New season of “BoJack Horseman” delivers

Collin Schopp

naissance lately. “Rick and Morty” has a highly anticipated fourth season coming out in a month, “South Park” is enjoying the acclaim of a serialized format and the controversy of giving China the middle finger and “BoJack Horseman” is taking its last victory lap on Netflix before heading back to the stables in the form of a series finale.

This review contains spoilers for the first five seasons of “BoJack Horseman.” After six years, creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s tale of a famous horse and his struggle with existential dread is nearing what’s sure to be a bittersweet end. The final season started by releasing the first eight episodes last Friday, with the other half coming at the end of January.

The first eight episodes set up a compelling set of dominoes to be knocked over in a few months, and they dive delightfully deeper into the personal lives of the characters the audience has become so familiar with over the past seasons. Will Arnett’s endlessly cynical BoJack finally begins to show more agency and self-control as he goes through the process of rehab, including facing possible responsibility for the people he’s hurt.

Meanwhile, Todd, played lovable and dopey as always by Aaron Paul, finds purpose as a nanny and navigates the choppy waters of his relationship with his adopted father. Alison Brie’s Diane also finds herself in a prickly relationship, as she works through distance and time issues with bison cameraman, Guy, played by Lakeith Stanfield.

Of course, Princess Caroline and Mr. Peanut Butter can’t be forgotten, as Amy Sedaris’ feisty feline faces motherhood and Paul F. Tompkins’ eternally optimistic yellow lab watches his rushed engagement unavoidably and hilariously fall apart.

It’s incredible that the show can squeeze so much conflict into eight half-hour episodes, and it does make the viewer wonder what development is coming down the road.

The mess of relationships described above doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, as many side characters return for their own stories. There’s no sacrifice to writing in all these storylines ever, as dialogue remains thoughtful when needed and goofy when not.

In fact, it’s worth noting that whole episodes of the show bearing his name feature very little of the titular “horse man” at all. This is a testament to the series’ writing, as even characters that seemed left behind multiple seasons ago appear with strong and compelling plotlines of their own.

The relationships are just one aspect of the “BoJack” formula; the show also repeatedly and decisively delves into social critique. The eight episodes cover a  scattershot of social issues, including mega-conglomerates scooping up small business, the classism of “Hollywood” employment and the commodification of mental health issues for multi-million dollar speaking engagements.

No show so directly tied to Hollywood relentlessly critiques the industry quite as often as “BoJack.” In most cases, these seem insightful, though in a few, such as the aforementioned mega-conglomerate storyline, the critique feels a bit broad and flat.

A final thing that this season does extremely well is creative presentation.

In a market swamped with grotesque animation styles — trying not to look at you, “Big Mouth” — “BoJack Horseman” is simply nice to look at. The backgrounds are colorful and vibrant and the anthropomorphizing of animal characters is creative without being distracting. This season includes a walking, talking sea cucumber.

Additionally, episodes try different formats for presenting the story. One episode makes clever use of a social media interface, while another impressive sequence features a cluttered and confusing group phone call. Whatever the case, the animators find new ways to tell the already unique stories.

By the end of the eight episodes, interest is stirred again in child actress Sarah Lynn’s death, a death the audience knows BoJack is directly related to. This is just one of the many set-ups that promise to pay off when the show returns next year, and I think audiences will be on the edge of their seats until then.

Season six, part one of “BoJack Horseman” is a colorful and complex ride, with fun characters, creative presentation, and a solid sense of humor that drives even the most tragic moments, however, some of its social critique comes off a bit ham-fisted and broad. For these reasons, I give this quality half-season of television 4 out of 5 Observe-bears.