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It’s the end of an era. After 6 seasons, 77 episodes, and a Christmas special, the only animated dramedy about the world of a washed-up celebrity horse stuck in the 90s has come to a fitting conclusion, and television will never be the same. Now that the sixth and final season of BoJack Horseman has landed, it’s possible to see just how ground-breaking it all was.
One of Netflix’s first animated series, BoJack Horseman began life when high school friends writer Raphael Bob-Waksberg and cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt pitched a whimsical spoof of celebrity culture, pairing quirky animation with an eclectic voice cast. The first season debuted to mediocre reviews and critic regard it as the show’s weakest, with the first few episodes a rather shallow satire of celebrity culture, but things only got better from there. The tonal shift from a whimsical satire to a profoundly tragic journey of character growth was a breath of fresh air. The show improved in quality so drastically that in response, IndieWire changed their entire system of reviewing to cover the entirety of a series rather than its first six episodes.
Then came season two, the first in a practically flawless streak of seasons that has only now ended. The emphasis on mature exploration of mental health issues only increased, and the show became a complete subversion of the repetitive style of primetime sitcoms BoJack obsesses over.
While most shows reset to the status quo after each episode (ensuring that their characters rarely face long-lasting consequences), BoJack Horseman does the opposite to this. Instead, the title character’s lousy behaviour never goes unpunished. There’s a gut-punching episode in the final season that’s dedicated entirely to the supporting characters still suffering because of BoJack.
BoJack’s awareness of his destructive behaviour and subsequent struggle to break out of his cycle of substance abuse and depression forms the heart of the series. The whimsical satire never left, going from tearing down the vapidity of celebrity culture to shining a light on political corruption and the encroachment of vertical integration. But beside it all was a core cast who struggled with everything from mental health issues to the very meaning of happiness and fulfilment.
The show only innovated the further along it went, never becoming stagnant or complacent. Kate Purdy and Alison Tafel joined the team for seasons three to six, showcasing an audacious array of experimental episodes. The group wrote: one entirely silent and underwater episode, one episode solely from the perspective of BoJack’s dementia afflicted mother, an uninterrupted twenty one minute monologue that intercuts four different timelines all at once. They also gave an entire haunting but catchy musical number to BoJack’s drug-fuelled psychosis. To top it all off, the devastating penultimate episode starred the many people (and animals) whose deaths most affected BoJack, some of which, he caused.
For every elaborate tongue twister and animal pun, there was a heart-breaking moment of character growth; very few series could boast this level of both self-awareness and emotional maturity, and none could make you laugh and question your existence all at once. And now there’s a horse-shaped hole in our screens that will never be filled.