REVIEW: ‘Bojack Horseman' season six is not Horsin' Around

Official poster for 'Bojack Horseman' season six part one.

Season six of “Bojack Horseman” manages to have some of the most hopeful moments in the show’s history, while simultaneously being as raw and bleak as the show has ever been — and it’s amazing.

The final season starts pretty much exactly where season five ended: Bojack, voiced by Will Arnett, is checking into therapy, and predictably having a tough time opening up. He treats it like something he’s mandated to do by court order: he doesn’t interact, share or open up to anyone there. By the end of the episode, Bojack is actually making more of an effort to be a better person than the viewer has ever seen before. It’s a refreshing change from the version of Bojack we see the most — the jaded jerk who so fiercely refuses growth that he’s willing to self-destruct to avoid it.

The first half of the season — the second half will not be released until Jan. 31, 2020 — is about guilt, the characters taking responsibility for their actions and the long-term effects of ignoring those responsibilities.

Before starting the season, I was worried about how the series was going to wrap up the main cast’s character arcs. For some characters, like Bojack and Diane, voiced by Allison Brie, it felt impossible for them to get out of their own ways and find happiness. It felt as if the idea of them being happy in the end would be cheap and unearned. 

Being happy can be hard work. For Bojack and Diane, there have been five seasons of raw discomfort and fleeting moments of joy — and not a single healthy relationship (with either themselves or others). 

This series is also deeply uncomfortable because it’s often so emotionally raw. This season shows that change is hard, it’s something you’re going to have to work constantly to maintain and improve upon, and sometimes the change someone thinks they want is packed with unforeseen complications.

To wrap all that up neatly in a bow would be cheap, and a cheapening of the work the writers, directors and actors already put into those characters. Thankfully, that’s not what we get. The entire season is Bojack learning how to live better and how to work to be happy. At some points, it even seems like he might find some real happiness. 

“I wasted so many years being miserable because I assumed that was the only way to be. But I don’t want to be that way anymore,” Bojack said in the trailer for season six. 

That line is a huge part of the crux of this season. The other half is that the mistakes you make and the people you have hurt do not just magically disappear because you might have gotten better. Sure, some people will forgive you for wronging them, but others might still see your actions as unforgivable, even if you’re better now and truly sorry.

Bojack’s growth in this season actually made Diane’s story beats more frustrating to watch for me. In a lot of ways, Bojack and Diane have been the same character throughout the series — both of them have been intensely terrible, broken people, and the biggest difference was that Bojack forced his problems onto others while Diane self-destructed and sabotaged herself instead. This season is about Bojack getting help and growing, but it took most of the season for Diane to even to begin working on herself. 

Despite all of the raw human emotion this season puts out, the show’s typical over-the-top ridiculousness is still there, mostly thanks to Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter’s goofy lines.

“I’ve grown too dependent on you! I can’t perform basic Todd functions anymore,” Todd yells to his staff of 12  assistants. “I’m like a toddler, but a Todd version. A Toddler!”

The rest of the main cast like Princess Carolyn, Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter — voiced by Amy Sedaris, Aaron Paul and Paul F. Tompkins, respectively — all have smaller roles in this season. While all of their arcs were entertaining, most of their on-screen growth felt like beats from previous seasons that weren’t resolved — outside of Princess Carolyn. 

Hopefully, the show wraps up all of its storylines (especially Bojack and Diane’s) in a satisfactory package come Jan. 31. Even without that, the plot beats in season six of “Bojack Horseman” are as strong as they’ve ever been. At the end of episode 7, I even felt hope for nearly every character, which is a rare feat inside the world of “Bojack Horseman.”

Everything viewers have come to expect from “Bojack Horseman” is present in the first part of season six — even a dramatic cliffhanger that threatens all the progress the characters have made so far this season. It may not be a completely finished product, but these eight episodes are some of the strongest in the series’ run.

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