Bojack Horseman might be the weirdest show out there right now. The animated Netflix series features Bojack, a horse in his early forties (voiced by Will Arnett), as he tries to navigate the world of being a former superstar, many years after his hit TV show (Horsin’ Around) went off the air. It’s surreal and funny, featuring a cast of bizarre animals and creatures who live among humans in a world very similar to ours.
In another context, this story might be the subject of a dark drama about the entertainment industry. Many of the plot lines seems like something that would be at home on a show that might be on HBO or Showtime. It’s incredibly cerebral for a show about a talking horse that used to have his own TV show. It might even be viewed as a send up of how seriously we take our TV shows these days. The writing is excellent, the animation is superb, and the voice work has all the actors at the top of their game.
Last season, Bojack was cast in a film starring as Secretariat, his personal hero. How will he do this season as he enters his second life as a “serious film actor”? Let’s find out.
Here are ten thoughts on the first two episodes.
The first scene of the first episode seems to set the stage. Bojack, as a child, is in his sailor suit (looking adorable) watching his hero, Secretariat on TV. His dad comes home and starts yelling at his dad about sleeping around and she throws a plate at him. He leaves and his mother comes into the living room and says, “You better grow up to be something great. To make up for all the damage you’ve done.” Ouch. Well. At least we know why he’s so damaged.
2. The animation looks sharper
Maybe I’m just watching it on a better screen, but the animation looks so much better this season. The colors are popping, the lines seem bolder. Everything looks just a little bit better than last season. Maybe it’s an update in technology or maybe it’s just that they have more money this season. Either way, my overworked eyes appreciate it.
3. Everything is a metaphor!
Throughout the first episode, Bojack is listening to motivational tapes to get “a new outlook on life.” And for the most part, it seems to be working. Everything is a metaphor for something else and Bojack is reveling in the second chance he’s been given by the universe. If the first episode is any indication, it seems like this whole season is going to be dripping in metaphors. There’s a lot of potential for mining some weird emotional stuff now that we have a good understanding of these characters. And with hints that Bojack’s past is going to play a big role this season, I can’t wait to see what kind of weird, dark places the show is going to go.
4. Vincent! I FORGOT ABOUT VINCENT!
The boyfriend of Princess Carolyn. The president of the “Business Factory.” The guy with a broom for a hand. He’s back. Will it be revealed this season if he really is just two young boys in a trench coat taking Carolyn for a ride? Or will it be something much weirder?
5. Bojack is a fascinating, tragic character
On his first day on set, Bojack is having trouble with his character. He is unable to deliver the line “What are you doing here?” in anything other than a shtick-y sitcom cadence. It’s not until his mother calls him basically to say that she doesn’t really care about him that he’s able to play Secretariat as a horse in a dark place convincingly. This speaks to the show’s strength as less of a comedy and more of a character study with comedic elements. Bojack is a deeply flawed individual. For most of the previous season, he hid his self-hatred and doubt under a veneer of indignation and haughtiness. Even in the first episode, it seems like that is starting to break a little bit. I think this season, we’re going to get a much better view of the human side of this horse.
6. Aaron Paul is a delight
It’s kind remarkable to me that the first show Paul chose after Breaking Bad was this. How different could you get? Burn out drug kingpin to… well, just a burnout, I guess. So maybe not that different. But it speaks to his ability as an actor that he’s able to make Todd such a lovely, endearing character that we want to spend time with. His voice work is exceptional and he has great chemistry with Will Arnett. If this is what he’s decided to do right out of the gate, I’m really excited to see what he’ll do next.
7. The throwaway gags are what make this show
In the second episode, Todd makes his very own Disneyland, which is actually just a terribly dangerous hodgepodge of wood, nails, and sparking wires. One of the attractions is “Cinderella’s Pile of Mattresses.” If you look closely, there’s a sign that says “Beware of Bed Bugs.” That’s kind of funny, a nice little joke that you might miss. But that’s just one layer. As the kids are bouncing up and down, a giant, man-sized bedbug in a polo shirt shoots out of the pile and grabs a kid, pulling her into the pile. It all happens in less than a second and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it. It’s jokes like these that make this show so watchable. There’s plenty going on in the foreground, but there is just as much wacky stuff going on in the background as well.
8. I get the sense that there is a lot more to Mr. Peanut Butter
When Mr. Peanut Butter visits Todd’s Disneyland, he expresses his excitement about helping Todd on his venture and including some of his own ideas in the process. When Todd uncomfortably tells him that it’s “more of his thing,” Mr. Peanut Butter cheerfully threatens him with a lawsuit. Woof. That’s harsh. That doesn’t seem to fall in line with the chipper, jovial character that we know. Could there be more to Mr. PB than we thought? Are we going to see a little bit of his backstory this season perhaps?
9. There’s so much world building going on
Why is the jury in the courtroom scene made up entirely of antelope? Why is the Marlon Brando impersonator a swordfish? Why is there a Soviet spy in Hollywood? Is there an analogous Cold War in this universe? Is it a warped version of ours? There are so many questions, yet it all holds together so beautifully. It’s constantly intriguing. All of the little nods to the culture these characters inhabit are at the same time intuitive and ambiguous. It’s a joy to get lost in this world.
10. There’s a joke about David Copperfield making the World Trade Center’s disappear
And if nothing else, this show is original.
Tags: Aaron Paul, BoJack Horseman, lisa kudrow, Will Arnett