Last year Netflix released the debut season of its original animated series BoJack Horseman. The series stars Will Arnett as the titular character; a washed-up 90s TV star struggling against his personal demons and trying to find meaning in his life. The star-studded supporting cast is lead up by Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) as his love interest/biographer Diane Nguyen and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) as his loveable loser roommate/couch surfer Todd Chavez (I had to go to IMDB to get Todd’s last name too, don’t worry).
The series captured audiences with its absurdist animation style in the vein of Ugly Americans and dark humor that tackled serious issues and created well-rounded, three-dimensional characters that struck a chord of reality and sometimes made one forget they were watching anthropomorphic animals. The dark depths of the show are balanced out by silly physical jokes that played on the animal-ness of its characters (Mr. Peanutbutter the dog freaking out when someone knocks on his door) or goofy wordplay (Neall McBeal the Navy Seal—a literal seal sailor) that would have one laughing before they knew what was happening. Sometimes the show combined the two in heartwrenching ways; such as in Season 2 when Mr. Peanutbutter (now Diane Nguyen’s husband), in listing examples of how much he loves her, confesses that how excited he gets when he hears her car roll into the driveway. BoJack Horseman often finds a way to make one laugh with a tear in their eye and a knot in their stomach.
Some spoilers to follow:
Season 2 picks up with BoJack trying to turn his life around and preparing to play his hero, Secretariat (Jon Krazinski), in a biopic. He’s listening to motivational tapes (George Takei); he’s changed his furniture; he’s started jogging; he’s starting using motivational lingo and generally being the kind of unbearable douche who, well, listens to motivational tapes and speaks in motivational tape lingo. It turns out that this version of him is somehow even worse than the needy, manically depressed narcissist he was in the first season.
In his first scene filming in the Secretariat movie, it turns out that all of his positivity has rendered him incapable of expressing any genuine emotion. He’s unable to even deliver the line, “What are you doing here,” without it coming off like the punchline of his 90s sitcom, Horsin’ Around.
Eventually—through some great darkly comedic antics involving autoerotic asphyxiation—he comes back around to his old self, albeit a little more tolerable version than where we left him at the end of Season 1. Part of the reason he is able to stay somewhat upbeat is that he has a new girlfriend, an owl named Wanda Pierce (Lisa Kudrow, because seriously you guys, this show has everyone) who just woke up from a 30-year coma. The main reason that BoJack falls for Wanda is that, since she was in a coma for 30 years, she has no idea who BoJack Horseman—star of Horsin’ Around—is, and he has run into trouble with women who only want to sleep with him as a TV star.
Of course, every time someone makes a reference to something from the 90s or 2000s, Wanda says, “Who?” (because she’s an owl, you see). This is another great example of BoJack Horseman employing a fun, easy joke and then getting rid of it before it gets grating (this joke is only used in the first couple minute of us meeting Wanda).
BoJack and Wanda navigate a normal-ish relationship, which is interesting because the only real relationship we saw BoJack pursue in the first season was with his biographer who ended up marrying his rival, Mr. Peanutbutter.
Speaking of which, Mr. Peanutbutter was fairly one-dimensional in the first season. This made sense as he seems to represent the successful, easygoing, happy-go-lucky persona that people with severe insecurities (i.e. everyone) tend to attribute to those who seem more well-adjusted. In Season 2 however, Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane begin to experience some relationship issues and really have to do some soul-searching. This leads Diane into a downward spiral that culminates in her binge-drinking and crashing at BoJack’s house, which puts further pressure on his and Wanda’s relationship.
Eventually, BoJack flees L.A. to go see his former girlfriend, Charlotte (Olivia Wilde), in New Mexico. Upon finding out she has a family, he makes up a story about coming to New Mexico for a boat show and, to back that up, ends up buying a yacht which he awesomely names Escape from L.A. and stays with them—living on the boat in their driveway—for several months. Eventually, BoJack pulls a BoJack and wrecks his situation in a horrific manner.
However, much like the first season, BoJack manages to gain a modicum of happiness and seems to actually learn and grow a bit. Season 2 manages to end on a little more of an positive note, with BoJack receiving some good advice that highlights how canned and false the advice he received from the self-help tapes at the beginning of the season.
The biggest flaw with this season is a clearly shoehorned side story where Todd gets wrapped up in an improv comedy cult that’s totally not Scientology (but totally is). A) It’s clear that the writers just didn’t know what to do with Todd while BoJack was on his soul-searching journey to New Mexico and B) Really? Scientology? That horse has been beaten to death and beyond. Certainly Scientology deserves the licks it takes but, as far as comedy or any real insight goes, BoJack Horseman has nothing new to add to the discussion.
Forgoing that flaw, the first season of BoJack Horseman broke new ground on what kinds of topics (and the gravity with which they are discussed) can be covered in an absurdist animated comedy starring anthropomorphic animals. Season 2 builds on the foundation of Season 1 and adds depth and scope to the characters fans of the show have come to know and love. Ultimately, I believe this newest season is better than the first, and I can’t wait to have my laugh sack tickled and heart meat squeezed by the next season. BoJack Horseman has a lot more to offer.
Who is your favorite character in Season 2?