Liam Hoofe reviews BoJack Horseman season five…
On paper, BoJack Horseman shouldn’t be as great as it is. The Netflix show, now in its fifth season, focuses on a washed-up 90’s sitcom star has he bumbles his way through life, leaving a trail of emotional and physical destruction in his wake.
The show, however, has gone on to become of Netflix’s most critically adored during its five-year run and is often praised for its honest take on mental illness and its relatable characters. It should come as no surprise then, that BoJack’s fifth season is once again a home-run, delivering a nuanced examination of addiction and an astonishingly self-aware take on the #Metoo movement and the male-dominated culture of Hollywood.
Season five picks up where season four left off, with BoJack beginning filming on his new TV show, Philbert, in which he plays the titular character. The show provides us with a clear arc for the season, as BoJack slowly begins to fall further and further down the rabbit hole after becoming addicted to painkillers following a filming accident. BoJack isn’t the only character having a tough time in this season though, with Diane and Mr Peanutbutter both trying to adjust to life without one another, and Princess Carolyn still trying to adopt a baby.
One of the things that really makes BoJack work so well is that the storylines, despite featuring anthropomorphic characters always feel so grounded and real. Take episode 2 ‘The Dog Days are Over’, for example. The episode follows Diane as she heads to her native Vietnam in a quest to find herself following her divorce. Far from an eat, pray, love style narrative, Diane comes to realise that her problems won’t get better just because she has run away, and that the idea of finding one’s self through travel and new experiences isn’t necessarily the cure that most modern day self-help thinkers lead you to believe.
This is also the case in the season’s finest episode ‘Free Churro’ in which BoJack delivers a heart-breaking, eulogy at his mother’s funeral. BoJack talks about the way his mother treating him all his life, and how he thought he would be able to come to some kind of acceptance with that once she had gone, but he hasn’t. It’s an emotionally raw piece of storytelling, and Will Arnett gives perhaps his finest performance as BoJack to date here, in fact, I’d go as far as to say that Arnett finally deserves some recognition for the Emmy’s for the performance.
Then there is Philbert itself, which is perhaps one of the best shows within a show ever. The narrative arc between BoJack and Philbert works perfectly, and the show itself offers the season some of its most enjoyable moments. As is always the case with BoJack, there are also some excellent visual gags peppered throughout Philbert, especially on post-it notes and their drawing board.
BoJack is not all just deep character moments either, the show is rich with visual gags and sharp one-liners. An on-going storyline about a sex robot created by Todd provides the show with some of its funniest moments, and an episode based around an annual Halloween party at BoJack’s house also provides plenty of laughs.
BoJack has also never been shy at satirising Hollywood culture and the way we all rely on entertainment to numb our pains and that is no different in season 5. The show examines the male-dominated culture of Hollywood through both Philbert and BoJack’s own characters. We see BoJack accidentally become a feminist, and quickly become an overnight star purely because he is a man saying things that women have been saying for years. Later, we see BoJack attempt to take responsibility for his actions, only for BoJack to tell him that isn’t what people want, and that ultimately, he will just get away with it and not receive the punishment he feels he deserves. As with everything in BoJack, it’s subtle, and it’s effective.
BoJack Horseman season 5, like the previous 4 seasons, is yet another bonafide success for Netflix. After five years, the show is perhaps the most well-rounded piece of television available on the streaming service, and it doesn’t look as though it has any plans to let up anytime soon.