One of my favorite things about Bojack Horseman is how everyone who watches it notices something I never even thought of. Different things stick with different people, like a running gag that was always quietly slipped into the background, a character who never speaks but seems to have an entire dialogue of a story, or little loose ends that were seemingly dismissed being tied up in the end.
Here are some of my strongest takeaways after watching the final episodes in Hollywoo(b)’s story.
**Spoilers ahead!! You have been warned!*
1. What do we owe each other?
Yes, that’s a Good Place reference. And yes, I very much thought about it when it came to the final three episodes, starting with Bojack’s suicide attempt and ending with his long, quiet moment with Diane.
Bojack is lonely. We all know that much. But that will never justify how he treated his friends, manipulating and stringing them along in his wild antics and rendering them unable to move on with their own lives. I think this concept comes to a head with Hollyhock’s letter — which many people are torn up about either wanting to read and being glad we didn’t get to know. But we know it hit Bojack. Hard.
Todd, Diane, Princess Carolyn, and others were able to get some form of closure with Bojack after everything that happened.. but Hollyhock seems to have cut him out entirely with nothing but a letter which probably said “goodbye.”
When you see it from Hollyhock’s perspective, she never needed to know Bojack at all. She made that clear from the start with her constant proclamations of “I don’t need another dad”. But she developed a bond with him while she was in Hollywoo, and they got along great. They kept in touch, and she was probably the closest thing to a normal, functional family that Bojack ever had. Just like she said, though.. she didn’t need him. She had her own family, her own support system, and in all honesty, Bojack was dragging her down. And when she learns the truth about just how twisted up he was, maybe that was triggering for her, and she couldn’t safely be there for him as his half-sister anymore.
Sometimes that’s what we need. A nice, clean-cut, and maybe it was unfair to Bojack in not giving him a chance, but let’s be real – Bojack had plenty of chances. It’s not an ideal, happy kind of ending for their relationship, but it’s real and raw for anyone who has had to go through such a difficult separation before. From the appearance of her letter, it seems like it was long, so hopefully, it was enough to explain her perspective and why she needed to do what she did, and honestly? Good for her.
2. Sometimes people we know for just a wink of life are stuck in our heads forever.
I was shocked when Corduroy appeared in Bojack’s suicide attempt dream. “How could someone we barely knew for a season impact Bojack so much to appear with all these people who were obviously deeply rooted in Bojack’s life?”
But that’s just the thing. Sometimes we meet someone at school, college, the bar, the club, the bus.. anywhere. And they could impact our lives forever.
I don’t have as much to say about this one, but I think it’s interesting to remind us of Bojack’s attention-seeking indirect behavior toward Wanda at the time he knew Corduroy. The way he fell in love so quickly with someone who was, indeed, vulnerable with her coma-induced blank slate of everything going on in Hollywoo at the time, and how desperately he wanted her to commit to him. He chased the high of that romance in the same way Corduroy chased the high of pleasure, and in the end, it destroyed both of them
3. Taking responsibility is very hard.
Now, I know the crowd is divided on this one. Some people find it very easy to own up to their faults. Some people have to take longer to learn and grow from their mistakes. As we can see with Bojack.. he struggles with it.
It broke my heart to watch him give such an earnest interview about the Sarah Lynn incident, and then at the second interview turn into such a joke. The difference in behavior is obvious (all of the voice and sound work in Bojack is incredible and you should definitely watch it sometime with good earphones in, by the way), the way he puts on his more performative persona and you can tell he’s reverting back to his attention-seeking ways. He likes how everyone praised him for the first interview, and instead of being apologetic and really acknowledging the severity of everything that gets brought up, he deflects. He becomes defensive because – hey, he fessed up! He’s the good guy now! But the reality is so very different, and he will never be the good guy so long as he keeps doing these things for himself.
4. Life is a never-ending race, old horse.
It’s probably safe to say that everyone in Los Angeles (and other places, I’m sure) has felt that statement at some point in their lives. If not yet, then they will. As an LA native myself, it becomes increasingly difficult every day to keep up with the rat race that is this city. For a laid-back, easygoing spirit such as myself, keeping up a 10/10 outfit, makeup, and hair on a two-hour commute for an eight-hour workday at the office on top of taking care of my family and my wonderful dog and then spending weekends trying to catch up on everything I couldn’t do during the week – bank trips, grocery shopping, and doing my freelance artwork… It’s a lot.
For the people and animals of Hollywoo, it’s expected and almost second nature. Princess Carolyn has it down to an art, even though we saw her struggle at first with her new baby Ruthie, in the end, she pulls through and keeps on running.
It’s tiring. It’s exhausting. Sometimes, the rewards don’t feel. worth it.
Having Sarah Lynn sing her song in Bojack’s dream really stuck with me. As soon as the first note hit, you can ask my friend Monica, I muttered: “oh my god they’re making her sing this song??” Once the drug-induced breakdown hit, I let out a chuckle, but the whole thing was still very chilling for me.
Sarah Lynn ran the race. She ran, and ran, and ran, and her dialogue in the dream felt like it was driving a stake through my heart. “It has to have been worth something!” She talked so passionately about the work she did, the songs she wrote and the impact it had on the world.. but beneath it all, you can hear her unvoiced fear. But did it really mean anything?
A song you taught me when I was small.. Don’t stop dancing.
5. “What happens if I relapse again?” “Then you get sober again.”
Jumping off of my last point, Todd’s last conversation with Bojack really hit home for me.
Taking care of yourself isn’t a one-and-done thing, and it was never meant to be. You don’t shower once in your life, you have a routine you probably (try) to stick to. You eat regularly because it’s what your body needs. The same is to be said for mental health.
Just like how it’s hard sometimes to always pick the more healthy option than the grease bucket down the street, it’s hard to come to terms with being on medication for what will probably be the rest of your life. It’s hard to give up the bottle because you know it’ll turn you into someone you don’t like, it’s hard to get up and go to therapy when you don’t even feel like opening your eyes in the morning.
But we have to. And we’re not perfect – that’s why we’re working on ourselves, after all, so sometimes we slip up.. but you just have to get back up again. Because there’s something else out there waiting for us. Another day, another person, another adventure or whatever we enjoy… it’s out there, and we might as well chase it while we’re here.
Bojack is afraid. He’s used to taking the easy way. He drinks himself silly and lets loose because he can blame it on the alcohol, it’s not technically his fault, but he has learned the very hard way now that that’s never going to be good enough. He’s lived the sober life, and he enjoyed it. He found something better for himself, has gotten a real taste of it.. and he’s afraid of messing it all up. But the important thing now is that he has a support group and knows how to help himself and is willing to take those steps when he needs to, and with Todd’s simple but comforting words, maybe it won’t be so bad.
You just get back up again.
Every day, you’ll set a new record.
Watch Bojack Horseman’s six seasons now streaming on Netflix.