overnights

BoJack Horseman Recap: Because It Was Abby

Bojack Horseman

The Stopped Show
Season 5 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating *****

Bojack Horseman

The Stopped Show
Season 5 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Netflix

It’s the finale, so we face the fallout, the crisis, and the transitions. Princess Carolyn is in full damage-control mode after the choking video gets out. She sets up a softball interview for BoJack and Gina to brush off the whole “incident” as a hilarious misunderstanding between two actors who were just doing their jobs. Of course, as Carolyn’s trying to negotiate this, Sadie from North Carolina calls. Turns out her life’s gone to hell and since Carolyn wasn’t the the only one who was nice to her after she said no, she wants Carolyn to come grab that baby. And here, Carolyn is genuinely faced with an impossible decision given the crisis of the show. But she’ll try to have it all, getting away with work as long as she can before going to grab that baby. Her caseworker Tracy almost talks her out of it saying she should “live the life you’d clearly rather be living.” But Carolyn keeps holding on. That is until the show falls away and she runs out the door before Skip can even notice. And finally, she gets her little cute-ass porcupine, her “Untitled Princess Carolyn Project” (she won’t really call him that).

Meanwhile, BoJack doesn’t even remember what he did. He sits there, wide eyed and as the deep terror of knowing something terrible has happened, and knowing it’s because of you sets in. And when he actually sees the video? When he sees “what it looks like,” a.k.a. what it really is? He realizes he’s assaulted Gina. The guilt consumes him. He wants to come clean in the interview, but Gina asks him not to. Sure, she hates him and never wants to talk to him again outside acting, but it’s just one of the endless horrible complications of this. Her career is finally going well, she’s getting offers, and she doesn’t want to be defined by this. If he talks, it’s just another way he’s putting his selfish needs before hers. So BoJack goes along.

Diane gets sudden news that Girl Croosh is “pivoting to video” and they want her to be the online face of what they do. Diane can’t even comprehend this notion because she “feels like a Dumpster fire, floating out to sea with no rudder.” She feels miserable and feels like she makes other people miserable, so she can’t be a trusted authority or news source. But then Stefani gives her surprisingly decent advice about having more self-forgiveness. But Diane, unable to internalize this and always thinking about the bigger picture, can’t help but take the advice reflexively and wonders “maybe we should publish less takedowns?” But of course the answer is no.

There’s a lot to ponder about what this episode is saying regarding the public nature of talking abuse. Is it being critical of takedowns? Is it saying stories shouldn’t be leaked to the press? Is it just trying to trot out the same old “forgiveness” tropes? Of course not. I think the show 100 percent understands how important these things are to systemic responsibility. But I think it is honestly trying dramatize the human complications and contradictions that both play into the system and go beyond them. But that doesn’t mean it inherently succeeds in this dramatization.

For instance, there’s a good conversation about whether or not Henry Fondle is flippant or trivializing of rampant sexual harassment, especially given the way everyone nonchalantly takes it at face value. But that just means it all depends on how much we can buy into the metaphor, as it should hopefully stand for cut-to-the-bone satire on the way men will empower a literal sex robot (and keep empowering it afterward). Not to mention the ways others are forced to go along with it, along with the real cost of coming back down on how women lose their jobs. It’s all about the soul-crushing ironies, but the hardest one to swallow might be that in real life, their creators aren’t taking them out to a field and killing them Of Mice and Men–style.

But again, it keeps coming back to the way we really deal with conscience. When we get to the crescendo of the Mr. Peanutbutter plotline, he’s ready to admit that he cheated with Diane and break up with Pickles, who is clearly wrong for him. But he stares at her literal puppy-dog eyes and he can’t admit it. In fact, he’s such a “good dog” and people-pleaser that he would rather marry than face the truth. Which is just its own path to self-destruction and the destruction of others. Sometimes courage is being willing to be the bad guy, as much as you don’t want to.

And sometimes how much you want to. When the show is canceled, BoJack comes to Diane because he wants her to write a takedown of him. He wants to be reviled, hated, given what he deserves. The reasons for this is two-fold: One, he hates himself and he needs that to be reflected. Two, he believes this will somehow alleviate all the guilt and that it will make it better. But Diane refuses for two reasons as well. There’s the personal boundary level saying, “I am done writing about you, or with you, or for you.” Then she tells him that a takedown isn’t going to be what fixes him. While pressure from the press can help illuminate a truth, in the end, no one is going to “hold you accountable.” It is up to BoJack to embrace that, simply meaning, he has to take responsibility for himself.

Cut to the long drive up the PCH to Malibu and “Pastiches” rehab (clearly alluding to the famous Promises center). Where BoJack and Diane have one of their talks. BoJack’s unsure about it, but mostly, he’s terrified that he’s going to come out sober and it’s all going to still be the same. He means that “BoJack” will still be there. His self-hate. His demons. His shadow self. Diane puts it bluntly, “Rehab is not a cure-all that is suddenly gonna make you not an asshole.” And as he stands there with her, he wonders once again, “Why is she being so nice?” But it’s not that she’s being nice.

Diane launches into a parable from high school about her best friend Abby who suddenly fell in with the popular girls and turned on her. Suddenly, everything they shared was used and abused in horrific ways. It destroyed her. But then that summer, Abby’s mom got really sick and all her popular friends were away. So Diane showed up for her, even though she hated her then. And she did it for a simple reason: “because it was Abby.” They were best friends. And Diane loved her in the way she was always going to love her. Even if it was all different now, Abby needed help. And in that moment BoJack understands that he is hated, but that his ex-best friend is there to help him. And with that, BoJack walks toward the center, turns back, and says the three words he’s never really said before …

“I need help.”

I was a blubbering mess. Some things hit close to home. There are things I have done for family members and friends because they were “Abby.” There are also times I’ve let my Abbys down. And there are times people helped me because I was their Abby. And times that they let me down in turn. Watching BoJack leave, this moment where we stay and hang with her is so damn critical. This moment after the good-bye. The moment where you shake and are alone. You’ve put others first, but then come right back into your self, unsure of even what to do with your body. It would be so easy to make this all “the story of BoJack.” But it’s not. It’s the story of how many lonely drives there are in life, thinking about the cost of trying to stay sane in the world around you. If there has ever any mistake of where the deepest empathy lies in this show, it is with her. It has always been with her. Because it is Diane.

Best Jokes & Other Notes

• The “pivot to video” feels like an inside reference to what MTV did when they fired their incredible MTV News writing staff and went to an approach that worked horribly. RIP incredible MTV News team.

• “Every idea sounds stupid when you describe what it is!”

• “I was just asking to be polite and it’s very rude of you to assume that I care.” / “My parents never said no to me so I’m literally incapable of processing it as a concept.”

• I’m sorry I will always be a sucker for half-a-medallion gags.

• Flip finally made me laugh when he thought he was Princess Carolyn the whole time and put on the lipstick.

• Diane’s finally getting an IKEA bed, “Regreta Somn.”

• Best Bit Part Animal: The hare who lost the race drinking in the corner of the bar.

• This Week’s Actual Mean-Joke Targets: Rob Schneider and his sad surprise party / TNT

• Moment That Made Me the Happiest: “I need help.” I don’t know how the story of BoJack Horseman is going to end. I don’t know if this is going to be redemption story. I don’t know if it’s gong to be a tragedy. I don’t know if it’s just going to be this back-and-forth forever. I don’t know if it needs to be that so there’s “more show.” I don’t know any of these things. I just know that asking for help is a step. One of many. And this show’s honesty continues to grab my soul and hold it and shake it equal measure.

BoJack Horseman Recap: Because It Was Abby