It probably has been said before, but it’s worth reiterating again, BoJack Horseman was one of last year’s most pleasant surprises. While starting off as some raunchy situational comedy, the show after Episode 5 decided to instead throw emotional gut punches at the viewer. Granted the raunch remained, as well as the absurd humour, but that veneer like say… the inner lining of your stomach wall was pierced, and out forms an ulcer giving bouts of emotional pain and awkwardness. The characters and world are at times horrible and remorseless in their wanton devilry, but there is pathos despite their peccadilloes, leaving a desire that eventually whatever the characters are doing will lead to happiness.
Season 2 doesn’t forget that, and keeps at it.
When we last left BoJack (Will Arnett), he won a Golden Globe for his ghost-written autobiography, and a chance to star in his own dream project: a biopic of his childhood hero Secretariat. Unfortunately the road to such achievements were not at all pleasant, from an eventually brutal reunion with an old friend who never forgave past actions to a bad psychedelic trip that ended with BoJack broken and alone in his self-hatred. Even more unfortunate for him, he still will have to deal with them despite his revived success. Even worse, this will occur alongside other matters like his still roommate/squatter Todd (Aaron Paul), his eternal frenemy Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) and his new wife (and BoJack’s former ghostwriter) Diane (Allison Brie), and other things like a new girlfriend (Lisa Kudrow) and his long-suffering agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris).
Right off the bat, BoJack Horseman Season 2 establishes a more balanced, confident, tone. Its absurdist, vapid, Hollywoo now successfully coexists with a Hollywoo mired with residents all undertaking some part of that dark night of the soul in a town where there’s… well… no soul. It gives a show a welcome consistency that maintains course throughout its twelve episodes, working at a new level for BoJack and friends as they go through their personal arcs, without dropping their status TOO far back to Season 1’s levels. This said, when certain characters hit their low points (and some do, HARD), they still feel like low points. It sounds deep, but probably odd, but who knew there are still cliffs and valleys when one hits the next plateau in life? BoJack Horseman knows, and doesn’t let you forget it.
Gratefully this all feels natural. BoJack despite his newfound revival still has to deal with his own feelings of self-worth and self-destructive habits. The rabbit hole runs a bit deeper in this season, with dangling plot threads from Season 1 being brought to light, then promptly smashed, and visions of his past that reveal a horse(man) whose abuse as a young boy(pony?) cuts deeper and continues to do so. While the first season had some really dark places for BoJack to go, there is only one place he goes to in Season 2 that ends up in tragedy and catastrophe. Unfortunately for all, it cuts deeply. One could condemn him for falling back into these habits and say it feels forced when BoJack is doing so well sans his usual foibles but… is he really?
Whether by intention or not, BoJack Horseman Season 2 seems to evoke something Biblical in its story motif: That of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Throughout the season, Chapter 1 Verse 2 seemed markedly resonant as the entire world of the show silently screams that ‘all is vanity’ while characters try to seek meaning in it. There were allusions to such a mentality in the previous season, but here it takes a whole new life as the cast moves onto that new plateau with all-new opportunities and events. It is not just BoJack trying to seek serenity in his new movie project; other characters have to endure such from Diane trying to make a difference to Princess Carolyn ironing out her personal and professional life. No one is left spared in the decadent maw of Hollywoo, and limits are tested on the finer points of happiness. Will doing what you want to do be as all cracked up to be? What happens when it ends? What do you do when things fall apart and your dreams/fantasies are not met in reality? Do you even try and move on, or do you fall, destroying everything in your way during the descent? Vanity is what caused BoJack to fall upon these traps once again, for despite his newfound return to relevance, he took for granted the good life gives him at this time.
Still, a lot of fun is to be had with Season 2. BoJack while suffering through those existential maladies remains committed to his harebrained schemes and sometimes his awkwardness and inability to get people to think for once always comes with a laugh. Todd shines immensely in his stories, especially when he takes a chance and protects a chicken from being slaughtered (the episode then results in probably the biggest laugh of a line from the exceptional Officer Meow Meow Fuzzyface). Mr. Peanutbutter (despite that last video) remains unapologetically chipper and well-meaning, and remains ever so likable in his Candide-esque optimism, even in his low moments. Sight gags abound this season, from a continued motif of awkward banners, the intellectual dimness of Hollywoo culture, and of course a surprise appearance by a roadrunner and a coyote. Don’t worry; even when BoJack Horseman Season 2’s punching your gut, it’s still tickling you into fits of funny.
The only big problems at the end is not so much what is in the show, but what has been excised or truncated during its run. BoJack enters into a relationship with an Owl named Wanda, whose thing is a continuous fascination with new technology due to a 30 year coma, and then it kinda falls onto the wayside. It would’ve probably helped immensely if they used that foundation to really affect her perceptions of life during the Season 2’s era outside of popular culture and technology, but it’s mostly relegated for gags. Nothing terrible, but still, it is untapped potential. Even worse is a plot where Diane tries to out a mainstay Hollywood celebrity for an unexplained set of events involving former assistants. While it did well to showcase the pettiness of the 24-hour news cycle, it doesn’t go anywhere after that. Is it a one-off just to show case that “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity”, or will it be covered in Season 3? Who knows, the show decided to not make much ado about it, focusing on the current moment whether it is the unbearable crushing sadness of being BoJack Horseman or Todd joining a markedly popular cult in modern entertainment. Then there’s the initial director of the Secretariat biopic that disappears despite BoJack and her coming to an understanding and even Vincent Adultman falls to the wayside. It is understandable the cast had to get bigger, but on the other hand, it resulted in some dangling threads that need to be addressed once Season 3 comes along. Hopefully whatever occurred in those particular plots, never mind those missing characters comes to light next time.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 7 Verse 4 said: The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. With what happened to BoJack and the gang this season it’s pretty much solidified how they’ve grown a bit smarter to knowing who they are and what they want. To be sure, the mirth and merriment only found in Hollywoo Babylon may bring them back into becoming fools, but as always there is the hope that they will find whatever it is that’ll make them happy. If you’ve already finished with the season or are halfway and committed to seeing it through, it is safe to say you’re in for the long haul. BoJack Horseman has not lost its edge in inciting smiles, gigglesnorts, chuckles, feelings of grief, feelings of awkwardness, and countless emotional sucker punches. All it needs to do is keep that edge, and at least throw a bit of shade into what was left behind in Season 2, never mind what has been implied throughout. If it does so, Season 3 should be quite a show.
It is unlikely it will end like Ecclesiastes where they all fear God and keep his commandments, but hopefully whatever cliffs and valleys exist on the next plateau, won’t bring the lot down TOO badly. After all, it gets easier… right?