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Two Drink Minimum: ‘BoJack Horseman’ Season 3 Recaps (Part 2 of 4)

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Two Drink Minimum is a comedy-based column by Vague Visages writer Jacob Oller.

Despite being under the “Two Drink Minimum” banner, make no mistake: BoJack Horseman is not a comedy. It may have started as one, as naive and free-wheeling and easygoing as its show-within-a-show, Horsin’ Around, but it’s gone too far to go back to those simple times. This becomes the theme of Season 3. As BoJack heads on the Oscar trail, it leads him further and further away from himself. It’s a path that he’s been told to take, which means it has nothing to offer him. Along the way, his co-stars take meandering routes to self-reevaluation while doing their best to break away from the toxic core that is BoJack himself.

Check out the first three recaps HERE.

Episode 4: “Fish Out of Water”

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When BoJack arrives at the Pacific Ocean Film Festival to promote a screening of Secretariat, the blurry remembrances of film festivals are transformed into events muddied by BoJack’s silent submersion in the sea. That there’s a completely distinct “fish language” echoes the experience of any tourist to another country, either for business or pleasure. The result is one of the most beautiful episodes of the show yet.

Most importantly, thanks to the somewhat gimmicky style, the episode is all about BoJack who, in contrast to the side characters that have fun stories, experiences such crushing personal developments that it’d be a waste not to explore them. As a show, BoJack Horseman is as squeamish and uncomfortable around real emotions as its protagonist, so BoJack the character tackles apologies and responsibility (through the basest instincts of fatherhood) silently. He cripples one of his most professional and non-libidinous relationships with Kelsey Jannings, and tries to apologize through a series of tragic slapstick routines — at first for the results of his behavior, then for the behavior itself, and later for his destruction of what could’ve been a healthy and productive partnership.

Like an animated Lost in Translation, BoJack wanders around a foreign state, lost and alone for much of the runtime, searching for… something. He returns a baby seahorse to his father, explores neon mushroom fields and destroys a taffy factory. Much of the undersea humor has a physical cleverness reminiscent of the first few seasons of Spongebob Squarepants, with its teeming schools of sardines, buses to nowhere and backwards deep-sea language. Yet BoJack remembers the salt in the ocean. The swift undercut of BoJack’s attempts at humanity place him right back where he was, solidifying in his mind the futility of conscientiousness.

Miscellaneous bits:

  • A ton of silent slapstick references in here, especially to Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. A factory is always a good time.
  • Peanutbutter’s Seahorse Milk is still a killer ad 10 years later.
  • Another killer credits song shakeup for this episode.

Episode 5: “Love And/Or Marriage”

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Secretariat is a hit, which means BoJack just got a new hit of that good stuff: fame.

This, of course, means instant disaster. Spiraling BoJack and confident BoJack both have a knack for dragging people down with them. When Todd meets Emily after 10 years apart, BoJack is certain that he’s wanted as the center of attention. And honestly, he’s not wrong. He’s just bad at it. Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane’s marriage counseling taps into something similar. Diane isn’t wrong about her marriage being hard and stifling because of Mr. Peanutbutter’s overwhelming niceness, she’s just bad at being a partner to it.

Have I mentioned how much I love Carolyn’s stoic assistant Judah? Diedrich Bader is so funny as the hyper-competent hobo-robo that persists through the volatile activities of the people around him. This episode sees him setting Carolyn up with three dates on one night, which sounds like a wacky sitcom subplot and ends up being an extremely mature look at dating when balancing a busy career. Family needs, boring careers and the terrible curse of timing prevent Carolyn from locking down a man.

Emily and Todd come up with a solution to Uber’s failure to police its sexually inappropriate drives (because Todd is great at off-the-cuff ideas ), but when Emily wants to take their partnership to the romantic level, Todd freaks out. Because, well, he’s not great at saying what he should either.

It takes drugs, a broken wedding (a lesbian wedding by the way, what’s up 2016), and an If You Give a Mouse a Cookie joke to let most of these characters (besides Todd) realize their strengths and opportunities. And these elements make even the show’s most normal episodes feel like BoJack Horseman. Incidentally, this normal episode has Diane tripping on Gush before finding out she’s pregnant.

Miscellaneous bits:

  • Todd wears an old-timey bathing suit.
  • How to Share: Feel, React, Spill, Obfuscate, Bottle, Unbottle, Rebottle, Reflect, Repeat.
  • Peanutbutter and Diane’s fridge magnets say “Food boob is?,” “El frijole es muy dolce” and “Playtime with feelings fridge.”

Episode 6: “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew”

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This episode, one certain to live in infamy as “the abortion episode,” takes the trope of unrelated (yet very interested) parties assuming responsibility for women’s abortions to an extreme conclusion. And because it’s BoJack Horseman, it’s all through a terrible caustic media haze.

Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter decide to have an abortion and things get out of hand. It’s not just government officials taking this thing out of control (a wonderful news segment featuring multiple men in bow ties slays), but a pop singer named Sextina Aquafina. It’s abortion appropriation writ large and monetized in a way that a layperson can understand it — no shadowy dealings or super PACS, just record sales and singles. This takes the focus off Diane who, as the person actually getting the abortion, is paid the least attention — just like in the real world.

It also opens the conversation about abortion in an extremely vocal way (often uncomfortably). This is unashamed feminism that can joke about abortion even when its characters are completely tone deaf to their own activism.

Meanwhile, BoJack’s damaged ego leads him to plot a kneecapping of Jurj Clooners which uncovers his publicist’s betrayal. She was stacking the deck, so she won no matter what — not BoJack. In the end, the publicist is as selfish as any of the rest of the characters, another name knocked off BoJack’s list of people that once believed in him. She takes him back eventually, but as a personal challenge rather than anything else. This is for her, as every plot movement in BoJack Horseman is for the person who makes it.

Even Diane’s abortion and the media buzz around the new home of Sextina Aquafina makes it clear that these characters can’t think big picture and that it cripples them. Then they just fall back on familiar deceit (which they know they’re good at). “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” may be the midpoint of the season, but it already feels like these cycles of self-delusion are about to crash.

Miscellaneous bits:

  • There’s no “I” in “Uterus”,” there’s only “us.”
  • Lernernerner DiCarpricorn
  • More film critics get shout outs in this episode than I’ve ever seen total on screen. You know I’m saying “Ey, yo Scott” if I ever meet A.O. Scott of The New York Times.

From AAA TV to Z-movies, Chicago-based critic Jacob Oller (@JacobOller) would like to bring the world together through entertainment, writing about it for publications like The Guardian, the Oklahoma Gazette, and his own blog. He’s a decent impressionist, semi-decent karaoke participant, and terrible dancer, although you’ll have to get a few drinks in him first.

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