The first half of Bojack Horseman’s conclusive 6th season was released this morning on Netflix. Today’s 8 episodes are half of the final season of the celebrated Netflix animated series. The show centres around Bojack Horseman: ageing TV star whose self-destructive tendencies lead him on a life criss-crossed with bad decisions and despicable behaviour. Season 6 picks up right off the back of season 5, with Bojack checking into rehab for addiction to alcohol and painkillers. Princess Carolyne has adopted her baby, and Mr. Peanut Butter is struggling with the guilt he faces after cheating on Pickles with Diane. For anyone not familiar with the show, the previous sentence probably sounded pretty ridiculous.
I only got into Bojack close to this time last year, and I have since been of the fierce opinion that it is one of the best things on television right now. My excitement and hype before this morning was pretty high as a result, matched only by my expectations. Bojack’s set the bar incredibly high for itself, and I won’t pretend I was thrilled by this whole half-season trick that every mature animated show seems to be pulling this year (except Rick and Morty sees it, and drops the other half). Perhaps it’s because of my lofty expectations that what I got felt a little inadequate.
I want to clarify, I’m not saying the first half of the season isn’t good. By any normal standard of quality it’s a perfectly good half-season (this is going to be annoying) of television. That said, tonally you can see that the writers have strayed from their normal routine. Bojack’s always been a show that enjoys an indulgence into deeper psychological explorations of its characters, but it’s always been accompanied by a tone that’s comedic at its heart. For the first 2/3 episodes of this season, the comedic element takes a little bit of a backseat, which is a real shame because the comedy on the show has never been anything other than genius. The episode that focuses on Princess Carolyne is the best example of a generally more artistic take on the tone of the show. I didn’t mind exactly, but I could feel the difference and I wasn’t head-over-heels for it. That more or less fixes itself the later you get into the half-season, but it takes some waiting through the first episode or two.
I enjoyed what they do with the characters. Princess Carolyne’s Ruthie dilemma never goes away and it’s pretty entertaining. Mr. Peanut Butter and Pickles’ whole relationship is handled better in this season (I wasn’t the biggest of fans in the last season) and it produces probably the best episode from the 8. I wasn’t on board with Diane’s little Chicago adventure at first, but Guy grows on me a little and I liked that whole situation, even if its focus episode was another example of a more intellectual focus as compared to previous seasons. Todd is Todd, and there’s no one like Todd. Bojack’s life in this half-season is in an interesting place. It’s worth mentioning that I’d strongly recommend a thorough recap of the previous seasons before getting started on season 6. The show creeps by, episode to episode, with the ghosts of Bojack’s pervious bad decisions and mishaps looming over him, particularly Sarah Lynn (there’s even a new opening which takes us back through the truly screwed up happenings over 5 seasons of this show). It hasn’t really happened yet, that’s the essence of the cliff hanger that they leave us on at the end of the 8th episode. Aside from those threads, which we can see moving but we don’t know where yet, Bojack’s arc over the course of the whole show is really coming good in a way that it didn’t have a chance to before. We see a Bojack that, for the first time, sees improving himself as a viable possible course of action. We see him at his most sane, taking his time to understand himself a little bit better, and even providing some pretty genuine guidance to some other characters. Of course, I fully expect this to be the calm before the storm, as inferable from the end of the 8th episode. I’m not sure that it would track for them to give us a happy ending with Bojack. It’ll actually be a pretty defining decision, what with the controversy surrounding the idea that Bojack is a show that comforts self-destructive self-pity-ers (much like the way Bojack saw Philbert in season 5). This season does see Bojack make some strides in terms of an awareness of his ability to make himself better, and the steps it would take to get there. Again, the foreshadowing points to it all going south from here, but I’m on the edge of my seat to see where the writers choose to end Bojack’s arc in January.
And in a lot of ways, that’s all this half-season was: a preamble. 16 episodes in total will make this the longest season, splitting it in two might simply serve the purpose of a prelude to the main event of the last 8 episodes. For sure, these 8 episodes add up to not a heck of a lot more than context and exposition for the final chapter. At the beginning, it even lacks a little bit of the rhythm of what we’re used to. Even when it does get the rhythm back, there is a little bit of forced-ness in attempts to replicate Bojack-esque bits. The secretary strike, for example, is funny but altogether not up to par. We haven’t seen Erica. Character Actress Margot Martindale gets one scene (and it’s goddamned brilliant). All in all these 8 episodes served a function, and the entertainment part was a bonus. I actually think I’d recommend maybe waiting until January for this one, let the whole thing flow for you. These episodes were good, not great, and ultimately they exist so the second half lands the way they want it to. I respect that, I think I’d rather have this than have a 12 episode season which doesn’t do justice, but I do wish they could’ve just dropped it all now. I want to reiterate, these were good episodes, they were entertaining and perfectly watchable. It is Bojack Horseman we’re talking about here, it can only fall so far with the foundation they’ve built. That said, this certainly felt like the appetiser to a main course which I can’t wait to drop in January.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Score – 78/100 Aryamaan’s Score –