BoJack Horseman season 6, part 1 is a sympathetic, sobering take on what true accountability looks like
In the sober (but not sombre) eight episodes released so far, BoJack Horseman season 6 shows that atonement goes hand in hand with accountability.
This post contains spoilers for BoJack Horseman season 6, part 1 (episodes 1-8).
A horse walks into rehab and comes out a changed man.
For five seasons now, we've watched BoJack Horseman spiral out of control, wrecking every possible good thing in his life, spurred on by a belief in his own toxicity.
In this final and sixth season, BoJack may finally be on the path to being – collective sigh of relief – okay.
The change comes quietly, and you notice it in the pitch-perfect episode 7 where BoJack is staying overnight at Diane's new home: she's depressed and refusing to acknowledge it; he confronts her with the fact that she needs help. Then, before leaving Diane's home the next morning, he neatens up her rooms, wiping away all the signs of her blues-induced slovenliness.
BoJack is a new and improved horseman inside-out, and to match his transformation, he sheds his Hollywoo 'uniform'. An old friend – a hairdresser from the sets of Horsin' Around who he inadvertently got fired and then reconnects with at an Alcoholics Anonymous support group meeting – forgives him for his transgression, and gives him a new look. She washes the dye out of his mane and trims it close. After a long and exhausting cross-country flight, he sheds his sweater-jacket combination and opts for a more understated outfit. He also gets a new job: professor of Drama at Wesleyan College.
Like its protagonist, in part 1 of its last season, BoJack Horseman has a sober (but not sombre) tone. Gone are the hijinks (well, except for Todd's of course) and instead, there's a focus on the real work involved in personal growth.
Even as BoJack is navigating his way through six months of rehab and life after, Princess Carolyn is grappling with the realities of being a new, single mother. She's exhausted, nerves on edge, trying so hard to soothe her fractious baby, even as she juggles work and a "Women Who Do It All" ball. Good advice comes from a surprisingly unexpected quarter: her professional rival Vanessa Gecko.
Meanwhile, Diane has been on the road with her cameraman Guy for Girl Croosh. Despite reporting story after story exposing Americana's seedy underbelly, she and Guy find themselves out of jobs after Girl Croosh is swallowed up by a massive conglomerate run by the ruthless capitalist (is there any other kind?) Jeremiah Whitewhale. Diane and Guy also strike up a relationship that must contend with her penchant for self-punishment, and the distance between their respective home cities of LA and Chicago.
Mr Peanutbutter is dealing with the fallout of his infidelity as Pickles and he negotiate their way through the aftermath of his confession. Oh, and his shenanigans (or rather Princess Carolyn's maneuvering) fetch Mr Peanutbutter an unlikely gig as the "national face of depression".
Todd continues to bumble through life, "failing upwards" as Princess Carolyn says. After brief (mis)adventures that include helping Princess Carolyn get a slot for a new show on network television (Birthday Dad, starring Mr Peanutbutter) and re-procuring the kidney he sold on the organ market because his unwell and estranged mother now needs his, Todd settles into what might be a blissful occupation as nanny to Princess Carolyn's baby.
Along the way, season 6 takes plenty of clever potshots at capitalism, the rehab/de-addiction industry, the superhero film franchise complex, the shabby treatment of female professionals, and also works in what might be a reference to the real-life unionising of the show's crew, in an assistants' strike that nearly brings Hollywoo to a standstill. Its always-nuanced take on mental health is very much part of this season's developments as well.
But BoJack wouldn't be BoJack if it didn't make you reflect on 'big questions' and here, it takes the form of examining the idea of accountability. BoJack is attempting to earn his redemption, and sure he's taken steps to change, but what about the devastation he wreaked? Can you look to the future if you haven't paid a tangible cost for the failings of your past? Running through these eight episodes of season 6, part 1, are constant reminders of Sarah Lynn's death, and BoJack's role in it, as also the incident with Charlotte's daughter Penny. While BoJack's name isn't mentioned in the police report about Sarah Lynn's death, two reporters (in a His Girl Friday-inspired storyline) discover that she was with someone while on her final, fatal bender, and they're determined to find out who that is.
Season 6 doesn't shy away from showing evidence of BoJack's culpability in harming others. Gina, for instance, now working in a big Hollywoo production, fights PTSD. Being choked by BoJack on the sets of Philbert has left her with a debilitating fear of unrehearsed sequences and surprises on set. Hollyhock goes to a party in NYC where she meets Penny's former classmate Pete Repeat, who tells her how, at his high school prom, some "shitty man, a movie star" gave him and his friends bourbon, causing one of them to be hospitalised for alcohol poisoning.
Throughout part 1, season 6 of BoJack Horseman walks the line between sympathising with the protagonist, making us invested in his reformation, while also setting up a finale that will possibly see him pay for his sins. True atonement, the show seems to say, comes only with accountability. How that will translate into BoJack Horseman's ending – part 2 of season 6 releases on 31 January 2020 – is anyone's guess.
Is there any hope for a "happy" one?
Watch the trailer here:
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