BoJack Horseman Season 2 review
An uphill jog
The second season of “BoJack Horseman” begins with a bold, self-aware scene for our funny, flawed hero when BoJack (Will Arnett—“Arrested Development,” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) flashes back to his childhood at a memory where his parents fight boisterously as he desperately attempts to drown them out with television. This prologue ends when his verbally abusive mother walks in the room and directs him to “…enjoy your stupid TV show.” So we take her advice to heart; but is this “stupid TV show” on Netflix Instant Streaming still enjoyable for its sophomore year? If one enjoyed the clever anthropomorphic humor and blunt, crude, depressing perspective on the unexplored side of fame, then the answer is an assured “yes.” The entire principal voice cast returns as their laughter-inducing, unbelievable characters to continue another successful season on the animated Netflix series for adults. Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s series maintains its creative exploration on the narrative structure of comedy—a level of artistic integrity struck by few cartoons aimed at adults.
After his career resurgence from participating in a “Quentin Taranchulino” film and somehow finagling a Golden Globe for co-writing a gritty, acclaimed autobiography, the titular character begins the new season fulfilling his dream of starring in a biopic about the race horse Secretariat. Similar to the first season, BoJack quickly learns he isn’t happy like it would appear on paper as the series continues its focus on the dismal, lamentable angle of Hollywood fame and fortune. After experiencing some mild success, BoJack’s ghost writer Diane (Alison Brie—“Community,” “Mad Men”) also backslides from a taste of fleeting glory.
Staying topical, the series gets edgier—examining recent headlines such the public/ media reaction to stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress mentioning the Bill Cosby accusations when Diane gets tied up in a similar scenario while on a book tour with BoJack. Unfortunately, the introduction of edgier material attracts more dramatic material—too often sacrificing comedy for a moment to allow a principal character to get real and personal. We should laud “BoJack Horseman” for its edge and ability to reflect reality in animated format, but the main character just keeps making selfish mistakes which make it increasingly difficult to root for him as the season progresses. Luckily, we also see some rare emotional highs including a rather tender, nostalgic moment between Todd (Aaron Paul—Need For Speed, “Breaking Bad”) and BoJack during a daring escape sequence.
Arnett gives a terrific vocal performance as the series lead, giving a particularly excellent, heartfelt monologue during the episode “Yes And” where a mentally defeated and depressed BoJack unloads on a Hollywood producer, expressing a scathing indictment of the entertainment industry: “…Your job is to pump out garbage every year, hoping that some of the garbage stinks less than the rest of the garbage so you can quietly renew that garbage and keep failing sideways until you retire to a 3.5 bedroom garbage in Beverly Garbage and spend the rest of your life watching your former assistant’s garbage!” Paul slips right back into Todd’s lovable, oft-misguided rhythms, assuming the role as BoJack’s human pet for all intents and purposes. Brie’s Diane hits a confusing stage of her marriage and incites public outcry for recognizing sexual assault allegations brought against an established family-oriented celebrity—causing a bizarre meltdown of sorts.
Comic Paul F. Tompkins’ Mr. Peanutbutter maintains the character’s positive outlook on life, come what may. He has an uncharacteristic, hostile exchange with another character that feels uncomfortable and unlikely due to his loving, carefree nature. Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy, Jennifer’s Body) returns as the go-getting, hard-working Hollywood agent/ housecat Princess Carolyn. “PC” has fewer adventures with BoJack this season, seeking endeavors that bring about personal growth. Other season one celebrity guests lend their voices to recurring characters as well: Stephen Colbert, Olivia Wilde, Patton Oswalt, J.K. Simmons, Aisha Tyler, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Chenowith, John Krasinski, Kristen Schaal, Maria Bamford, Keith Olbermann, and “character actress” Margo Martindale.
Several newcomer celebrities join the “BoJack Horseman” cast for season two. Most prominent is Lisa Kudrow (“Friends,” Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion) as BoJack’s new love interest, an owl that awakens from a thirty-year coma. She challenges the protagonist in ways he never expected, pushing him toward the success he always expected from his career. Several more notable people pop in for an episode or two: Ricky Gervais, Amy Schumer, George Takei, Ed Helms, Liev Schreiber, and Joel McHale. Taking place in the land of entertainment production, many other guests voice themselves, such as: Paul McCartney, Daniel Radcliffe, Henry Winkler, Sarah Koenig, Lance Bass,and Scott Wolf. Perhaps the show’s uncompromising, honest look at Hollywood entertainment naturally attracts well-known artists seeking to be a part of BH’s message?
While BH is respected for having an unapologetically dramatic quality, the end of the season turns into a downward, heartbreaking, and selfish spiral where the jokes don’t land as well because of the overall sad nature of the plot. Even with his career resurgence, BoJack just can’t find contentment and happiness in the most obvious of places. Todd, Diane, Mr. Peanutbutter, and Princess Carolyn also struggle to keep a measure of positivity as BoJack’s depression directly affects all around him. Much like the first season, a majority of the comedy lies in the first half as the reality of Hollywood casts a raincloud over the latter half. BoJack’s season-long attempts to jog up the hill outside of his mansion are more than a little bit figurative.
The second season of “BoJack Horseman” certainly won’t let-down as the series explores creative ways to tell stories without compromising the premise’s fabric. Creator Waksberg’s unique style finds its way into every episode, hitting an excellent climax in the penultimate episode where the opening title song doesn’t play until the closing minutes. Netflix keeps its word of giving viewers what they want in the show’s second year even if the dramatic element gets explored a bit deeper than what we expected coming out of the freshman season.