Even for an episode of BoJack Horseman, “That Went Well” covers a lot. This season finale jumps from one of the silliest, most absurd jokes I’ve ever seen to an absolute heartrender of an ending. Before I jump in, though, I just want to say this: I feel very lucky to be witnessing this point in television history. I’m consistently amazed with the original, brave storytelling allowed to flourish in the age of the digital platform. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was toggling between BoJack Horseman and Stranger Things. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
Okay, on to the season finale.
It’s 2007. BoJack goes backstage after a concert by then–pop star Sarah Lynn, all in an attempt to court her for a guest spot on The BoJack Horseman Show. Sarah Lynn reveals that she feels exploited by the people around her and feels close to falling off the deep end. “I know I’m smiling right now, but the light inside me is dying,” she says.
It’s 2016. BoJack, still bleary-eyed from a months-long bender, watches the news as MSNBSea reports that Sarah Lynn has died of a drug overdose. This definitely isn’t where I expected the season to take us. But here we are.
Meanwhile, Character Actress Margo Martindale and the giant papier-mâché Todd head remain at large. While piloting the Escape From L.A., she speeds right into a cargo ship that’s filled with pasta for Sandro’s new restaurant. Amid the ship wreckage, literal tons of pasta spill into the ocean. Up above, a mirrored, Secretariat-sponsored blimp reflects the light of the sun onto the ocean surface, which causes the water to boil and the pasta to cook. The giant tangled glob of spaghetti traps Character Actress Margo Martindale, the (tragically shattered) Todd head, and the crew of the cargo ship, then begins to sink down to Pacific Ocean City.
It all seems like a giant non-sequitur, until you remember that Mr. Peanutbutter has an entire house full of unused spaghetti strainers. Moreover, he has access to Cabracadabra’s fleet of drivers to transport the strainers — and being killer whales, those drivers are also strong enough to swim through the mess. A few questions: Why has the entire season arc built up to this specific joke? Is it to lend some much-needed levity to an otherwise brutally depressing finale? Is it a philosophical nod to the idea that we never truly know what we’re preparing for? Is it just because it’s funny as hell? The world may never know.
While Mr. Peanutbutter saves Pacific Ocean City, BoJack sits alone, watching old episodes of Horsin’ Around. Diane comes over, seemingly having forgiven him for … well, everything. BoJack tells her that he is poison, and feels that he’s to blame for Sarah Lynn’s death. Diane reveals that she used to watch a lot of Horsin’ Around as a kid, and she found it really comforting. It made her feel like she had a family. “There are millions of people who are better off for having known you,” she says. They reconcile, and BoJack calls Brad to tell him that he wants to do Ethan Around.
Later, Mr. Peanutbutter, Diane, Princess Carolyn, and Ralph get dinner at Sandro’s new restaurant. Mr. Peanutbutter tells them that he’s selling Cabracadabra for a ton of money. (“You know, it’s really too bad you shut down the agency, because if you could’ve held out for just a couple more months, right now Vim would be rolling in money!”) Princess Carolyn insists that she’s happy just having time off to travel, and Ralph reveals that his family runs a giant chain of hotels. After asking about Diane’s career prospects, Princess Carolyn suggests that she’d be the perfect person to help run a new website owned by Ralph’s sister. She insists on setting a meeting for them; despite her extended vacation, it’s clear that she’s falling back into old workaholic patterns. Later, she tells Ralph that she’s found a new calling: She wants to be a manager, not an agent. “An agent helps a client find jobs,” she says, “but a manager helps manage a client’s career.”
On the set of Ethan Around, BoJack gives up his laugh line to Brad. It’s a small but significant change in character — this time around, BoJack will try to do things differently. It all goes swimmingly, up until the moment when a new child actor tells BoJack that she wants to be just like him when she grows up. She wants to be famous. BoJack realizes that there might not be anything he can do to stop old patterns from repeating themselves. Once again, it seems he’s destined to have someone look up to him as a father figure only to fail them miserably, as he did to Charlotte and Sarah Lynn. He knows how this goes: He’ll recognize his responsibility to someone, get scared, and do something that will ruin them both. And so, BoJack walks off set in a daze. He drives home, finds an empty mess of a house, and immediately leaves again.
Diane meets with Stefani Stilton (Kimiko Glenn) to discuss her new site, GirlCroosh. Stefani asks if Diane would potentially be willing to write a hit piece against Mr. Peanutbutter and, although she waffles for a bit, she decides to take the job. This will definitely be a big conflict next season.
Meanwhile, Todd sells off his shares in Cabracadabra for $8 million. (“Todd? As a millionaire? That’s going to lead to some interesting stories!”) After Emily shows up to collect her money, they go out for lunch. Emily asks point-blank if Todd is gay, and Todd says he’s not sure. He doesn’t think he’s really anything. This may well make Todd the first explicitly asexual lead character on a TV show — BoJack Horseman is just casually breaking all kinds of barriers this season. Emily doesn’t seem to mind, and still wants to be his friend. Todd accidentally leaves an $8 million tip on their lunch. They laugh it off. Todd is better than the rest of us.
Mr. Peanutbutter’s ex-wife, Katrina (Lake Bell), shows up at his front door. Now that he’s a national hero, she’s got a pretty big offer for him: Does he want to run for governor of California?
At the newly opened Vim Management, Judah tells Princess Carolyn that a teenage girl called looking for BoJack. She can’t help her, she says. “I don’t work for BoJack.” On the other end of the line, we see a girl who bears an uncanny resemblance to BoJack. Is she his daughter? Seems like it.
BoJack hits the open road. As he presses down the accelerator, he takes his hands off the wheel and closes his eyes. The car slowly drifts across the road. Nina Simone’s cover of “Stars” blares on the soundtrack. And suddenly, he opens his eyes, looks to the distance, and slams on the brakes. He sees a pack of wild horses sprinting across the desert. Deep down, something within BoJack seems to recognize what he needs. Every time he’s attempted to change, he’s done it within the context of the life he knows, whether that means picking a different kind of film or TV project, making amends to someone he’s known for years, or losing himself temporarily in sex and drugs. But maybe that life is a lost cause. Maybe it’s not about finding redemption; it’s about starting a life that’s totally unfamiliar and therefore untainted by old mistakes.
I started these recaps with a quote from Jacqueline Susann’s The Valley of the Dolls, and I’d like to end with one as well.
You’ve made it — and the world says
you’re a hero.
But it was more fun at the bottom
when you started,
with nothing more than hope and
the dream of fulfillment.
Maybe that’s what BoJack needs. After decades of self-sabotage, maybe he needs to return to the bottom, and start that climb again.
- Doctors Without Posters sounds like a very worthwhile organization.
- I’m really disappointed to learn that the olive oil doesn’t make pasta less sticky. Seriously, I thought that was true until this episode. Why have so many of us lived this lie?
- “Now Leaving California, America’s Sideburn”
- Thanks so much for reading these recaps! If there’s one downside to the age of streaming television, it’s how quickly each season seems to end.