BoJack Horseman: Season 6 – Part 1 REVIEW – The Beginning Of The End

If BoJack Horseman has to bow out, there's no better way to wrap everything up than this.

Bojack Horseman Season 6

If we learnt anything from Netflix’s shameless Breaking Bad nostalgia draw El Camino, it’s that Vince Gilligan’s strength is in crafting moments of exquisite tension, and montages shot from Dutch angles. Wider storylines, not so much. But despite living in the limbo state of wondering whether it would be recommissioned for most of its existence, El Camino’s fellow Netflix darling BoJack Horseman has never had that problem.

Neither has BoJack Horseman fallen into the problem of overspecialisation. It made its name by hitting the viewer with stuff far bleaker and more realistic than you’d expect from a cartoon about a talking horse, that’s what people know it for, but it’s by no means limited to that. Over the years we’ve seen it turn its hand to many different forms, running the gamut from silent comedy to single-shot monologue. This season is no exception – you name me one other show that would jump from a rehab plotline into a find-the-baby farce.

(Fine, possibly It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.)

Comedy is, of course, the other major pillar to the whole structure – it’s both that and the bleak stuff holding it all up. And the fact the show’s still managing to marry these two seemingly conflicting facets is worthy of praise on its own, especially when other works struggle to pull off just one of them.  The best comedy’s said to contain universal, relatable truths – but bleakness must also have some kind of touchstone, otherwise it’s just self-indulgent navel-gazing. Even, no, especially when experienced by the wealthy celebrities of BoJack’s world.

To put it simply, it’s the opposite of formulaic. It’s not even the very broad formula of ‘what wacky adventure will BoJack and pals get into this week?’, for two reasons: one, that’s stretching the definition of ‘wacky adventure’ to a dangerous degree, and two, it might not even be BoJack himself at the centre of events – on which more later.

It’s worth mentioning that even as the show’s list of ‘and pals’ has expanded – even now, when it’s as big as it’s going to be, and bringing back characters you may need prompting to remember – it never feels bloated or lopsided. Rather, it feels natural. Unlike certain other animated comedies that seem to think one-note joke characters need a backstory and a love interest, BoJack Horseman has always been perfectly clear how its characters should be used and what role they play.  The weirdly grotesque talk show host A Ryan Seacrest Type pops up occasionally, but nobody sits down to dinner with him. By contrast, Hollyhock, BoJack’s long-lost half-sister, gets a meatier role and a fuller characterisation, exactly as she should.

This season is, of course, the horseman’s last rodeo. Which perhaps goes some way to explain why it’s going out on a high note. In the wider Western animation scene, six seasons is relatively few. The writer’s room is not yet so bereft of ideas that some clown can burble out “What if A Ryan Seacrest Type…gets married?”, and then have that put into production. Fans of A Ryan Seacrest Type may find themselves awfully disappointed to not delve into his personal history, or meet the rest of the Type family, but in my view that’s an acceptable price to pay for an otherwise satisfying ending.

Recently there was a lot of bad noise about Tuca & Bertie, which like BoJack is made by animation studio ShadowMachine, getting canned not long after ShadowMachine chose to unionise. A lot of people saw this as retaliation from Netflix, and are probably thinking the worst of BoJack ending now. However, creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg has confirmed that they chose to end it of their own accord, and weren’t pushed in any way – or at least, not over that. You could read more into this fairly direct statement if you like, but it’s not as if a show like BoJack needs much impetus to bite the hand that feeds it.

Case in point, this season sees one very specific jab at the practice of streaming services skipping the credits – that is, the names of those poor fools who actually make the work you’re enjoying. With this coming several episodes into the season, and several rounds of ‘next episode in five seconds’ buttons coming up, by then it’s impossible that you wouldn’t know who they’re talking about.

There’s times in this half-season where you may wonder why the show’s called BoJack Horseman. BoJack’s there, true, but for a great deal of it the supporting cast seem to be just as prominent, if not more so. This is nothing new, they’ve always had spotlight episodes, but this time it’s different. There’s a specific and definite point when the show will pull the rug from under you and remind you in a jarring way that yes, even when he’s not there onscreen, it’s all been revolving around BoJack the whole time.

That doesn’t simply apply to this half-season, but to the whole show. This final outing is the culmination of everything that’s gone before, and perhaps that’s why I mentioned the wider Breaking Badiverse earlier. For any of Breaking Bad’s flaws you might point to (spoiler alert: the lack of a Walt Jr. villain arc), it was always building to an actual climax and an ending. Unlike many shows which strike it big, it wasn’t content to keep rattling around the airwaves until everyone got sick of it, and BoJack Horseman is the same way.

This is made clearest by the opening credits. No longer a hazy wander through what’s going on this season, now they consist of glimpses of all those pivotal moments from seasons past. Because while BoJack’s felt appropriately dreadful about his worst sins over the years, he’s never faced any particular consequences for them. If there was ever a time to, it’s now, and that seems to be where it’s all heading.

(Curiously, despite being centered on a celebrity in a Cosby sweater who’s done some very, very questionable things, BoJack predates cancel culture and the #MeToo movement. Indeed, if all that didn’t exist, you might say that BoJack would have had to invent it.)

BoJack didn’t invent cartoons that weren’t just for kids (that would be The Simpsons), or funny animals that act like people (that would be the Ancient Egyptian pantheon). It’s not, perhaps, a groundbreaker in that way. Neither is it the first show to bow out gracefully while it’s still young and beautiful, before the returns start diminishing, although if anything there’s far too few examples of these. But what it has done is talk about the less glamorous parts of the human condition with wit, verve, and, most importantly, without growing insufferable. That’s something very few works of fiction, let alone cartoons, can boast.

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.

Bojack Horseman Season 6
Seeing all the pieces line up, it's as if they'd been planning this and exactly this from the very beginning.