TV Show Review: Latest “BoJack Horseman” season posits misery, hope can exist in tandem

The highly anticipated fifth season of the Netflix original series “BoJack Horseman” dropped on Sept. 14, much to the delight of fans worldwide. The finale of season four left off on a relatively optimistic note for a show whose main themes revolve around mental illness, addiction and the meaning of identity. 

Season five begins on the set of “Philbert,” a detective drama that BoJack—voiced by Will Arnett—has been roped into by his agent Princess Carolyn—voiced by Amy Sedaris. But there’s one problem: the show-runner, Flip McVicker—voiced by Rami Malek—wants BoJack to shoot a fully nude scene. BoJack is less than enthusiastic, but Princess Carolyn is too distracted by her own struggles to help him. 

Most of all, BoJack is lonely. He calls Hollyhock—Aparna Nancherla—in the middle of the night to let her know he liked her Instagram post, and before hanging up he reminds her to call him on Sunday. 

Meanwhile, Todd—Aaron Paul—encounters problems with his girlfriend, an axolotl named Yolanda—Natalie Morales. Todd’s lack of ambition frustrates Yolanda, leading him on a wild misadventure as head of advertising for Todd and Yolanda’s relationship problems seem trivial when compared to those of Diane—Alison Brie—and Mr. Peanutbutter—Paul F. Tompkins—who are in the midst of a messy divorce. 

This season is remarkable for the emotional depth that it explores while still delivering on the signature dry wit and dark humor that fans have come to expect from the equine has-been and his host of equally flawed friends. 

Each of the 12 episodes in season five features fantastic writing, acting and animation, but there are some that stand out a bit more than others: episode six, “Free Churro,” episode seven, “INT. SUB” and episode 11, “The Showstopper.” 

“Free Churro” might actually be one of the best “BoJack” episodes to date. The premise is remarkably simple: BoJack delivers a eulogy at a funeral. Seriously, that’s it. But BoJack’s 20-minute monologue delves deeply into challenging subjects like grief, loss and his fraught relationship with both of his neglectful and emotionally abusive parents. 

In “INT. SUB” the viewer is able to look in on familiar characters from two outside perspectives—those of Dr. Indira, Diane’s therapist—voiced by Issa Rae—and her wife, Mary-Beth, a corporate mediator—voiced by Wanda Sykes. This episode is particularly entertaining because of the way that the characters all become slightly different to match the identity-concealing names they are given in Dr. Indira and Mary-Beth’s stories. 

Episode 11, the penultimate episode of an already dark and emotional season, is particularly heavy as BoJack’s opioid addiction causes him to lose his grip on reality with disastrous results. BoJack is disgusted with what he’s become, and the season ends with a simultaneously bleak and hopeful atmosphere. 

Yes, BoJack might very well be at the lowest he’s ever been, but hearing him actually say the words “I need help” might just be a very real turning point for the equine antihero.