‘BoJack’ Finale: Closure, tragedy, and too many good endings
After a few false starts, BoJack Horseman Season 6 delivers a perfect series finale. Then it blows the entire ending for one final curtain call.
Hear me out: BoJack Horseman is prestige TV on par with Mad Men and Game of Thrones.
They're all shows about white male anti-heroes who come up short. They also all represent the pinnacle of what TV can be, and Netflix's weird adult cartoon is right there with them. And they all split their final season into two parts, offering a stretched-out goodbye for longtime fans.
The Netflix original about a sad celebrity cartoon horse and his Hollywood cohorts aired the first eight episodes of its sixth and final season in October 2019. It returns for the final eight on Friday, January 31.
That makes BoJack Season 6 the longest season in the series' history. It’s also the most uneven, offering some of the show’s emotional and comedic peaks while also devolving into a slog for multi-episode streaks.
The first half of the final season felt like an unearned ending, and in the second half, Bojack tries too hard. However, it delivers a perfect finale, like Breaking Bad. Then it blows the entire ending for one final curtain call — like Game of Thrones.
BoJack himself (voiced as always by Will Arnett, the saddest comic genius we have) should know by now. You can’t have it all. That’s just greedy.
Light spoilers for Bojack Horseman ahead. 🐴
The second half of the final sixth season picks up with Bojack teaching acting at Wesleyan University and trying a little too hard to be part of the life of Hollyhock, his half sister.
These early episodes play out in a clever structure, with each main character (BoJack, Diane, Princess Carolyn) getting their own parallel stories that collide and overlap as everyone shows up for an end-of-semester performance put on by BoJack’s class.
Within this structure, we get an early highlight: A story about Diane (Alison Brie) going on antidepressants and pivoting from writing a difficult memoir to penning the first in a series of YA mystery novels about teen girls and mall-related mysteries.
This episode is a real artistic highpoint, with Diane’s struggles to write about her own life visualized in angry black and white doodles and a malformed memory of her father, who looks like a goblin with a Boston accent.
As for BoJack, after a stint in rehab, he’s seemingly gotten his life on track by embracing middle age and taking that teaching job, even as his students do everything they can to derail him. There’s a pretty good recurring gag in Episode 9 (the first of this batch) where BoJack's acting students show up at his AA meetings and pretend to be alcoholics to prove they have talent. (They don’t.) The first time it happens you’ll groan; the second time you’ll enjoy the joke.
(If you’re worried that I haven’t mentioned Mr. Peanutbutter yet, don’t worry, he’s got a great subplot about opening a nonsensical restaurant that somehow does really well. Todd also gets a story about reconciling with his estranged mother, but the writers can’t decide if it should be heartfelt or zany, and it ends up belly-flopping somewhere in between. Everyone’s favorite moocher deserved a better final adventure.)
The season really gets interesting once BoJack’s old crimes come back to haunt him — specifically his extremely creepy behavior with Penny and the death of Sarah Lynn. This all comes to light thanks to a pair of journalists who were introduced just before halftime in this final season. They'll play a larger role in Part 2. We’re supposed to care about them as characters (there’s an uninspired, unrequited love subplot between the two reporters), but they work just fine as plot devices.
So it is sad that all that momentum is quickly squandered. With BoJack’s life derailed yet again — even worse, he’s been #canceled — the show loses its footing in the mid-stretch. BoJack can’t seem to decide what to do with that information, flirting with a return to alcoholism but never truly examining what that might mean for his psyche or the people around him.
Season 6, however briefly, almost turns BoJack into a Louis C.K.-inspired angry male celebrity, refusing to admit he's wrong and embracing the only fans he has left (the angry white-dude ones). I want to spend more time observing this angry, unrepentant BoJack, if only because it feels like something new from an old show running out of tricks, but we quickly move on.
Ultimately, the second to last episode of Bojack delivers a pitch-perfect ending. It’s one of those top-tier episodes fans will be revisiting for years (like "Free Churro" or the one that takes place underwater). If this was the last episode of BoJack, it would have given the show a perfect, haunting farewell. Instead, we get a finale that feels like an epilogue and backpedals on the bolder decisions of the penultimate episode for something a little sappier. BoJack is worse for it.
The actual last episode of BoJack Horseman ever (at least until the inevitable reboot five years from now) feels like something requested by Netflix executives. It's just my speculation, but it’s the kind of series finale seemingly designed by a committee to tie up every loose end. It even replaces the missing D from the “Hollywoo” sign that was removed back in Season 1 in a callback that most die-hard fans have probably forgotten.
In its final moments, the show ends where it all began. On a roof under a starry sky as two characters sit and talk and avoid the party below their feet. For all the emotional growth of BoJack, Diane, Todd, and everyone else, they're still just stunted adults wandering the streets of Hollywoo(d). The only difference is that now, six seasons later, they’re finally out of things to say.
Those last few moments of silence between two beloved characters feel special. It might not be the best finale for a show that deserves it, but it’s still a dignified ending. And in a world of unexpected Netflix cancellations, a dignified ending is probably the best fans could have hoped for.
Like Don Draper in California and Jon Snow north of the Wall, BoJack has found peace.