Bojack Horseman: “Life’s a bitch and then you die,”
Diane Ngyuen: “Sometimes life’s a bitch and then you keep living.”
Bojack Horseman, a washed-up 1990s sitcom star and anthropomorphic horse, has found out reporters are planning to publish a damning exposé of his pre-rehab behaviour.
In the midseason finale of Bojack Horseman’s sixth and final season (which was split into two parts), the series abandoned BoJack entirely after he seemingly found a path toward peace.
Then it checked in with all of the people he’d hurt along the way, in minor and major ways, to see how the consequences of BoJack’s actions spiralled out to destroy so many lives beyond his own. The message was clear: Maybe BoJack Horseman can find inner peace, but is it worth it if none of the people he’s hurt can find their way back?
Damage, Destruction And Death
Since it began, “Bojack Horseman” has offered an alternative, forcing viewers to repeatedly see the damage its destructive protagonist inflicts, while complicating any empathy they might feel for him. This unique approach arrived at its logical conclusion with the final instalment of episodes, punishing BoJack while also laying out a path for his redemption.
After years of blaming his actions on childhood trauma, he, at last, accepts responsibility for his behaviour. He emerges sober, thinking himself to be a new man, and mostly escapes legal or moral punishment. The movie he filmed right before entering prison has positive buzz. The industry has forgotten BoJack's dramatic life, and they've let him walk his path of money-filled fame.
As BoJack Horseman has alternated between trying to claw his way to being a better person and backsliding into bad habits and worse behaviour, the series has increasingly turned a critical eye toward the very premise of “redemption” and the underlying tropes of antihero television.
However, the death of his past self and the past itself, doesn't erase the existence of the damage and destruct. Bojack Horseman feels like a changed man, but to those he hurt, the realities of his past self will be long-running. No matter how much he changes, the past will come back to haunt him.
“They can’t get me on old shit,” he pleads. “I’m a different person now.” But they do "get him." Change may be the present reality, but the past is never forgotten.
Bojack Horseman And The Redemption Arc
As a viewer, it would have felt unfair for BoJack Horseman to be readily accepted back into the fold by the people who cared about him the most. It’s fitting that the show forces him to reckon with his past while he sets out on the path of redemption.
The series’ arc matches the public’s growing concerns about how to measure and take part in accountability across all walks of life — the #MeToo abusers and manipulators, yes, but also those who may have, for instance, said or done racist or homophobic things in their past.
An important way to look at his redemption comes through the hallucinations of Diane. The Japanese practice of Kintsugi - the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending broken areas with lacquer dust or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The lines where the dust fixes the pottery remains still, though it may look more beautiful.
By the end, BoJack Horseman comes to understand that, rather than disappear or drag him down, his past wrongs linger like precious “kintsugi” cracks in his "reformed" self.
Nice While It Lasted
Only the five main characters make a way into the finale - “Nice While It Lasted.”
BoJack Horseman’s series finale is encapsulated in the exchange between BoJack and Diane. Life stinks, and one day you will die. But also, life stinks, and most days, you will keep on living. You get to choose how to deal with that, how you handle the pain you feel for others and yourself. You can let that pain infect the world around you, or you can find some way to try to heal and make up for the bad you’ve done.
The punishment BoJack Horseman deserves for his sins isn’t death. The punishment BoJack deserves for his sins is that he keeps right on living but without some of the people who made his life better.
The conversation between BoJack and Diane that ends the series is framed as what really might be their final conversation. BoJack Horseman is in jail (after breaking into his old home while intoxicated). Diane has moved to Houston and gotten married after becoming a successful author of middle-grade books about a girl who solves mysteries.
BoJack’s other friends have also left him behind. Sure, he’ll probably still see some of them — Princess Carolyn will always be trying to find him work — but for the most part, the people who made up this little friend group have gone on to live very separate lives.
They’ve cut him off. And he knows why.
The actual series finale, especially that final scene with Diane — allows some measure of hopefulness. After all, BoJack might beat the odds and work toward being a better person, for the sake of both himself and others. He gets to keep on living. But he also has to keep on living, without Diane, without Todd, without Mr Peanutbutter. The tragedy of anyone's life isn’t that it ends - it’s that it continues, and often the people you thought would always be there, fallout.