Bojack Horseman — animated icon, troubled actor, enigmatic anti-hero. A cartoon horse voiced by Will Arnett was nobody’s first choice as television’s successor to complicated character studies like Don Draper and Tony Soprano, but over six seasons, Bojack has fit the bill. Constantly searching for something that will salve the gaping wound left by childhood trauma and a myriad of personal and professional shortcomings, the titular star of the animated Netflix series “BoJack Horseman” has spent his life trying to, in his words, “press that little button in your head that says ‘OK, you’re happy now.’” While the first part of the final season — which dropped in October on the streaming service — suggested Bojack would find a way to put his past behind him, the second batch of final episodes, made available Friday, makes it clear that the past will always be close behind him.
Because BoJack has created so many problems for those around him throughout his life, grappling with his issues must go beyond merely fixing himself. There are always other shoes left to drop, and throughout the show’s final eight episodes, they drop in abundance. Exemplifying this is an interview BoJack does midway through the season, wherein his long-running pattern of self-serving behavior, specifically as it relates to women, is laid bare. While BoJack’s public persona throughout the series has been that of an unhinged celebrity, this interview coalesces all of his selfish and harmful actions into a powerful narrative, turning public opinion squarely against him and sending BoJack spiraling once again.
While BoJack is obviously the focal point of the series’s stretch run, the ensemble gets plenty of time to shine as well. Particularly notable is the tale of Diane Nguyen, voiced by Alison Brie, the writer who came into BoJack’s life in season one and has been his life raft over and over again. Her story focuses on her relationship with her new boyfriend and her struggle overcoming depression — learning to trust her happiness even if it feels insincere because she’s been sad for so long. Her friendship with BoJack is the series’s heartbeat, and the final conversation they share is perhaps the most profound of the entire season, reflecting on relationships and the impact they leave on those involved.
As always, the visuals in “BoJack Horseman” are understated when they need to be and at times dazzlingly inventive. In “Good Damage,” the half-season’s showcase for Diane, the animation team does a brilliant job giving life to the demons and half-baked thoughts that torment her while she tries to write her book of essays. Messy, hand-drawn figures swirl around her as she tries to create a coherent statement about her life, perfectly illustrating the mindset of a person who doesn’t trust herself enough to follow her idea for a fiction series of a girl detective because it didn’t come from a place of misery. Similarly, the penultimate episode of the season finds BoJack in a dream state, allowing the animators to flex their muscles with a shadowy, surreal atmosphere characterized by ever-encroaching darkness. While many are quick to point out “BoJack”’s philosophical themes as the series’s hallmark, the show wouldn’t be the same without its compelling animation.
Nevertheless, those philosophical themes are worth discussing. The characters in “BoJack Horseman” are always, always searching for something, yet the series’s nihilistic tone suggests that searching is meaningless — true happiness comes only when the searching stops, and a person allows themselves to truly enjoy the moment. Without giving too much away, the series’s final moment seems to reinforce this idea, allowing BoJack to find a tenuous happiness by letting himself live in the present. Even if just for a moment, he’s released himself from the struggle of trying to press that happiness button — and paradoxically, he’s pressed it anyway.