BoJack Horseman: Before season 5 begins, here's a quick recap of the story so far
Before season 5 of BoJack Horseman kicks off on Netflix, a quick catch-up with everything that happened in seasons 1 to 4
“You say you wanna get better, and you don’t know how” — Diane repeating that line three times in the very short span of BoJack Horseman's season 5 trailer, really freaked me out.
It generates this sinking feeling, as if something terrible is going to happen immediately after she says it, whenever she does. She’s most likely saying it to BoJack, but how did we get here? Isn’t Philbert working out fine? Isn’t BoJack even trying to enjoy playing Philbert on the show (which has parallels to his own life) after Princess Carolyn went out of her way (but what’s new about that!) to get him the role? How can this be?
Last season of BoJack Horseman actually ended on an upbeat note. BoJack did a good, unselfish thing for once, and in the process got himself a real sister in Hollyhock. It was snappy and poignant and moving, and so unlike the gut-punch that were the last few episodes of season 3 — when BoJack’s TV daughter Sarah-Lynn died — and after four years of darkness and depression and heartbreak, it made us all believe that maybe, just maybe, BoJack Horseman could have a happy ending at some point. How did we get to this?
Season 4 of BoJack Horseman was different compared to the previous three, primarily because it veered away from their 12-episode-long memoir/movie/awards season arcs. It may have felt a tad disjointed, but that’s bound to happen when the main characters are moving along in their lives and are still connected to each other, but not together all the time.
BoJack Horseman isn’t F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or How I Met Your Mother — where everyone gets together at the end of the day, even in their 20s and 30s, at a cafe or pub or apartment and talk about life. On BoJack, life isn’t sitcom-y, it’s real. So the fact that BoJack owns a restaurant doesn’t automatically make it “the hangout” for all our protagonists. I say “protagonists” (plural) because that was the other difference between season 4 and the three before it; last season made BoJack Horseman seem more like an ensemble show than one with a protagonist and supporting characters (BoJack was even MIA in the first episode of season 4, except for a scene towards the end of the episode, and that was only to decline a phone call).
So what was everyone up to, when we last saw them?
BoJack Horseman: Has BoJack finally come to terms with his past? Will his childhood and his parents’ neglect, finally stop haunting him? Can he ever become someone greater than the sum of the parts of his past?
It almost seems as if through the years, BoJack’s actions and the events surrounding him — Diane writing his memoir, his chronically flawed relationships with those close to him, Herb and Sarah-Lynn’s deaths, and his mother Beatrice’s dementia — have all led him to helping Hollyhock find her birth mother, leading to the realisation that she isn’t his daughter but his half-sister. He now has a legit blood relation — and not just someone who doesn’t recognise him (like his mother) or someone he willingly/unknowingly abandoned, but someone who he can connect with on a familial level.
Diane Nguyen: “I’m so tired of squinting (for happy moments)” is probably my favourite line of the show so far — it’s what Diane says to Mr Peanutbutter at the end of season 4, when she admits her frustration and unhappiness with their marriage. Not one for over-the-top gestures (whether it’s someone stealing the ‘D’ from the HOLLYWOOD sign for her or recreating the Beauty and the Beast library), Diane’s dissatisfaction with her marriage is not surprising, considering her reaction to Mr Peanutbutter's proposal back in season 1.
After getting drawn into the abortion debate when she takes a pro-choice stand for herself, Diane also found herself unwittingly sucked into the gun debate, writing a viral blog post about it which ultimately changed gun legislation in California. Diane Nguyen, ladies and gentlemen — always the poster-girl-woman for dry humour and logical feminism!
Todd Chavez: Ah, lovable wise-yet-reckless Todd! His rock opera (who can forget Newtopia Rising. Book 1: The Search for a New Utopia?), his time in prison being courted by rival gangs, his various failed business ventures with Mr Peanutbutter, his eventual success and becoming a millionaire (only to spend it all on a waitress’ tip) — as amazing and hilarious as all of these misadventures were, they all pale in comparison to what happens in season 4. Todd is officially out as asexual!
An understandably confusing realisation in the season 3 finale (when he admits to Emily that he’s not sexually attracted to women or men) leads to a glorious full-blown self-acceptance of him being asexual and identifying himself as asexual in public.
Season 4’s “Hooray! Todd Episode!” was a singularly fun Todd-centred episode as he went along (in typical Todd fashion) on various escapades. More of that please. I’m so excited to see what this creatively inclined upbeat slacker (who understands Japanese, like, whaaa!) gets up to next!
Princess Carolyn: The penultimate episodes of the first three seasons of Bojack Horseman were just agonising heartbreak (season 1 — “Downer Ending”, season 2 — “Escape From LA”, season 3 — That’s Too Much, Man!”). In season 4, that blow came earlier, in the ninth episode (titled “Ruthie”), when Princess Carolyn finds out she suffered a miscarriage.
Princess Carolyn has been through a lot — from being the agent of a non-dependable star like BoJack to the battles she has had to fight professionally, from her failed relationships to the ticking biological clock that many women dread — and unlike BoJack, or even Diane, she doesn’t wallow in her sorrows and her misfortunes. Using her “get your shit together” spiel on herself as she looks at her reflection in the mirror, hits the gym, and marches on — Princess Carolyn is the epitome of a strong, confident career woman. And it’s great to finally see her realise her true potential as a producer, not an agent-manager.
She’s still struggling with infertility and she’s still afraid of ending up alone, but her incredible attitude, her friendship with BoJack (who takes the role in Philbert for her) and even her relationships with Diane and Todd make me feel like she’ll be just fine!
Mr Peanutbutter: A gubernatorial campaign that Mr Peanutbutter partially ran for (he eventually withdrew and pledged support for the incumbent governor) might have just been the final nail in the proverbial coffin that is his marriage to Diane. Their unsuccessful trip to Hawaii, his over-the-top gesture for Diane (he builds her the aforementioned Beauty and the Beast inspired library, called the "Belle-room"!), and their subsequent fight are all uncomfortable to watch, because you can sense that the other shoe is going to drop any minute. For all his cheerfulness (or maybe because of it), Mr Peanutbutter and Diane never seemed well-suited to each other.
When we last saw him, Mr Peanutbutter was in the midst of concocting more ill-conceived business ideas with Todd. He looks his usual pleasant and perky self in the new trailer, but just like with his marriage with Diane, I get the uncomfortable feeling that something unpleasant might be about to go down with Mr Peanutbutter!
Of course, Hollyhock is still very much around, which is great. Does she meet her birth mom Henrietta? Will Judah be back this season? What about Ralph Stilton, Princess Carolyn’s mouse boyfriend? Which new celebrities are going to appear as themselves or fun versions of themselves? Will Jessica Biel continue to be a horrible person, or will she be subdued now that she has her first Emmy nomination for The Sinner (god, I love when BoJack Horseman gets meta!)? Will there be more references to Peanuts? And how many more characters will the awesome Patton Oswalt continue to voice this new season? Can’t wait to find out!
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