Animated shows tend to have the most flexibility in terms of their tone and message thanks to the versatility of the medium. They are able to visualize what the mind creates with little limitation in comparison to live action. Many of these shows decide to depict deep themes that commentate on society or topical issues in a tasteful way. Last season of BoJack Horseman opted to focus more on the serious themes of its main character’s story while downplaying the ensemble and the respective comedy. However, the show takes a different route for its newest season.
The main story of season five revolves around the production of BoJack Horseman’s new show Philbert. BoJack continues to struggle with his need to be the center of attention while having a casual relationship with his co-star Gina (Stephanie Beatriz). Princess Carolyn juggles producing the show with Flip McVickers and trying to adopt a baby to fulfill her dream of a family. Todd manages to get a job as Head of Ad Sales while exploring his asexuality with Yolanda. After her divorce, Diane does some soul searching and tries to distance herself from BoJack, but ends up being hired as a consultant for the show. Meanwhile, Mr. Peanutbutter deals with the divorce by dating the much younger Pickles (Hong Chau) and taking the role of Philbert’s old partner on the show.
As with the last season, the story arc is centred around BoJack and his slow descent into insanity and depression. The struggles that he faces not only in his personal life, but now also in his social and work lives bring his mental state to the brink as we watch this flawed, but good-natured character go through some very relatable life crises. This is seen most prominently through the award-worthy episode ‘Free Churro’ where BoJack is a lone, monologuing character that captivates the audience like a modern Shakespearean play.
What stands out as a significant change is the shift in focus back to the ensemble and how these themes affecting BoJack are not an uncommon part of life. Each character’s story looks at how their life and the issues they are dealing with affect them in both positive and negative ways giving the most grounded representation of society any show possibly could. This causes the season to be filled with a lot of bottle episodes that focus on the individual characters leaving us craving more ensemble interaction.
Apart from the actual story, this season is generally what one expects from this series. The animation is a great, unique style that manages to embody the deeply emotional themes it portrays. Some of the jokes don’t always hit, but the comedy is not cast into the background by the serious commentary. Instead, it complements it by creating this hybrid dark humour that mixes the absurd, yet grounded world of Hollywood with a morbid outlook. It’s as if the narrative is written through the voice and mind of BoJack and that is the best way for this show to tell its story.
This season of BoJack Horseman continues its dark and emotionally complex narrative without becoming stale. The story focuses on the downward spiral of its titular character while adding more substance to the subplots of the supporting characters creating a bleak and cathartic look at the realities of life while continuing to use the charming, offbeat humour that this show is known for. From its deep commentary to its obscene humour, this season manages to blend this mixmatch of tones in a way few shows can.
*BoJack Horseman is now available to stream on Netflix*
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