BoJack Horseman season 3 review
By Adam Tatelman, Arts Editor
That creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg was able to sell a series whose comedic through-line is the vapidity of show biz and celebrity culture is gleeful madness in itself, even disregarding his choice to pitch it as an animated comedy about a drunken, has-been TV star searching for acceptance, who also happens to be a horse. Show me anyone who foretold that particular hard sell would be not only a critical success but one of the most life-affirming shows on the air and I’ll show you one boldfaced liar, provided you have a mirror handy.
Having finally escaped obscurity by starring in a biopic about famous race horse Secretariat, BoJack (Will Arnett) is thrust into the arena of Hollywood’s award show media circus. Gunning for an Oscar with the help of Ana (Angela Bassett), his ruthless publicist-cum-kingmaker, BoJack seems to finally have the adoration he so desires. Yet his old, self-destructive habits lurk outside the spotlight, ready to part him from his fleeting success.
If the first season’s main theme was validation and the second’s was the desire to fix the past, this time it is the fear of success. BoJack’s friends all want him to succeed, but there’s an unspoken certainty that he’ll always be his own worst enemy. The question isn’t whether BoJack will sabotage himself, but how badly. His own awareness of this habit just makes the waiting game that much more excruciating.
If anyone ever doubted that BoJack Horseman is the blackest of comedies, season three takes that misconception behind the shed and puts both barrels into its skull. This show takes on everything from abortion and messed-up child stars to hardcore drugs and atrocious animal sight gags. The show knows that self-reflection can bring no change without action, and that in a world desperately trying to imitate the saccharine image of life offered by mainstream TV, horrendous outcomes can arise from good intent. But rather than wallow like its protagonist does, it chooses to laugh in the face of futility.
The absurdity of BoJack Horseman is its greatest charm. After all, this is a world where male seahorses can give birth on the seabus right before clocking in at the freshwater taffy factory. But all the rapid-fire sight gags in the world would be nothing if the show weren’t willing to eschew typical Family Guy-esque cutaway humor in favor of long comedic arcs that arise from the characters’ relationships and their immediacy to the plot.
The show is bleak, but never nihilistic; it merely refuses to wrap things up all neat and tidy like a good little sitcom. BoJack himself may or may not actually change for the better, but the possibility alone is enough to keep us watching. Ironically, this is best expressed in the fourth episode, “Under the Sea,” which riffs on BoJack’s inability to communicate honestly by telling the story without spoken dialogue. It’s a tour-de-force by the show’s animators, and it makes the season’s too-ambiguous ending seem out of place by comparison.
BoJack Horseman holds up a mirror to a generation that’s fallen on its face. We of the new millennium have tried desperately to find meaning in our existence by criticizing ourselves into oblivion, indulging every excess while taking joy in nothing, gorging ourselves on high-calorie pop-culture to try and fill a nameless void that no amount of sex, booze, and validation will ever be enough to make full. Like it or not, we are BoJack Horseman. Whether or not we can change comes down to what we do.