The View From Halfway Down: Why Bojack Horseman was A Masterpiece

The weak breeze whispers nothing
The water screams sublime
His feet shift, teeter-totter
Deep breath, stand back, it’s time
Toes untouch the overpass
Soon he’s water bound
Eyes locked shut but peek to see
The view from halfway down

A little wind, a summer sun
A river rich and regal
A flood of fond endorphins
Brings a calm that knows no equal
You’re flying now
You see things much more clear than from the ground
It’s all okay, it would be
Were you not now halfway down

Thrash to break from gravity
What now could slow the drop
All I’d give for toes to touch
The safety back at top
But this is it, the deed is done
Silence drowns the sound
Before I leaped I should’ve seen
The view from halfway down

I really should’ve thought about
The view from halfway down

I wish I could’ve known about
The view from halfway down

I binged all eight episodes of Bojack Horesman‘s finale in one day (because I have no self control and I hate myself). There’s really no other way to say this, but it’s a masterpiece. A straight-up masterpiece that tells a tale of redemption, falling, falling further, life, death, moving on, moving out, burying your demons, being buried by them, and that not everything can or should be wrapped up in a happy bow.

The final seven episodes are funny, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and amazing.

Remember, this is a show about a talking celebrity horse.

But I digress…

“Intermediate Scene Study w/ BoJack Horseman”

First of all, breaking the final season into two parts was a mistake. While I don’t think that the first half of this season was bad, it really broke the narrative progression and makes them seem mediocre in comparison due to the fact that the entire season was a machine chugging towards a point of concentration as almost every season of Bojack Horseman was. The first half of the season was quieter and more reserved, the second half is where the proverbial meat and potatoes resided.

With “Intermediate Scene Study w/ BoJack Horseman,” we pick up at Wesleyan where Bojack has taken a job as an acting professor. It serves mostly as a recap, reminding us where characters are and what they’re doing as many characters like Diane, Todd, and Princess Carolyn have drifted apart.

It’s amusing seeing Bojack be so out of his element as a mentor and then finding his footing with his students even as his students seemed bent on destroying his most private moments. Bojack always seemed to blossom when he was put into mentorship roles, like when he worked with Ethan on the Horsin’ Around reboot. It was nice to see the show explore this again.

Of course, it’s impossible not to mention Hollyhock and her new uncomfortable relationship with her brother after she learned what Bojack did in New Mexico. I’m glad that the show found a balance between Hollyhock’s cold shoulder treatment of Bojack and her trying and failing to maintain a relationship with him. The series showed that it was hard and, in what turned out to be Hollyhock’s last in-person (in-horse?) appearance, their once hopeful familial relationship had deteriorated and Hollyhock began the process of cutting Bojack out of her life. It didn’t happen all at once, you could barely see the gradients, but it was there.

“Good Damage”

A Diane-focused episode, we pick back up with her in Chicago where she’s making a new life with herself and her new boyfriend, Guy. Diane is trying to write a book about the abuse and trauma that she went through in her life, but try as she might, it simply will not come together which is further complicated when she starts writing a more youth-oriented book that comes to her a lot more easier.

The animation in this episode is simply astouding. The representation of Diane’s imagination trying to get her book to come together through a series of rough sketches and squiggles is so visually interesting and seeing this in a series that – and I’m sorry to say this – usually presents its characters as cheap-looking stiff flash animation is so refreshing.

The continuation of this theme is, of course, how the Food Court Detective ideas are, in contrast to the rough sketches and squiggles, fully drawn and colorful.

Diana wonders how her trauma can mean anything if she can’t write about it and help others, but I – and I’m sure the episode – maintain the believe that one can deal with trauma in a number of ways and that it can be turned into creativity and something new that can help others. This is affirmed by Princess Carolyn’s speech to Diane at the college where, for admittedly selfish reasons, she wants Diana to finish her Young Adult novel.

“Sunk Cost and All That”

Bojack learns that a pair of reporters are harassing Penny and Charlotte in New Mexico, sending him into a panic about what they are investigating. Together with Princess Carolyn, Todd, and Diane, he tries to piece together every terrible thing he’s done in his life to get ready for whatever bombshell the reporters are ready to drop before they realize that the reporters are doing a story about the death of Sara Lynn, a death that BoJack was responsible for as he gave her the heroine that she overdosed on and then lied about how he found her after she died.

This episode is interesting as it showcased how Penny was dealing with a past trauma through anger and isolation. Although her and her mother have never been major characters, their story all the way back in season two was one of the major events that have sent ripples through BoJack’s life ever since.

BoJack has been taking great pains to turn himself around and become a new person and lots of people like this person — me included, so it is very sad to see the old BoJack return in this episode to try and cover up the awful thing that he did even if it was only temporary.

More than that, this episode gives us the first of several truly heartbreaking scenes as BoJack decides that he has to accept responsibility and lose everything that he’s fought so hard to attain. Knowing that everything is about to fall apart around him, he puts on a happy face and makes a passionate speech to his students about being happy in the moment, a speech framed by his office door and Diane and Princess Carolyn listening in pain, knowing that their friend has lost his new life.

“Xerox of a Xerox”

Bojack decides to come clean and tell the truth in a television interview and, astonishingly enough, it goes better than he could have possibly imagined, making him more popular than ever. However, the follow-up interview is another, more tragic ending.

This episode was a brutal takedown of BoJack following what looks like an easily resolution. In some ways, the takedown was deserved particularly as we learned that BoJack waited 17 minutes before calling ambulances for Sara Lynn when she overdosed, meaning that he was more scared of being caught than his friend dying.

Yep, in all likelyhood, BoJack’s selfishness killed Sara Lynn.

Is this a cartoon about a talking horse or Breaking Bad?

What I liked most of all is that, at long last, Bojack admits that he is a destructive person and that, for the first time, he seems to finally understand what those words mean. It’s mirrored by the other characters who used to be in his orbit moving on with their lives; Diane in Chicago, Todd and Maude moving into an apartment together, and Princess Carolyn coming home to Ruthie and Judah.

A very well written episode.

“The Horny Unicorn”

This episode was an interesting one.

There’s been a lot of talk the last few years about “cancel culture,” where a famous person does something so terrible that they are essentially canceled from life. For example, Kevin Spacey… he was fired from his show, replaced in completed movies, and no one in Hollywood wants to be around him anymore.

Bojack, following the disastrous interview he gave, has ended up cancelled himself. His friends don’t want to be seen with him and even Todd, his most loyal and long-suffering friends, sees Bojack’s mere presence at a housewarming party as a liability.

Because of this, Bojack hangs out with Vance Waggoner, another cancelled celebrity. Vance is a fairly terrible person, but he and Bojack hit it off because of their shared commonality. Because of Vance, Bojack ends up at a college campus where he meets guys who are sympathetic to him and he ends up at a frat party which is really the worst possible place for him to go.

I think that the episode was trying to make a statement here about cancel culture and how, when a celebrity or anyone else for that matter, does something unsavory, that they are lumped in with other unsavory people and are doomed to do the unsavory things that unsavory people do. Essentially, it’s akin to locking a bunch of recovering alcoholics together with an open bar and still expecting them not to take a drink.

What’s worse, the episode ends with another incredibly sad scene where Bojack reads a letter from Hollyhock and, although we never see what the letter said, it is fairly obvious that Hollyhock wants nothing to do with her brother again. For the rest of the series, I kept expecting Hollyhock to make another appearance, but that appearance never comes… this is where it is left and that is so amazingly tragic.


“Angela” gives many of Bojack’s friends a sense of closure and advancement while, sadly, Bojack backslides.

Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter have a very lovely conversation with each other that highlighted not only the dramatic characterization that Diane has experienced, but also the more subtle but still substantial characterization that Mr. Peanutbutter has undergone. I especially liked the part of the conversation where Diane says that, as the people they had become through their experiences, they would finally be perfect for each other. Mr. Peanutbutter responds with something along the lines of, “Yeah, but if we never met each other, we wouldn’t be the people we are now.”

I found that particularly moving.

A little less deep, but still an incredibly nice development was the story of Princess Carolyn and Judah. It was basically The Gift of the Magi with a band and Judah’s devotion to PC developing into real love felt like a nice development between the two.

The song that Judah sings at the end of the episode was… well, it was pretty terrible, but it was perfect Judah: Logical, calculated, and sincere. I never shipped these two, but they are perfect for each other.

Todd’s resolution, by contrast, seemed jarring and out of place. While I love Todd and always will, his crazy shenanigans just seemed out of place and the subplot with his mother, revealing that she was just afraid of contacting him again after kicking him out, just came out of nowhere.

But hey… we got Character Actress Margo Martindale back for one more episode, so I can let it slide.

Bojack’s arc was much darker as he is invited to the home of Angela Diaz, the former head of ABC and the woman who talked him into breaking ties with Herb after it broke that Herb was gay.

I’ve never seen Angela as an evil character, merely lawful evil, but to hear her say that she was bluffing Bojack into betraying Herb was quite the revelation given how confident she was in those early episodes.

Although Bojack is back on the bottle here, it was nice of him to go from his old habits of blaming other people for all of the terrible things in his life to once again accepting his own role and choices in his own life. Angela was merely an ingredient… Bojack was always his own catalyst.

The episode ends with one of the strongest visuals of the series as Bojack, who has broken into his former home, binged on alcohol and pills, watches his own screen test from Horsin’ Around only to see his own, wretched reflection in the television staring back at himself.

Just a reminder: This is a cartoon series about a talking horse.

“The View from Halfway Down”

The penultimate episode of any Bojack Horseman season is usually the most ambitious and amazing of the season and “The View from Halfway Down” is absolutely no exception. This episode is phenomenal, a visual treat, terrifying, and heartbreaking. Possibly the most perfect episode of the season… if not the entire series.

Bojack and a young not-dead Sara Lynn go to a dinner party that is being attended by every character that has died during the series: Beatrice, Crackerjack, Herb, Corduroy Jackson-Jackson, and Bojack’s father, Butterscotch, who is represented by Secretariat which makes a ghastly amount of sense as Bojack’s dad was mostly absent all his life and he did see Secretariat as a surrogate dad.

I could talk about this episode for hours, it is so rich and multilayered with imagry and double meanings, from the tar dripping from the ceiling and consuming everything (a metaphor from the first season where Diane compared Hollywood to a tar pit) to the food served to the guests, to even the silly bird flapping around the house, a death omen that my own grandmother told me about years ago.

Needless to say, it’s fairly obvious from the beginning that the entire episode is a metaphor for death and, being that obvious, even if Bojack doesn’t get it, makes the episode both enrapturing and and a source of anxiety.

Will Arnett deserves an Emmy for his voice work in this episode.

“Nice While It Lasted”

The final episode finds Bojack in prison, being sentenced there after breaking and entering in the last two episodes. He is let out over a weekend to attend the wedding of Princess Caroline and Judah and reconnects with some of his old friends who have all moved on.

The theme here, and the theme for the entire series, to be honest, seems to be that the people in your life make you the person you can be, whether it’s good or bad. To echo Todd from an earlier episode, “It’s you.” This can also be found in Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane’s dialogue in “Angela” and Diane’s message to Bojack at the end of this episode.

Another theme is that life is a series of good moments and bad moments. As we leave Bojack, no one — not Bojack, his friends, or the audience — is certain that he will slip back into a life of drugs and alcohol and, in some ways, it seems like an inevitability, but the point is, when you fall into the tar, you pull yourself out again. Life is a series of ups and downs.

Princess Carolyn finally rids herself of her codependency on Bojack, moving on with her life. Todd is standing on his own, no longer needing to mooch off of anyone, and Diane is starting to trust her own happiness. For one wonderful night, everyone has pulled themselves out of the tar at once.

The episode ends with a scene mirroring the final episode of the first season as Bojack and Diane sit on the roof and have a conversation under the stars. It’s heavily implied that, although they are friends, this will be the last time they speak to each other. Diane has moved on and Bojack is ready to let her go. The dialogue is moving and real and it is such a perfect place to leave the two of them.

It’s pretty amazing that Bojack Horseman, a cartoon series about a talking horse, ended up being one of the most experimental and ambitious shows I’ve seen in a very long time. The way that the show presents depression and sadness is both amazing and heartbreaking and it’s tough not to care about the characters no matter how despicable they get.

The show could have easily done another season or two and, in time ways, I’m sad that we’ll never get closure to Hollyhock or see Diane and Guy find their happiness or Bojack and Mr. Peanutbutter as roommates, but in many ways, I suppose, it’s the perfect way to end Bojack Horseman… unresolved, little closure, and a little messy. Just like life.

1 comment

  1. Great review. I did think the message of the show was always that change, including recovery and being a better person, isn’t an event. It’s a constant struggle every single day. BoJack isn’t fixed at the end. He still jumps at the chance Princess Carolyn offers him. He’s worried about falling off the wagon. He likely will back slide. But as Todd says, when that happens, you need to turn yourself back around again and claw your way back up. That’s always been what this show was about and what made it so very special and different from practically every other show out there. (Oh, and Charlotte said the thing about the tar pit in season one!) Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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