Get back on the Horse(man) & other lessons from the end of Bojack
I finally watched the eight episodes that comprise the second half of Bojack Horseman’s last season. Here’s what made them so great, in all their dark comedic realness.
Quashing the depressed artist trope
Writer Diane begins to think she can’t compose her new book without accessing the darkest crevices of her mind, which she hasn’t been able to tap into as readily while on her recently prescribed antidepressant medication. The misnomer that psychiatric drugs inhibit creativity has echoed time and time again throughout artistic communities, and continues to be perpetuated today by celebrities like Kanye West.
Diane stops taking her pills, but quickly regains her senses after bursting into tears, shouting, “I want to die.” And back on the meds she goes.
I was glad to see the show didn’t end up romanticizing her decision to stop taking them. Diane wasn’t finally be able to write something significant sans-medication. In fact, it was more difficult for her to write because she was too depressed (go figure). This realistic portrayal gave us a nuanced representation of mental health struggles.
At this point, most people in Bojack’s life have distanced themselves from him for their own protection. At Princess Carolyn’s wedding (so random), Bojack obliquely asks if she will continue managing his career in the future, and she responds that she can recommend some great people to him. After years of cleaning up after Bojack’s messes, Princess Carolyn realizes she can choose to stop. And that’s exactly what she does.
Similarly, in the final scene of the series, we see a familiar image of Bojack and Diane smoking on a rooftop, and it becomes apparent that this will be the last time the two see each other. In the midst of this discovery, we receive an exquisitely delivered Diane-ism:
She is initially speaking about her ex-husband, but we come to understand it parallels her relationship to Bojack. Diane has finally accepted that she will never be able to save Bojack, and it’s too difficult for Diane to constantly worry about him. The return to the roof signifies that though this may be their last interaction, the ending doesn’t negate everything that came with their friendship.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned (and must continue to remind myself of) is that my day can start over at any time. I can also sub that for most things, like weeks, months, years, etc. But you get the point. Just because I got a rejection from a grad school this morning, doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the day will be awful or that the world is out to get me.
BoJack struggles with his addiction throughout the entire show and has achieved spouts of sobriety here and there. Having been within the structural confines of prison for the past few months, BoJack expresses his concerns about reentering the real world. He says to his friend Todd, “What if I relapse again?” To which Todd responds, “You’ll get sober again.”
I think there’s an important takeaway here about the value of progress, not perfection. Whenever Bojack has had the option of doing the right thing, he seemingly always makes the opposite choice. But looking back at where he began six seasons ago, it’s undeniable that change has occurred.
I never wanted BoJack to be a beaming portrait of humanity, but in a few short and meaningful years, this cartoon horse has been molded into a unique figure of the complexities, hardships, and pleasantries of being a person.