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BoJack Horseman Season 3 Recap: BJH Is The Ballsiest Show On TV



It’s a weird feeling to recommend BoJack Horseman to friends. “Trust me, you have to watch this show” is easy enough, but when people ask you to describe it, it comes off a little strange.


“So it’s like a comedy?”


“Well sort of. You laugh, but you also want to die and contemplate life’s purpose after.”


“So it’s a serious drama?”


“Kind of but the main character is a cartoon horse.”




It’s a bizarre show whose format in a lot of ways contradicts itself. The darkest show on TV this side of Mr. Robot, set in a sunny bizzaro world with talking animals. A show that parodies and sharply criticizes the numbing and corrosive effects of pop culture on our national consciousness, but is so loaded with references to that same pop culture that you’d have to be a huge fan of it to like and understand the show. TV about mainstream entertainment that is also highly artistic.


But after Season 3, a new title belt for BoJack Horseman is claimed. I think it can be safely said that in terms of the ability to take creative risks, go there on touchy subject matter and refuse to give any sort of emotional payoff to it’s own audience, BoJack Horseman has a bigger set of testicles than any show on TV right now.


For one thing, the show has the most unique storytelling devices I have ever seen. Some sort of unconventional use of flashbacks, flash forwards, drug-induced trips, episodes told through a series of conversations about a fucking newspaper subscription or any other play on traditional narratives isn’t a once in a season happening, but a common reoccurrence. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn’t. The mixture of introducing characters or referring to events without any context only to give it later can be a little confusing. The fourth episode of this season “Fish Out Of The Water”, done entirely silently was like Breaking Bad’s “Fly” episode in that I’ve changed my mind 1000 times if I enjoyed it or not. But whether or not the show creators hit the mark every time with these new ways of storytelling is almost besides the point, because it’s a byproduct of the huge amount of creative license they have to be innovative and daring. It’s like how you can’t get mad if Louis CK goes over the line with a joke in one of his routines or Brett Favre throws an interception trying to make a play of the pocket: You can’t cheer whenever it works then get upset when it doesn’t if taking risks is an inherent part of what makes the show successful.



And the content of the show itself is….woah boy. The episode that has gotten the most publicity is, understandably, the abortion-themed one. If there’s an Emmy for episodes of TV that make you go “Jeeeeeeeeeesus CHRIST” and give you a Steve Harvey reaction face, you’d have to make that one the leader in the clubhouse.

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But BoJack Horseman doesn’t stop there. While many shows will do some versions of a drug episode with a *wink wink* reference to marijuana AKA to “funny dope cigarettes” or MAYBE some vague but unnamed hallucinogenic, BoJack skips right past that to goddamn HEROIN NEUROSIS DREAMS. The show points out to the audience that BoJack nearly molested a young girl, something we either forgot about or shrugged off then proceeded to cheer him on anyway. There are moments where it truly seemed like the main character of the show would kill himself. A young girl died. They referenced how parents look the other way on child rape in Hollywood to advance careers. They keep going back to esteemed character actress Margot Martindale when the joke was beaten to death 18 months because now it has a “Crying Jordan Meme” type of irony to it. Not since South Park have I seen a show that is willing to tackle absolutely anything and everything, and it leads to moments of sheer brilliance.


But beyond all of the abortion jokes and holding a mirror to it’s own audience and creative storytelling devices, by far the ballsiest thing BSH does is that in a TV show, a format that usually promises if not demands neat, happy progression, they dare to adopt a central theme cynical enough to the point of nihilism. “Why can’t life be like Horsing Around? All of our problems settled neatly in 22 minutes,” asks Diane in the second to last episode of the season, summing up what the essence of BoJack Horseman. For a show that is a lampoon but also in a lot of ways a tribute to television and popular culture, the show mocks the very premise of 99% of television shows. Life’s problems aren’t solved in 22 minutes. People typically don’t radically change and grow for the better after rollicking adventures with the gang, where everyone ends up happy and safe afterwards. It’s fiction. It’s a comforting fiction, but it’s just not how it ever works. People for the most part are who they are, and BoJack Horseman reflects that reality.


Things never change for BoJack because the show isn’t about progressing and going further as much as it is about going deeper. While circumstances may shift around BoJack, going from rich to super rich, washed-up has-been to movie star, in and out of certain relationships, he as a person (person? horse?) never does. And nothing about those circumstances can make him happy, because at his core being a profoundly unhappy person it is part of who he is. And the person he is, as inclined as we are to like him because he’s the protagonist. we sympathize with his struggles and he’s funny and charming, is pretty fucking awful. Hearing him spell out everything he’s done at the AA meeting with Sarah Lynn made you realize the extent of what he’s done. He’s selfish. He destroys people. Depending on how you look at it, he might be a rapist. He’s poison who hurts everyone he meets, but is too lonely and selfish to push people away. For the central show of the theme being that shitty, unhappy people are basically shitty and unhappy, is well…it’s ballsy. There isn’t a whole lot of hope to BoJack Horseman. The very premise for the show’s existence, this sort of hamster wheel of misery, promises that things will only develop so much. The final scene of every BoJack Horseman season so far has been something to do with the theme of running and movement, and this one was no different with BoJack watching wild horses run free with all the carefree peace that he never has. For some shows, that would signal a possible change. But is there any reason things will ever change for BoJack? Is there any reason to believe he can find peace? And honestly, is there any reason he deserves to?


Follow me on Twitter @CharlieWisco