Please note that this article contains spoilers for Season 6, Part 2 of Bojack Horseman!!!!!
“Life’s a bitch and then you die, right?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes life’s a bitch and then you keep living.”
Few shows have addressed controversial topics with as much realism and grace as the Netflix Original Bojack Horseman. Substance abuse, depression, sexuality, and trauma; show creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg tackles these darkly saturated themes, all starkly contrasted against the whimsical backdrop of “Hollywoo,” where anthropomorphic, brightly-colored animals and humans coexist side-by-side without explanation.
The titular character, Bojack Horseman (Will Arnett), is a washed-up 90’s sitcom star whose struggles with substance abuse result in a lifetime of poor choices and toxic actions. Throughout the previous five seasons, Bojack has stumbled his way through a chaotic life, finally seeming to find peace as a sober man and theatre professor at Wesleyan at the start of Season 6, Part 2. However, the ghosts of his past resurge one by one throughout the final episodes, culminating in a disastrous interview where Bojack’s darkest demons are exposed: his incriminating role in the heroin overdose of Sarah Lynn, his TV daughter in Horsin’ Around, and his near-pedophillic experience with the 17-year-old daughter of an old friend, to name a few.
One of the main themes of this last batch of episodes is redemption. Despite the fact that Bojack is sober and has turned his life around for the better, he is unable to outrun the mistakes of his past. It doesn’t matter that he’s actively trying to be a better man (horse), because the people he’s hurt will continue to suffer from the consequences of his actions. In portraying this, Bojack Horseman paints an unflinchingly realistic picture of the bumpy road to redemption. It doesn’t attempt to wrap everything up neatly by the show’s final episode, because forgiveness and atonement are rarely so cut-and-dry.
Bojack manages to maintain his sobriety for a bit, even after the airing of his interview, but is sent into a spiral upon receiving a letter from his half-sister, Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla), whom he was reunited with in season 4. The viewer is never shown the contents of the letter, but it’s heavily implied that Hollyhock has decided to cut Bojack off after learning of the true depths of his past mistakes. The audience never sees Hollyhock again, and Bojack never attains closure. This, too, is a raw and realistic moment in the show. Bojack’s mistakes don’t simply disappear when it’s time for the plot to move on. He is reminded that nobody owes him forgiveness, no matter how badly he may wish to make things right.
After being cut off by his sister, Bojack returns to alcohol and drugs, drinking himself into a stupor until the heartbreaking penultimate episode, titled The View from Halfway Down. Bojack is the guest of honor at a dinner party, where all of the other guests are people Bojack has hurt who have since passed away. It’s revealed after several dream-like, confusing minutes that the episode itself is nothing more than a hallucination in Bojack’s brain. He learns he has fallen into his swimming pool, where he now floats alone and face-down, slowly drowning as the episode descends into chaos.
Of course Bojack doesn’t die, however; death would be too kind a punishment for him. Instead of drowning and becoming a martyr, Bojack is rescued and brought to the hospital, where he is subsequently arrested and sentenced to a year and a half in prison for his numerous crimes and indiscretions. The final episode, titled Nice While it Lasted, acts as an epilogue of sorts, constituted of Bojack’s conversations with the show’s four other main characters.
It’s worth noting that, in the final episode of Bojack, it’s the male characters — Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) and Todd (Aaron Paul) — that offer Bojack their full forgiveness. The two female main characters, Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) and Diane (Allison Brie), are much more hesitant with their forgiveness of Bojack, with Diane even hinting that she doesn’t intend to see Bojack again after the events of this episode. In Bojack’s disastrous interview, the interviewer repeatedly harps on the fact that Bojack displays a lifelong pattern of taking advantage of the women in his life, whether that be professionally, sexually, or otherwise. Despite Princess Carolyn and Diane being two of his dearest friends, their relationship with Bojack is irrevocably changed after this information is brought to light, forcing them to reevaluate their own power dynamics with Bojack.
Though the finale doesn’t provide a conventional sense of closure for any of the relationships in Bojack’s life, it depicts the painfully realistic notion that recovery and redemption are conscious choices that one must continue to make every day. You don’t wake up one morning to find that all is magically forgiven. Some wrongs can never be made right, and some wrongs require a lifetime of atonement. Life’s a bitch, but then you keep on living.
Cover Photo: Netflix