage to at least make me crack a smile.
That’s not to say the show is only cheap gags. The wit and overall sophistication of the humour makes the output of Seth MacFarlane seem more like Max & Ruby in comparison. Very rarely do jokes miss the mark in this show, bringing you the brightest and darkest moments of BoJack’s life in the same two-minute period.
Like the first season, BoJack Horseman is incredibly topical. One episode explores the Bill Cosby allegations through an aged comedian, idolized by both BoJack and Mr. Peanutbutter, who is accused of a serious crime by multiple women. In what I consider to be an incredibly smart move, the nature of the crimes is left entirely ambiguous.
It’s a good thing the humour hits the mark because when the show gets dark, it gets really dark. BoJack starts the second season in a slightly better place than where he was at the end of the first season, with filming on his comeback vehicle—a biopic of famous racehorse Secretariat—well underway, his dream seemingly achieved. But BoJack, self-centred as he is, ends up wrecking perfectly normal situations and perfectly good relationships with the kind of people he needs in his life, consistently burning the kind of bridges that can lead him out of his fog of depression and the self-loathing that comes with it.
This deep exploration of poor, unsympathetic BoJack and his flawed character make for some heart-wrenching drama. The season one episodes “Downer Ending” and “The Telescope,” two of the most tear-jerking episodes ever animated, pale in comparison to certain moments in the last half of season two.
Something that puts season two above its predecessor is the huge number of guest stars who contribute their voices. Stanley Tucci, J.K. Simmons, and Olivia Wilde all return in recurring roles, voicing characters crucial to the plot of season two. Ed Helms, Ricky Gervais, and Amy Schumer have one-episode roles, and many celebrities such as Daniel Radcliffe, Paul McCartney, and character-actress Margo Martindale guest star as themselves.
Even the more obscure guest actors, among the most unexpected of them being Breaking Bad/Star Wars director Rian Johnson, put in their A-game. The most notable and praiseworthy guest star by far is Lisa Kudrow. The Friends alum does fantastic work as an owl named Wanda, BoJack’s equally flawed love interest for season two.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll stare at your screen transfixed, watching the slow-motion train wreck— punctuated by the occasional redeeming moment—that is the Kafkaesque life of BoJack Horseman. An incredibly realistic portrait of depression and Hollywood absurdity. No other cartoon has gone so far out of its way to make you care about these incredibly flawed, realistic characters.
At this time, Netflix has renewed BoJack Horseman for a third season that is set to air in 2016. The people have spoken and BoJack Horseman is animation at its absolute finest.