BoJack Horseman Season Finale Recap: The Broken Horse

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Photo: Netflix
Bojack Horseman

Bojack Horseman

What Time Is It Right Now Season 4 Episode 12
Editor's Rating 5 stars

“I got into this business because I love stories. They comfort us, they inspire us, they create a context for how we experience the world, but also you have to be careful because if you spend a lot of time with stories, you start to believe that life is just stories. And it’s not. Life is life. And that’s so … sad … because there’s so little time … and what are we doing with it?”

So starts Princess Caroline’s meandering, existential pitch session. But it turns out the answer to that last question (and this season finale) is mostly “shenanigans.”

The show is a comedy, after all. We just lose track of that fact, especially in the wake of episodes like the last one, which might qualify as the darkest drama I saw this year. But it’s all part of the overall Bojack Horseman approach, where drama loses meaning if it is constant and unearned. And so, things quickly return to some shenanigans after the dire straights of “Time’s Arrow.”

It starts with Todd seeing how Princess Carolyn is drunkenly losing it, so he drags her to the woods to give her a patented pep talk just like the ones she always gives. (He even makes an adorable makeshift “head of pep” sash … I love Todd so much.) At first, her bewilderment is all like, “Why am I tied up in the woods?” but then it turns to an accidental kind of self-realization: “The only way out is through! I have to stop feeling sorry for myself!”

The first part, yes, good. But to the second part, she actually does have to feel sorry for herself. We’ll get to that later, though. For now, she will march forward just as she always does! And marching is a pretty good idea right now … because they’re suddenly attacked by Todd’s rabid clown dentists. It’s zany, it’s ridiculous, but it all somehow culminates in the possibility of Todd having an asexual relationship with the young woman from the Better Business Bureau.

Anyway, back to Carolyn. She keeps trying to press on with BoJack, trying to coax and lie her way into making him join the Philbert project, but he’s seemingly distracted by his own mystery. Finally, she walks into his house at the end of the episode, completely defeated. She admits the truth about forging the signature, saying to herself, “I just needed something.” And to that, BoJack simply says he’ll do it. Because this is what happens when we don’t hide the truth and when we are vulnerable: The people you’ve helped want to help you in turn.

Carolyn can’t help but break down crying in response, echoing the words of unreason: “It’s just really hard to need people.” It’s hard because we’re taught not to need people. That it is weak. That it is wrong. That it will just lead to more hurt. But nothing could be further from the truth. And BoJack, who is surprisingly sensitive when he’s unbothered, tells Carolyn she should have a kid or adopt because “the world needs good moms.” It all makes for a glimmer of light in a dim world.

Hopefully adding to that light, we see Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane walking through the VR demo of their new dream home. (I like how Diane has equal levels of real/fake-world confusion.) Mr. Peanutbutter keeps saying he wants Diane to have rooms and a space that’s really hers, but she chides it away, saying she doesn’t need that kind of stuff. She then has a blissful moment where she looks at that sweet little idiot with adoring affection. They later arrive at their new dream home to celebrate “the rest of our lives” and “going back to normal,” but they freeze. Something is amiss. Mr. Peanutbutter quickly suggests the crazy idea of driving to Hawaii (there is a bridge, after all), and so they get caught in a totally metaphorical traffic jam.

The traffic sucks and they have little snits along the way, but soon they just decide to stay in a “roadside” motel where they find a little space and happiness. Diane even tells Mr. Peanutbutter that when she was little, she wanted “the Belle room” from Beauty and the Beast. Then Mr. Peanutbutter gets some attention from some fans and she tells him to go have fun and do his thing. Meanwhile, she goes to the room and puts on something seductive and lights candles. It’s so touching and sad as she falls asleep waiting for him. You think, Surely this will be the fight! But instead, he comes in and they both understand what happened, and it’s achingly tender. A symbol of two people who are genuinely considerate of one another.

But sometimes, consideration isn’t enough. When they finally return home, Mr. Peanutbutter, of course, had the literal Belle Room put into the house, complete with 5,000 fake books. Unsure how to respond, Diane completely freaks out. Mr. Peanutbutter doesn’t understand why she’s upset as he gave her exactly what she wanted, but Diane says it’s her fantasy, something that belonged to her. But that’s not the problem, that’s the problem of the problem, and so she is displacing yet again. Mr. Peanutbutter gets angry, explaining how he wants her to want the space in the house and not just be a guest. Because if she just wants to be a guest, then she’s going to leave him when she gets bored, just like his exes did. Alas, they’re both trapped by trying to beat their past.

Note how Diane says a very telling thing: “It’s too much! I didn’t want it like this.” Because the Belle Room is not her literal wish. She wanted to have the moment from that movie, which is about a very different thing. To be clear, Beauty and the Beast has been socially codified as a parable about why girls should want to “fix” bad boys who treat them like crap, and there’s certainly shades of that here, but there’s also a deeper, more important layer at play. And that’s how so many people grow up missing the love from the monsters in our life. Like BoJack and his mom, Diane just wanted love and acceptance from her family and she doesn’t understand that core need within herself. Until she faces it, her relationship with Mr. Peanutbutter will largely be about the things they give and take from each other, but never about the intimacy of understanding. And so, on a final level, Diane is actually right. They are like a Magic Eye poster: If you squint at their relationship, “everything lines up and [it’s the] most perfect beautiful amazing thing … but I’m so tired of squinting.” Yes, love matters so much, but it’s just too hard when you aren’t understood.

And for the last plot of the finale, there is BoJack’s mystery. It begins with BoJack revealing why he’s so sick of mysteries and their whole hackneyed deal. I love mysteries, but he’s largely right. And so the narrative skips through most of that stuff, eschewing the massive and meaningful amounts of work that BoJack had to do. Why? Because the specifics don’t really matter to us. Just the result that comes in those final meaningful moments. The ones where BoJack finally, finally gets to talks to Hollyhock on the phone. I practically held my breath, overtaken by how much I cared. BoJack keeps trying take care of her, asking what she needs, but Hollyhock shifts the conversation to making fun of honeydew melon. He goes along with it and the two seem right at ease. But he starts worrying about her again, shifting right back to trying to be a dad. Hollyhock stops him. She tells him what she told him at the start: She has eight dads so she doesn’t need another. But then, she says the six words that BoJack didn’t know that he needed to hear more than anything else in the world …

“But I’ve never had a brother.”

Suddenly, time’s arrow doesn’t march on. It stops dead in its tracks. In this moment, BoJack Horseman experiences something so grand that he can barely understand it. And so, I will go back to earlier in the episode to try and do just that.

In the box of stuff marked “Bea,” there is a shot of BoJack picking up a copy of his father’s book. It’s titled The Horse That Could Never Be Broken. This is a double entendre that taps into what Beatrice never wanted to believe about herself. She believed she could never be broken by society or internally. It’s a mantra about always pressing on, always running. Time’s arrow and all that. And it’s a philosophy passed down to her son, but these are two incredibly broken people in denial over the simplest fact: BoJack wants Beatrice’s love. Beatrice wants her father’s love. But neither received it. This pain is at the root of BoJack telling Hollyhock earlier in the season that “enough will never be enough.” For he just wanted the pain to stop. And he thinks it can stop only if he doesn’t care, extinguishing the last flicker of his heart.

But we can’t help but want love. Moreover, Mr. Peanutbutter was right: Every human being deserves love. For broken people to understand that, there is so much we must overcome. In my last recap, I said that teenagers try and fix what’s broken by trying to beat it, which is really just a way of revenge that wreaks more havoc. The real answer is that the only way to beat a rigged game is to let it go. It’s the only way you can forgive yourself for never getting what you deserve. And then, you can do what might be perhaps even more daring, and that is forgiving yourself for having experienced the pain that came with it.

I’ll say this to people sometimes and it goes over their heads. Hell, it used to go over mine. But there always comes a day where we have to reckon with the fact that we all have younger versions of ourselves running through our minds, pulling the strings. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we understand whatever haunts us. It’s the realest thing in the world.

You might remember that in my very first recap of the season, I said that BoJack Horseman does the best character work on TV in terms of psychology. Well, I finished this episode more convinced than ever. He is as fully realized a character as I can think of. Meaning, he is real to me, effectively. If I were somehow able to cross the barriers of reality as a kind of God and speak to him, I would tell BoJack that what made him miserable was not his own fault. And, I would say the two things that I desperately hope matter most: “I love you. And I forgive you.”

Even then, it may not matter because acceptance is the deepest thing for someone who is broken. Ultimately, it’s something he needs to tell himself. And we are still so far away in his development for that to come to pass. But in the here and now, we have the lovely notion of a baby step. I don’t know if Hollyhock loves him or even forgives him, but for one shining moment, she says those magical six words and BoJack’s face contorts, experiencing a range of emotions he can barely contemplate. No, it’s not the mere idea of being someone’s brother. It’s a far more real moment of acceptance from Hollyhock, a real person that he, in turn, got to be a real person with right back. And so, this is really about one thing: For the first time in the entire damn life of BoJack Horseman, he was enough.

Best Jokes and Final Notes

• “Oh, so it’s not like a time full of newts?”

• “O.J. Simpson lawyer and DNA expert Barry Scheck!?”

• The blood-ketchup transition shot.

• “It’s called a library.”

• The “BETTER” stamp from the Better Business Bureau.

• BoJack’s reaction to just two pages of the script. Trust me, that’s all you need.

• This actual mean-joke target: “It’s the worst part of everything it’s in. It’s like the Jared Leto of fruits!”

• The moment that made me happiest: What else but the smile? And with that …

• To say this is a monumental season of TV feels inept. What is happening here with BoJack Horseman is something more than mere moments in time, but something special. And so, getting to write about this show, whether it be the stories, the ideas, or the emotions contained within, has been nothing short of a joyous honor. And I thank you so much for being a part of it.

BoJack Horseman Season Finale Recap: The Broken Horse