As we reach the end of BoJack Horseman’s 6-season run, it’s time to have a look back at some of the adult animation’s greatest hits, from its unexpected beginnings to the final installment which dropped on Netflix on January 31. BoJack Horseman has dealt with some of the heaviest themes on TV right from the beginning, with a number of incredibly powerful storylines which have reinvented our expectations of what an animation can do. Here are some of the stand-out episodes from previous seasons:
‘Fish Out of Water’ (Season 3 Episode 4)
Since I’m looking at these episodes chronologically, it just so happens that my favourite episode of all time comes first: ‘Fish Out of Water’, or ‘the one that feels like a cartoon manifestation of pure anxiety’. This episode sees the titular character attend an underwater film festival to promote Secretariat, the movie that he always dreamed of starring in. What makes it unique is that the episode is almost completely without dialogue, since he has to wear an oxygen bubble which stops him speaking. This of course leads to a series of misadventures; he’s late to his film premier, ends look after a missing baby seahorse and all the while he’s trying to apologise to his former boss.
Sounds just like a normal cartoon, right? But the lack of dialogue creates a feeling of pure panic in BoJack, which is quickly passed on to the audience. Never before has TV so creatively captured the terrifying feeling of being trapped and unable to communicate, which is made all the more frustrating with the final discovery that he could have spoken all along at the press of a button, in one of the shows more creative metaphors. ‘Fish Out of Water’ is frequently cited as the show’s greatest episode, but it’s also the one which has the most profound effect on the viewer.
‘The Old Sugarman Place’ (Season 4 Episode 2)
BoJack Horseman is at its height when the show delves into the theme of memory. In this powerful episode, we learn about BoJack’s mother’s traumatic childhood – dealing with grief, mental illness and sexism along the way. This is one of the key episodes in understanding the complex characters and how the past can play such a dangerously integral role in the present. Guest starring Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s a striking episode from start to finish.
‘Stupid Piece of Sh*t’ (Season 4 Episode 9)
This episode from the fourth season stands out as one of the most difficult to watch in the series as a whole. The title comes from the intrusive, self-hating thoughts that BoJack wakes up to, as the audience are given an insight into the voice inside his head. Switching between the show’s typical animation style and rougher, crude drawings to represent the chaos in his mind as the lead character continues to spiral out of control, ‘Stupid Piece of Sh*t’ is just one example of how BoJack Horseman can depict depression with devastating accuracy.
‘Free Churro’ (Season 5 Episode 6)
‘Free Churro’ is a must have on any favourites list; with Butterscotch and BoJack as the only speaking characters in the whole episode, Will Arnett becomes the entire cast in what is a true testament to his acting. The majority of ‘Free Churro’ is actually a monologue in the form of a eulogy at his mother’s funeral. As the episode goes on, we see BoJack painstakingly analyse his broken family for an emotional 20 minutes as he tries to deal with the complexity of his grief.
‘A Horse Walks into Rehab’ (Season 6 Episode 1)
As episodes go, this could be classified as one of the more upbeat entries on the list. This season opener gives us the moment we’ve all been waiting for, as BoJack finally gets the help he so painfully needs. The viewer’s relationship with the title character is almost as complicated as the relationships within the series – he’s done terrible, unforgivable things, and yet there is always a part of you that wants him to get it together, and so here we have a glimmer of hope. What stood out the most was the realistic depiction of just how difficult recovery is, poking fun at the overused metaphor of climbing a mountain and generally doing a great job in its accurate representation of mental health and addiction.
‘Good Damage’ (Season 6 Episode 10)
Moving on to the most recent instalment of episodes to binge-watch, ‘Good Damage’ focuses primarily on Diane’s ongoing struggle with depression. Although I had never really connected with Diane’s character before this episode, that totally changed with ‘Diane, Antidepressant Style’, a plot which resonated with people all over the world and showed that BoJack Horseman hasn’t lost its spark even at the end of its run. ‘Good Damage’ also engages with the theme of trauma (a frequent subject of the series), and how its aftermath can harm those affected.
‘The View From Halfway Down’ (Season 6 Episode 15)
And so we reach the end of BoJack Horseman’s journey, with a penultimate episode which is, without a doubt, some of the best TV we will watch in a long time. Set in a dream sequence between life and death, BoJack comes face to face with everyone he has lost over the years: Sarah Lynn, his Mother, Herb Kazzaz, Corduroy Jackson-Jackson, Crackerjack, his father in the form of Secretariat, and even Zach Braff. ‘The View From Halfway Down’ becomes gradually more horrifying as it dawns on you just what has happened, culminating in the titular poem from Secretariat which is undeniably one of the most TV moments in recent years. It’s one that will bring about tears, and has been hailed by many as the kind of mental health representation that other shows like 13 Reasons Why just didn’t achieve. Even in its final episodes, BoJack Horseman has the ability to knock you off your feet.
BoJack Horseman seasons 1-6 are available via Netflix.
Watch the trailer for Season 6 below: