***SPOILER FREE*** Season 5 of ‘Bojack Horseman’ lands on Netflix today and as with previous seasons, engages with contemporary issues and big life questions through two distinct, alternating means – dark, lifelike storylines, and very funny, madcap gags.
In this latest attempt to rejuvenate his career, Bojack (Will Arnett) is headlining a new web series about a police detective called ‘Philbert’, a character Bojack relates to a lot. He is frustrated by the director (played brilliantly by Rami Malek) and comes to date his co-star, Gina (Stephanie Beatriz). Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), meanwhile, is trying to adopt (we also learn more of her family background and a miscarriage she had), and Todd (Aaron Paul) is still figuring out his asexual identity. Diane (Alison Brie) and Mr Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) are going through through a divorce which provokes Diane to go on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to reconnect with her Vietnamese roots.
With its twelve episodes of 25 minutes each, the fifth season of ‘Bojack Horseman’ is easy to fly through. One has to actually force themselves to slow down to appreciate the content; but you are also compelled to know what happens next. Highlights of this season include a couple of experimental episodes (one will recall the underwater venture of season 3), which we won’t detail to avoid spoilers. Suffice to say the writing and casting in both is genius while Arnett’s command of one of these episodes demonstrates his incredible talent as a voice actor (as fans likely know, he also voices Batman in the ‘Lego Movie’ franchise, and does a fantastic job at that as well).
Compared to other seasons, this one is an improvement on season 4 though not quite up at the standard of seasons 2 and 3. Still, it is outstanding television. ‘Bojack Horseman’ shows rather than tells and is heavily metaphorical. This season includes a pointed commentary about MeToo and, in a daring move, deep dives on the topic of gender in the industry and the way feminism can be exploited. Another major topic tackled in the series via innovative means is substance abuse.
This season of ‘Bojack’ saves its emotional kicks for the penultimate episodes, rather than scattering them throughout as has been done before. The show is now less about the disappointments of life and more about resilience. It is a theme that connects Diane’s, Princess Carolyn’s and Todd’s storylines in particular. Mr Peanutbutter and Bojack’s fates seem more ambiguous. Bojack would probably never want to be compared to his former TV rival, but they do share in common an insecure sense of selves (there is also a flashback episode showing Mr’s past, a rare occurrence which is more than welcome).
Bojack’s psychological makeup as a character continues to fascinate as viewers try to figure out what he’s thinking, what he’s doing, and what the future holds in store for him. The things he has done across the seasons are horrific, but because they are put into context, as we see what led to them and what followed, he continually wins the audience over. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly challenging to sympathise with him, and this season, when he may have gone too far for reconciliation, he gets a ‘Get out of jail free’ card thanks to a friend rather than his own actions.
‘Bojack Horseman’ is a reflection of life and how we ceaselessly move onto the next thing. However, when one doesn’t face up to and confront their past head on, old habits and past decisions come back to haunt the characters. Deeply profound, thought-provoking and moving, the series is unmissable.