DISCLAIMER: This review contains spoilers for the last eight episodes of “Bojack Horseman.”
“Sometimes, life’s a bitch, and then you keep living.”
This quotation, spoken by one of the show’s main characters, Diane, in the finale’s final moments, is the message that the last eight episodes of Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman” conveys—that in the wake of hardships, life goes on.
In October 2019, the first half of the final season of Bojack was released. The second half was scheduled for release on Jan. 31, 2020. After viewing the beginning of the end, fans were given three months to say their goodbyes and wonder how the show would tie up all of its loose ends.
It’s hard to say whether or not the story of Bojack Horseman truly ended. His character isn’t given a happy ending, and I’m okay with that. His character simply doesn’t exist in that space. Instead, the series finds its ending with Bojack experiencing a brief, but profound brush with death and with the character finally seeing the consequences of his actions, beyond his own mental torture. To understand the ending of this series, one must understand the man, er, horse, at its crux.
Bojack is an asshole. He’s old, washed up, jaded and self-centered. Throughout the series, he struggles with addiction, but he has no sense of his addiction’s effects on those around him. He endured a traumatic childhood. Other characters make it clear that he uses these two things, his addiction and his trauma, as excuses for his actions. He acts recklessly, he is an enabler and he makes one horrible decision after another. Yet, as a viewer, you still root for him to finally get it together, turn it all around and find happiness. Why?
In a sense, we are all Bojack Horseman, as cliché as that sounds. We are all selfish, we all fall victim to our vices and we all make bad decisions from time to time. Most importantly, we are all seeking happiness and satisfaction, and we are all searching for a purpose. Bojack’s search and need for validation is universal, and we just want to see it come to fruition.
We do see this in the final episodes, but we also don’t.
Bojack finds true happiness through teaching acting at Wesleyan University. As soon as we see him, almost one year sober, accepting flowers at the end of his students’ showcase performance, we know that he has found his purpose. If the show wanted its happy ending, it would have ended at this exact point. However, a mere couple of frames after, Bojack receives a phone call that makes one of his lowest moments come home to roost.
This starts the show on a sharp downward slope that hits rock bottom and finally rests, hovering above it, slightly.
I would say that the true masterpiece of the finale is during the show’s penultimate episode, “The View from Halfway Down.” This is Bojack’s aforementioned brief but profound brush with death.
Bojack is drowning, literally, in his pool after a relapse of pills and alcohol. The episode takes place within his mind. There, Bojack is confronted by old best friend Herb Kazzazz, mother Beatrice, her older brother Crackerjack, old co-stars Sarah Lynn and Corduroy Jackson Jackson, Zach Braff (it’s a long story) and a hybrid of his father, Butterscotch and his hero, Secretariat. All of these characters are dead. And it becomes increasingly obvious, as the characters discuss the best and worst parts of their lives around a dinner table and perform in a cabaret-style show that soon, Bojack will be as well. The episode ends with Bojack trying and failing to evade death while on the phone with Diane, and eventually, the sound of him flat lining.
At the start of the last episode, which is aptly titled “Nice While it Lasted,” it is revealed that Bojack is not really dead. He was revived, and then subsequently arrested for breaking and entering into his home, which was previously sold to keep him from going totally bankrupt. Bojack goes to prison for 14 months for the breaking and entering charge, but expresses that he really feels as though he was jailed for “all of it,” meaning, all of the poor decisions he made and terrible moments that had been revealed to the world by the press. However, he is given one night out of jail in order to attend Princess Carolyn’s wedding to Judah, and it is during this night where the show comes to a soft, ambiguous close.
Bojack has profound and revealing conversations with the show’s other leading cast members, Mr. Peanutbutter, Todd, Princess Carolyn and Diane. The final episode shows that each of these characters, who had previously clung to Bojack and tried time and time again to help him, have moved on.
The final conversation that Bojack has with Diane is the show’s closing moment. Bojack and Diane are both seated atop a roof. The last time Diane had heard from Bojack was the night where he almost died. Diane reveals that she is married and living in Houston, and that she is ready to leave her “L.A. days,” and ultimately, Bojack, behind her. The show makes it clear that this is the last time the two characters would ever speak, and drives home the point that yes, sometimes, life’s a bitch, but it goes on.
This is why the show could not end with Bojack’s death. It would be too easy. It would feed into our and Bojack’s belief that the worst thing that can happen to someone is dying.
But that’s not always true. Bojack is not allowed to die. He must keep on living.
Bojack Horseman is a show about life. Beyond the colorful and weird world it exists within, the show is entirely real. It is a rarity in the world of adult cartoons, which most of the time, are just like regular cartoons but with raunchy jokes and crude language. Don’t get me wrong, Bojack includes both of these, but it also goes deeper and reflects a mirror image of reality. Life can be cruel, sometimes it sucks, sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s hilarious and sometimes it’s all of these things at once.
Some reviews of this ending stated that it felt rushed. I can understand where this feeling comes from, especially given the fact that the show’s creators expressed that they had about two more seasons of material up their sleeves before Netflix gave it the axe. However, I think that the show wraps up in a way that is truly reflective of its spirit, which is all I can really ask for as a viewer.
I encourage anyone and everyone to give this show a viewing, especially now that it is over. In fact, I believe that with no more releases, the show is perfect for watching. You can watch it from beginning to end and see one continuous story. I will be rewatching Bojack Horseman in this way, and I look forward to the show’s final message to hang around me for quite some time.