BoJack Horseman Recap: The Bender

Will Arnett as BoJack, Kristen Schaal as Sarah Lynn.
Photo: Netflix
Bojack Horseman

Bojack Horseman

That’s Too Much, Man! Season 3 Episode 11
Editor's Rating 5 stars

The world of BoJack Horseman doesn’t reset at the end of each episode. As it is in life, every character must live with their decisions. For BoJack, that doesn’t just mean a Tesla still sits at the bottom of his pool. His self-destructive behavior has led to some pretty spectacular interpersonal failures. He’s driven away everyone who cares about him.

It is hard to imagine another show putting its characters through quite as much as BoJack and … friends? frenemies? strategic alliances? … have suffered over the past three seasons. More impressive is how the writers allow those choices to influence the way each character does or doesn’t grow. “That’s Too Much, Man!” goes a step further still. If you thought BoJack’s Oscar campaign might serve as the crux as the season, you severely underestimated just how dark this show can get.

–Sarah Lynn wakes up, nine months sober, to greet the day. Her Disney Princess-esque happiness is interrupted twice: first by invasive paparazzi, and then by BoJack, calling to ask if she wants to party. BoJack has lost everyone else in his life, and so, acting as mutual enablers, they decide to go on an epic bender.

BoJack blacks out and comes to in an AA meeting. Sarah Lynn still wants her nine-month chip. (Technically, not drinking isn’t one of the 12 steps. “Loophole!”) BoJack gets up and confesses everything that happened with Charlotte and Penny, even divulging their real names. He feels awful that he still doesn’t know how the ordeal affected them, but he quickly blacks out again and wakes up driving a car. Sarah Lynn fills in what just happened: “I’ve never seen them cancel an AA meeting because everyone got bummed out before.” She then explains that the 12-step program requires you to make amends with the people you’ve wronged, and a very strung-out BoJack seizes onto the idea.

BoJack and Sarah Lynn race over to Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s house, but they aren’t home, so they sneak in and eat all their food. Then, they dress as Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane to role play asking Diane for forgiveness. That’s when the real Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter get home. Diane offers to let them sleep off the drugs in the guest room, but Sarah Lynn and BoJack run out, accidentally rebreaking Diane’s wrist in the process.

BoJack attempts to make amends to Todd, but instead finds a child in the park with Todd-like features. Child Todd’s parents basically offer him up to BoJack in exchange for fame, but BoJack and Sarah Lynn once again decide to continue their amends/bender/destruction tour and arrive at Ana Spanikopita’s house. BoJack asks Ana why she won’t give them a chance to “be broken together,” but when Ana starts to give him an answer, he blacks out and wakes up in the car. This happens two more times, and then BoJack has to move on. He goes to Princess Carolyn’s house and tries to apologize, but she appears to be busy with Ralph Stilton.

BoJack once again arrives at Ana’s house, and she reveals that she hasn’t seen him in two weeks. It’s clear that no one knows how long this bender has been going on. Ana relates a story about having been a lifeguard, and how she learned you can’t save some people. “You have to stop yourself,” she says, “those people will thrash and struggle and try to take you down with them.”

BoJack once again blacks out. When he comes to, he’s driving through Ohio in the snow. He apparently decided he needs to make amends to Penny. He blacks out again and wakes up in the library of Penny’s college, dressed as an old-timey detective. He and Sarah Lynn stalk Penny across campus, and BoJack looks for clues that she’s been damaged by his actions. Penny appears fine, though, until BoJack accidentally stumbles onto the lawn of a house party. Penny tells him she doesn’t want to see him. He blacks up and wakes up back in the car, and Sarah Lynn suspects that Penny had been okay until he showed up unannounced.

Penny opens the glove compartment and finds a packet of BoJack-brand heroin. (“Dude, that’s a big freaking deal. Getting a drug named after you is cooler than getting an Oscar. There’s Billy Crystal Meth, Angel Dustin Hoffman, Lucille Eight-Ball, and now you!”) They go back to Sarah Lynn’s house to snort it, causing BoJack to slip through time and flashback to Cuddlywhiskers’s house, circa 2007. The world around BoJack starts to crumple and he wakes up on Sarah Lynn’s floor, then blacks out again and comes to on a park bench. BoJack tells Sarah Lynn that she’s the only one who can really know him, because they’ve been through everything together. They wake up together in a shitty motel, and BoJack tells Sarah Lynn that he loves her. The Academy Awards are on, which means they’ve been on this bender for months, and watch TV just long enough to see that Sarah Lynn won an Oscar for best song. It doesn’t make her happy, though, and she has an existential crisis.

To calm her down, BoJack suggests they go to the planetarium. Together they watch the stars, and BoJack tries to put their lives into perspective. He says that they’re not doomed: “In the great grand scheme of things, we’re just tiny specks that will one day be forgotten. So, it doesn’t matter what we did in the past, or how we’ll be remembered. The only thing that matters is right now, this moment, this one spectacular moment we are sharing together.” Sarah Lynn falls asleep on his shoulder … and doesn’t wake up.

At the beginning of season three, all BoJack wanted was one really good night. Far from that, he has endured heartbreak after heartbreak, often at his own hand, and none of it has been enough to break him out of old habits. But maybe the death of someone whom he genuinely loved, someone who shared so many of his most self-destructive habits, will force his hand. Maybe BoJack will finally change.

Other Thoughts:

  • Okay, it might be naïve to think that next season will find BoJack a changed horse. If he was unable to make meaningful changes after what he did to Charlotte and Penny, it seems unlikely there’s much that can ultimately redeem him. But were BoJack Horseman just a show about how grim this world is, it wouldn’t lend so much credence to its characters’ genuine desires for self-improvement. This show finds hope for humanity in the very fact that people (or horses) who make bad decisions do so out of a misguided desire for a better life. BoJack may be a bad friend/partner/father figure/celebrity, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person. In the world of BoJack Horseman, as long as you’re trying, you are worthy of what you’re trying for.
  • “Your skin is murdered baby soft.”
  • The drinky bird at the AA meeting is such a good joke.
  • “What’s Diane’s role again? Is she like an Asian Daria?”
  • “Audiences hate meta jokes! When will comedy writers learn?”

BoJack Horseman Recap: The Bender