‘Bojack Horseman’ Season Three Review
What is happiness? Is there are right way and a wrong way to be happy? Do we have an obligation to ourselves to find what we love or love what we found? Let’s see how anthropomorphic animals handle these terribly serious questions while pop songs about abortion and Full House references fly about.
Bojack Horseman season three sees Bojack realizing his dreams of bringing the Secretariat story to the big screen. He’s on the award circuit, out to prove that he is more than the sitcom dad he played in the ’90s and is indeed a professional actor. The only way he will be validated is by winning an Oscar. He chases that dream thinking it will finally bring him the happiness he desperately seeks.
Bojack seems to have it all. Fancy house, disposable income, a job that allows him creative expression, people who care for him, but he does not see any of these elements of his life as fulfilling. Every time one of these elements starts to make him happy, he becomes fearful of potentially losing that happiness and pushes the element away. Is happiness a choice, then? Bojack has ample opportunity to seek help, to run away from his life and find what makes him happy. But he seeks out misery. He’s as depressed as ever this season, if not more, because things are actually going well for him.
Bojack’s opposite is Mr. Peanutbutter, a Labrador who is compulsively happy and excited about life. Nothing can keep Mr. Peanutbutter down. This season his marriage is on the rocks, his brother is emotionally distant during crisis, and his career is reduced to standing in for absentee Oscar nomination announcement presenters. Through it all, Mr. Peanutbutter sticks to the extreme optimism that has served him so well. At no point in the series does Mr. Peanutbutter’s outlook come across as naivety. Bad things happen, the perky pooch knows this, but he tries his hardest to keep that sunny outlook.
The season plays the two parts against each other well. Mr. Peanutbutter and Bojack both experience successes of their own and as the two emotional extremes in the series, there is a lot of attention paid to how their moods affect those around them–Diane in particular. As Bojack’s social media guru and Mr. Peantbutter’s wife, she’s in close proximity to both outlooks. While she still feels strongly connected to Bojack and his vision of the world, she knows it is a toxic disposition for her to take part in. She easily slips in and out of a ‘the world is garbage’ outlook and keeps Mr. Peanutbutter ever in her mind.
This season is full of flashbacks to 2007, the year Bojack’s crippling depression began, following a failed attempt at a return to television with The Bojack Horseman Show. The show was ill-conceived and ill-received, leading to Bojack’s fear of success and, eventually, happiness. The flashbacks help develop Bojack and his relationships beyond what has already been seen. The ambition of Princess Caroline is made even more apparent, and their real friendship makes later events all the more crushing.
Despite all this talk on the nature of happiness and how our emotional state can affect those around us, Bojack Horseman season three is hilarious. From baby snakes with rattles to a particular balloon carried by Mr. Peanutbutter in episode 6, there are enough jokes in the background alone to keep the viewer moving. The voice acting is stellar. Paul F. Thompkins voices Mr. Peanutbutter with such care and love for the character it gives the Labrador life. Aaron Paul voices Todd with amazing comic ability. Will Arnett (Bojack), Amy Sedaris (Princess Caroline) and Kristen Schaal (Sarah Lynn) are among the best voice actors in the business and they are superb in this season (and don’t worry, character actress Margo Martindale is present and amazing).
This season takes bold steps for what stories it wants to tell and how it tells them. Episode four, titled Fish out of Water is spent mostly without dialogue but tells a heart-wrenching story and shows that Bojack is not an emotional void for the first time in the entire season. This season really went to new places for animated television. In watching the actions of these humanoid animals we learn a bit about the human condition. Season three is saddening, bold and exactly what the show needed. Watch season three and contemplate life. It is what Bojack wants.
A wonderful entry to the Bojack Horseman series, season three tries new things and remains true to itself in making tough topics approachable.