BoJack Horseman Saddest Episodes, From Time's Arrow and Beyond - VRGyani News and Media

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Monday, September 6, 2021

BoJack Horseman Saddest Episodes, From Time's Arrow and Beyond

Netflix’s BoJack Horseman takes a broad premise and finds every dark nook and cranny in its characters. Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s animated series centers around its titular horse (Will Arnett) reliving his past as a sitcom star in the 1990s show “Horsin’ Around” and trying to become a better horse in a Hollywoo, a fictionalized “Hollywood” full of people and anthropomorphic animals. Namely, BoJack spends much of his time with the ghostwriter of his novel, Diane Nguyen (Allison Brie), her husband and former sitcom star Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), his roommate Todd (Aaron Paul), and his agent and former partner Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris).

Bob-Waksberg and company uses that premise to carefully articulate comments about mental health and depression, issues with the entertainment industry, and accountability. That also does leave room for jokes, and the series is filled to the brim with hilarious puns and tongue twisters (much of them delivered by Sedaris). With that said, the series effectively mixes said humor with its heavier moments.

BoJack Horseman also pushed its visuals to creatively present each episode, designed by Tuca & Bertie creator Lisa Hanawalt (here’s a taste of her work from the show). Like the writers, Hanawalt and the animators mix clever background jokes and references with terrifying moments that put their character’s states into haunting images.

As such, the series features moment after moment each season that leans into the darkness hiding amongst the characters. Picking just nine haunting episodes is a challenge in itself, as several amazing episodes had to be excluded to keep this piece concise (“Free Churro,” “Fish Out of Water,” and “The View from Halfway Down” are just a few of the omissions from this list). Regardless, the nine episodes below contain gut punch after gut punch, and they present the most haunting, devastating stories that BoJack Horseman had to offer.

RELATED: 'BoJack Horseman' Creator on Legacy, That Ending & What He Thinks About the Future of Animation

Season 1, Episode 11: "Downer Ending"

This is one of the first episodes of the series to dive into the darkness of the series. Yes, “Say Anything” and “The Telescope” also delve into this territory, but “Downer Ending” is the first to push the series visually in that regard. BoJack is disappointed with Diane’s version of his life story after she angrily leaked two chapters to the press. He goes as far as saying that he could write a better version of the novel in five days and does so by going on a drug bender with Todd and Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), his former sitcom co-star.

The trip BoJack goes on leads to one of the most striking sequences in the entire series, one that is at times hilarious and tragic. He works through his complicated feelings for Diane in several sequences, with Diane morphing from an Akira-esque monster into Lucy van Pelt from Peanuts giving BoJack advice for five cents. He runs through various traumatic moments in his life, from his mom Beatrice (Wendie Malick) forcing him to perform the lollipop song, to “Horsin’ Around” creator Herb Kazzaz (Stanley Tucci) telling him he will never forgive him (with Herb turning into a skeleton in front of him). The episode goes to these extremes for the first time showing BoJack’s warped psyche raised to an 11, highlighting his depressive tendencies while also showing his desire to truly be better.

The two scenes that stand out the most come near the end: one being BoJack imagining his life if he moved to Maine with Charlotte (Olivia Wilde), Herb’s former ex who BoJack had a crush on in the 1990s; the other being the very last scene, with a sober BoJack begging Diane to tell him that “it’s not too late for him.” Both scenes encapsulate how BoJack puts too much faith that one idea or person will come and save him. That’s why he got so upset with Diane in the first place; because she portrayed him honestly and in a flawed manner instead of feeding him hollow support. “Downer Ending” is the first episode to take both its visuals and its story to frightening places to present BoJack’s mental health and put everything together for one brilliant episode.

Season 2, Episode 11: "Escape From L.A."

BoJack leaves Los Angeles after his breakup with his girlfriend Wanda (Lisa Kudrow), driving to New Mexico to try to live out his fantasy with Charlotte — until he sees that she has a family now. Despite this, BoJack decides to stay in New Mexico and befriends Charlotte’s daughter, Penny (Ilana Glazer), for a relationship that goes horribly wrong.

“Escape From L.A.” matters because BoJack once again tried to fill his sadness with an unhealthy sitcom maneuver rather than getting help. The episode plays up the fake-sitcom aspects well, from making a theme song for Charlotte’s family (“Kyle and the Kids” slaps, btw) to BoJack buying a giant boat named Escape From L.A. But the prime example is BoJack taking Penny to prom with her friend Pete Repeat (Jermaine Fowler, who repeats things). The dissonance between the awkward situation and BoJack’s perception that everything is swell holds BoJack accountable for intruding on this family instead of getting help in Los Angeles.

Of course, BoJack takes things too far, allowing Penny’s friend to get alcohol poisoning, kissing Charlotte, and then attempting to have sex with Penny. Charlotte tells BoJack to leave immediately and that if he ever tries to contact her family again, “I will fucking kill you” (perfectly delivered by Wilde). The door slams and BoJack sits in silence. Then, BoJack leaves on his boat with the show’s theme playing in the background as he sits and thinks.

Almost everything about this episode is perfectly uncanny and dark. The music used, namely the guitar riff, underscores the significance of the moments and is reused several times later when the moment is remembered. The use of balloons with glow sticks – something BoJack did with Herb and Charlotte years ago – to direct Charlotte to BoJack’s boat right before BoJack and Penny unclothe themselves is striking. The visual highlights how BoJack is trying to live in the past rather than move forward; thus, he continues to make the same mistakes. “Escape From L.A.” shifts BoJack from just a depressed horse to a monster, a precautionary tale of what happens when so much trauma gets left untouched.

Season 3, Episode 11: "That's Too Much, Man!"

“Escape from L.A.” saw BoJack reaching new lows. Well, “That’s Too Much, Man!” finds BoJack digging a deeper hole. BoJack decides to go on a bender following his failed Oscar campaign with the now sober Sarah Lynn. They decide to drunkenly make amends on their journey, which takes BoJack across the country to visit Charlotte’s daughter Penny at her university. That scene – in which Penny seems to have been well-adjusted until she saw BoJack – is horrifying, with Penny backing away from BoJack as he is surrounded by drunken college students.

Sarah Lynn dies after taking some of BoJack’s heroin that he obtained earlier in the season – named “BoJack kills.” This hypothetical but inevitable moment had been discussed throughout the series, with Sarah Lynn herself saying that she will most likely die young at the end of her first appearance as an adult in the series back in Season 1. Lynn’s fate not only serves as a reminder of the oft tragic paths of child stars, but it also blasts the larger Hollywood system for mistreating them. Lynn was left out to dry by every person in her life along the way, being fed the idea that she had to keep dancing despite her desire to be an architect.

Much of that came from BoJack’s advice. This episode puts BoJack on blast for taking out his sadness on Sarah Lynn and for not helping her, literally giving her the heroin that kills her. This all culminates in the final scene at the planetarium, with BoJack and Sarah Lynn in shadows around the stars in the background. Sarah Lynn says “I want to be an architect” as she falls asleep, with BoJack asking her to wake up as the episode cuts to black.

Season 3, Episode 12: "That Went Well"

This is the reaction to “That’s Too Much, Man” as BoJack deals with Sarah Lynn’s death. The episode features several lighter moments, including Mr. Peanutbutter and Todd saving an underwater city from being boiled to death by spaghetti with pasta strainers.

However, the main dramatic focus of the episode comes from BoJack. He decides that he wants to do something nice after Lynn’s death, so he agrees to star in “Ethan Around,” a spinoff of “Horsin’ Around” with his co-star Bradley (Adam Conover). It starts off well, with BoJack giving Bradley advice and letting him be the star. Then, he hears a child star on the show say that she wants to be famous like BoJack. And he gets flashbacks to his past mistakes and ditches the series in an anxiety attack.

BoJack then tries to commit suicide by driving on the highway as he pushes the gas, letting go of the wheel, with Nina Simone’s song “Stars” (from her live performance at Montreux) playing. Then, he stops while watching a group of horses running as the song in the background swirls in its climax. These two scenes capture BoJack’s sense that he has wasted his life hurting the people around him. The combination of the visuals and the song lyrics discussing the lives of stardom and how all celebrities “have a story,” along with the isolation created, is chilling.

Season 4, Episode 9: "Ruthie"

Princess Carolyn works the hardest of any character in this series, which is why her pitfalls are so jarring. Her efforts to be a good agent and to have a child are so well-intended that it’s heartbreaking when her efforts fail. Several other episodes, including “Best Thing That Ever Happened,” “The Amelia Earhart Story,” and “The New Client” show Princess Carolyn at her highs and lows in all regards.

“Ruthie,” however, shows PC at her lowest. She is trying to conceive a baby with her boyfriend Ralph Stilton (Raúl Esparza), keep a new client, and maintain her company. This is all told through a future descendant of Carolyn talking about her ancestor in the future, voiced by Kristen Bell. Everything PC tries to do fails; she learns a family heirloom is plastic, she loses her celebrity client and her boyfriend, and she fires her top assistant.

In the final moments, PC tells BoJack over the phone that she copes with her sadness by imagining a descendant talking about her in class. That makes her feel like everything will work out, “because how else could she tell people?” Such moments, perfectly delivered by Sedaris, show the difficulties Carolyn deals with every day. Yes, she has moments where her words bounce off the wall and she tries to sell people on herself and build them up, but even she cannot fix everything with her words. So even she must build up delusions to preserve herself from time to time. Moments like this help ground PC in her zany industry, showing that even the most confident-facing characters can have days where everything falls apart.

Season 4, Episode 11: "Time's Arrow"

Another trippy penultimate episode in a season, “Time’s Arrow” gives a glimpse into the mind of Beatrice Horseman, BoJack’s abusive mother. Through her dementia, Bob-Waksberg and writer Kate Purdy (who also worked with Bob-Waksberg on Amazon’s Undone) explore Beatrice’s story, including how she met her husband, Butterscotch (Arnett), her fractured relationship with her father, Joseph Sugarman (Matthew Broderick), and the reasoning behind her obsession with housemaid Henrietta (Majandra Delfino) and her baby doll that she has described throughout the season.

“Time’s Arrow” shows how she had been mistreated across her life, from being bullied to her father burning her baby doll in front of her, and then getting pregnant and completely resenting her husband. Such is why she showed BoJack so little remorse throughout life, as she hated that BoJack kept her tethered to the abhorrent Butterscotch. Such is why she convinced Henrietta to give her daughter – who turns out to be BoJack's half-sister Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla) – up for adoption. It is a rash decision that horrifies Henrietta in the same way Beatrice has been scarred her entire life. That leads into this episode’s discussion of generational trauma. They show how nearly 70 years of horrible decisions and emotional baggage kept these family members “drowning,” as BoJack put it in “Free Churro.” They knew they were miserable and hurt but could not find the words to provide support.

Once again, the visuals in this episode are phenomenal. The jarring cuts between different moments in Beatrice’s life create an uneasiness, like one can feel her pain as she relives these painful memories. Also, the decision to scratch out the faces of Henrietta and other supporting characters adds to the confusion. This culminates in the closing scene, when Beatrice ripping Hollyhock from Henrietta cuts to Joseph burning Beatrice’s baby doll as a fire builds in the background, with Joseph saying “one day this will all be a pleasant memory.”

Season 5, Episode 2: “The Dog Days Are Over”

Diane’s tumultuous friendship with BoJack lasts the entirety of the series; so, this list would not be complete without discussing one of her best episodes (although “Good Damage,” “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew,” and “Hank After Dark” are also good episodes to check out).

This episode features Diane traveling to Vietnam to do a listicle for Girl Croosh, the blog where she works. This also comes right after her divorce from Mr. Peanutbutter, so the trip serves as a coping mechanism for her.

That listicle format helps give the episode structure, as Diane narrates moments during the episode like she’s reading off the list of items from her article. Her trip to Vietnam leads to several shenanigans, like American tourists confusing her for a local. However, she finds that the trip does not make her whole. This culminates in a final monologue where she reveals why she went to Vietnam – because she saw Mr. Peanutbutter holding another girl and realized that she was alone. Then, her trip made her feel even more lonely because nothing about it made her whole.

Diane serves as the most grounded character throughout BoJack. Her struggles, stemming from an abusive childhood and continuing with her anxiety and feelings of inadequacy throughout life, created a person that strives to find a larger meaning and change the larger structures in her world. Diane still gets hit hard, often from expecting too much from herself, but she always finds a way to move on. Case in point: she ends this episode saying that she can survive being alone, even though she’s still struggling.

Season 5, Episode 11: "The Showstopper"

BoJack’s painkiller addiction has led him down a conspiracy wormhole in which he thinks that someone from the cast of his series “Philbert” is out to get him. He goes to great lengths to protect the series, claiming that he’s trying to protect Gina (Stephanie Beatriz), his Philbert co-star who has finally found stardom on the show.

The fifth season has made the comparison between BoJack’s real life and the character on the show, from the set looking identical to his house to Diane writing a story like BoJack’s incident with Penny in New Mexico in “Escape From L.A.” Like in “Downer Ending,” Bob-Waksberg and writer Elijah Aaron depict his drug trip, with BoJack switching between the overdramatic noir world of “Philbert” and his actual life. BoJack shifts between reality and the noir world on a dime, with the walls in his home suddenly changing into Philbert’s set and BoJack’s tone changing with it.

The most memorable sequence from this episode comes from the “Don’t Stop Dancing” musical number. It not only ties into Gina’s music subplot from earlier in the season, but it also sees BoJack telling himself how awful he is and pushing through the pain the only way he knows how: with “more show.” This song-and-dance nightmare repeats the advice he told Sarah Lynn on “Horsin’ Around” that he heard from his mother as a child, an image of a loveless life that forces one to perform and work until they drop.

The episode is a painful case of déjà vu, with BoJack once again scheming to maintain his image. He once again is lying to himself in feeling that saving Gina’s career will save him, unable to deal with the brutal figure he’s become. This leads to BoJack switching between Gina finding his secret stashes of pills on the show’s set when he assaults Gina, the person he swore he was trying to protect. She asks him “what the fuck is wrong with you” as she leaves, dropping the one f-bomb of the season. “The Showstopper” hits because it continues BoJack’s cycle of self-sabotage with another creative twist in that it mocks the drama Philbert satirizes while continuing the comparisons made between the show and BoJack’s life. It is a frustrating watch because BoJack keeps making the same mistakes so many people make: furiously trying to keep all the pieces together when the picture is already broken.

Season 6, Episode 8: "A Quick One, While He's Away"

BoJack and his companions are not directly mentioned in this episode. “A Quick One, While He’s Away” brilliantly previews the final eight installments in the series by showing the pain that BoJack has left behind.

The episode deals with several supporting characters: Hollyhock is going to a party in New York, Kelsey Jannings (the original director of BoJack’s Secretariat film, Maria Bamford) is trying to find work as a director, and Gina is acting in a lead role. All the while, two 1940s cartoonish reporters (played by an unrecognizably fantastic Paget Brewster and Max Greenfield) are searching for a story on the missing details regarding Sarah Lynn’s death. That journey eventually leads the reporters to New Mexico and the events from “Escape From L.A.”

The episode is littered with callbacks to previous events in the series, namely Sarah Lynn’s death, BoJack getting Jannings fired, and BoJack assaulting Gina. all while never mentioning BoJack’s name. It even starts with esteemed character actress Margo Martindale analyzing her own situation and feeling guilty for the people she has hurt doing capers with BoJack. Part of the episode’s brilliance is that it comes after BoJack makes amends with his core friends and gets a job as a theater professor. That could have been the finale, but BoJack had yet to fully deal with everything he damaged along his journey to getting sober.

Gina has become more anxious on set after having flashbacks of BoJack, saying that she’s worked with a crazy person as the number one person on the call sheet. In fact, an actor she’s working with says “what the fuck is wrong with her” after a new stunt on set, alluding to Gina’s assault from the previous season. Hollyhock is nervous about drinking because she accidentally overdosed while living with BoJack. Jannings is still grappling with the fact that she is the only person whose career tanked from her experience with BoJack. The episode ends with Peter (aka “Pete Repeat”) recounting his traumatic experience on prom night to Hollyhock.

“A Quick One, While He’s Away” gives a fuller picture of the world surrounding BoJack and how much damage he has caused and has yet to fully acknowledge.

BoJack Horseman is streaming now on Netflix.

KEEP READING: How 'Tuca & Bertie' Examines Family Effects on Mental Health



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