Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Assorted thoughts on the entirety of Bojack Horseman’s devastating and hilarious fourth season.
– One of the things I appreciated most about this season was the way it widened its scope on the question of damaged souls, showing us in greater detail the way that tragedy’s avalanche starts from smaller pebbles being kicked loose from higher up the mountain without necessarily letting characters off the hook for their own mistakes. So much of the turmoil Bojack has caused in his life comes from the oppressive reign of Joseph Sugarman, which is made even more horrific by how casual and banal it all is. Joseph goes about his daily life without malice, speaking in the gentle voice of Matthew Broderick, saying terrible things to his wife and children and following exactly the pattern that society tells him he should be following. The demands and inflicted harm done to Honey and Beatrice Sugarman by the norms of both high society and patriarchy not only contribute to BoJack’s inability to create healthy relationships, but also come close to killing Hollyhock.
– At the same time, nobody is let off the hook for their own poor choices and character flaws. BoJack’s journey over four seasons hasn’t completed a redemptive arc, but by the end of this season there seems a faint glimmer of possibility that he might be ready to put forth the necessary effort of basic kindness instead of simply making the best of circumstances. The willingness to give his ailing mother a vision of serenity and the lengths he goes to try and help Hollyhock achieve a measure of peace are above and beyond what he has done for others before. The smile on his face as he considers how much he might enjoy being an older brother is in marked contrast to the disgust and fear he felt at the prospect of being a father.
– This season in particular has enjoyed the freedom that animation provides to create visuals, perspective, and editing in ways that would not seem nearly as effective in live action. The broken shards of Beatrice’s consciousness, with its blank-faced people and scribbled-over Henrietta, convey both a desire to block out the past and the remnants of the childhood that was stolen from her. The crayon-scribbled sections of BoJack’s depression in “Stupid Piece of Sh*t” return as a type of triumph as he explains his hunt for Hollyhock’s mother to her eight dads.
– Speaking of “Stupid Piece of Sh*t”–what is so spot-on about its portrayal of depression isn’t simply the angry and self-critical voice BoJack hears in his head, but the level of narrative catastrophizing he does with it, building nesting dolls of worst case scenarios until he finds himself paralyzed to do anything except sink into oblivion for hours.
– The fraught and difficult marriage of Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter has always struck me for its subtle understanding that both partners are simultaneously good for each other and wholly wrong for each other. Their best qualities have often been a comfort to the other; their worst qualities have been torment. Two seasons ago, Mr. Peanutbutter’s exhausted question “Why should it matter what I want?” broke my heart. This season, Diane’s exasperated “But I’m so tired of squinting!” smashed it all over again.
– One of the things I love with this show is taking a moment after certain episodes to summarize a certain plot point and then imagining the writers speaking it aloud to other people before committing it to paper. “Jessica Biel sets Zach Braff on fire and then cannibalizes his charred remains” is one of these. “Later she runs for governor” is another. (Truly, I don’t think I’ve cared as much for anything Jessica Biel has done as much as I care for this merciless self-skewering.) “Let’s keep giving Governor Woodchuck Coodchuck new hands.”
– The incompetent print shop employees who keep creating banners out of every word Mr. Peanutbutter says might be my favorite running gag in television.