BoJack Horseman: Season Five

The past catches up with BoJack as all of the Netflix sitcom's characters crash into impulsive decisions in its fifth season

Review by Ben Venables | 17 Sep 2018
  • BoJack Horseman: Season Five

Had you asked what BoJack Horseman was about when Netflix first aired its animated sitcom in 2014, you might have said it was an Animal Farm for contemporary Hollywood. But even three-quarters of the way through its debut season that answer would have struggled to explain it. For most of its run over the last four years, you could have done worse than say the series is about depression.

Season five makes us think again, because there is something different about BoJack Horseman in 2018. If the equine protagonist lived in our universe, #metoo may have brought his behaviour into the open rather than allowing it to fester as an open secret. Indeed, two incidents we've seen in previous outings hover closer to BoJack as the episodes progress. As he's our on-screen hero, we are naturally drawn to relate, empathise and understand his actions. But it's easy to confuse understanding with forgiveness. BoJack has made choices which arguably put him beyond redemption. And despite the fact he begins this season trying to rein in his impulses, it amounts to little more than rationing his daily vodka bottle(s). Is it time we accept BoJack won't change?

Although there’s relatively little of BoJack himself in the first half of the season. Diane and Mr Peanutbutter are navigating their divorce, Princess Carolyn wants to adopt and Todd is CEO of Notably, when we detour away from Hollywoo it never feels like a novelty with a 'Diane episode' or a 'Princess Carolyn episode'. These characters have become part of an ensemble piece and we're as invested in them as much as with the self-absorbed Horseman.

The writers continue to tell stories in many ways. Asexuality meets a Feydeau-inspired slamming door farce, a funeral eulogy is told as a one man play, and the series now has a rich history with which to layer callbacks and meta-references. As ever, season five also has as many gags going on in the background as most sitcoms have in total.

Melancholia hangs around almost all the characters. There's the disappointment that apologies usually come with a self-serving agenda, childhood dreams are only kept alive in the imagination by doing nothing towards them, and physical pain is a ticket to managing psychic pain.

Such reality even catches up with the uncomplicated, golden hound that is Mr Peanutbutter. His mistakes are usually a result of him getting carried away rather than any conscious intent. But as he gains some perspective he loses some of the blissful ignorance his naivety has shielded him from. This makes his impulsivity less dog-like and a lot more human. It’s a turn into territory more familiar to BoJack and to the series as a whole – where knowing you have problems is still a long way from dealing with them.

Seasons 1-5 of Bojack Horseman are streaming now on Netflix