BoJack Horseman Recap: On the Record

BoJack Horseman

Xerox of a Xerox
Season 6 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

BoJack Horseman

Xerox of a Xerox
Season 6 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

At the end of a particularly damning interview with BoJack Horseman, which exhaustively covers his role in Sarah Lynn’s life and death, interviewer Biscuits Braxby offers a helpful summary: “You gave Sarah Lynn alcohol when she was a child. She then became an addict. When she was intoxicated, you had sex with her, and when she was sober, you gave her the heroin that killed her. Then, in an effort to cover for yourself, you waited to call the paramedics that might have saved her life.”

And while the audience is naturally predisposed to be sympathetic to BoJack — he is our protagonist, after all — I think it’s helpful to have the bare facts spelled out. Could a person find mitigating circumstances, and use them to justify some of BoJack’s more heinous decisions? Absolutely. But the facts are the facts, and everyone — BoJack, his victims, his closest friends, and the audience itself — needs to reckon with that before the show ends.

If it sounds like I’m taking the Netflix horse cartoon a little too seriously, it’s only because BoJack Horseman is engaging so sincerely with the actual, real-life impact of the Me Too movement. This final BoJack Horseman story is essentially a fictionalized version of a conversation that’s playing out in our actual society in real time, as rich and powerful men finally face down the consequences for their abuses of power.

Early in the episode, Diane tells Guy she doesn’t plan to watch the BoJack interview, predicting that she knows exactly how it will play out: BoJack will admit to the confirmed details but nothing else, and pivot, as soon as possible, to stories about how his childhood and his addictions and his career conspired to send him down this dark spiral. In the end, he’ll insist that he has finally learned and changed, and implicitly beg the court of public opinion to forgive him as a sinner who has since reformed.

It’s one of the episode’s bleaker jokes that BoJack’s first interview with Biscuits — whom you might remember from a similar softball interview after BoJack attacked Gina Cazador on the set of Philbert — goes exactly as Diane predicts. After confessing to his role in Sarah Lynn’s death, and dishing candidly on his own rock bottom, BoJack emerges not just unscathed, but even more popular than he was before.

Does the fact that we, the audience, have plenty of evidence to believe BoJack has earnestly changed make any difference? It certainly doesn’t help that the panic over the phone call from Charlotte — when combined with the warm reception to his first interview with Biscuits — indulges all of BoJack’s worst qualities by playing into his selfishness and his desperation for the spotlight.

So he doubles down, agreeing to a second interview with Biscuits — against Princess Carolyn’s advice — and pretending that “the conversation” he has sparked about addiction means more to him than his own insatiable ego. And that’s when Biscuits, working from information provided by Paige Sinclair, hits BoJack with the real questions about his larger and longer pattern of wielding power over women who have no recourse.

Even more so than usual, BoJack Horseman’s final season has been dense with references to its own history — including some self-critique. That extends to Biscuits bringing up Marcy, the president of the BoJack Horseman fan club who BoJack had a one-night stand with, and who was essentially used as a lazy punchline pegged to the crazy ex-girlfriend stereotype back when she appeared in season four’s “Commence Fracking.” But whether the show took it seriously back then or not, BoJack did have power over many of the women in his circle — and now, belatedly, he’s forced to reconcile with the way he abused it.

And when faced with that stark reality, BoJack has no choice to admit it: Yes, that was him, and no matter how genuinely remorseful he feels, there’s nothing he can do to change that. And in the aftermath of the interview — even as he desperately attempts to find a positive way to spin it — Princess Carolyn warns him that he should enjoy the few hours he has left before the interview airs, because his life will never be the same after it’s done.

So BoJack does what he has often does best: regresses to the people and places who will love him without criticism. We return to a dingy comedy club called the Laugh Shack, where BoJack and Herb Kazzaz originally developed the skills that would eventually lead to Horsin’ Around — one of the last happy times in their lives, before money and ego and addiction would throw both of their lives off course.

BoJack inevitably takes the stage, delivering an impromptu set for a happy audience that will soon learn all the reasons they should despise him. But the key moment comes immediately before BoJack goes on stage, when he sits at the bar, staring at a water bottle.

At this late stage of BoJack Horseman’s run, it’s an image with a few meanings, including the vodka that inadvertently led to Doctor Champ falling off the wagon, setting the stage for all of BoJack’s darkest secrets to be exposed. But it’s also the void: The image of the “sky” in the planetarium, which was the last thing Sarah Lynn ever saw, as she sat alongside BoJack on the night she died. This whole episode was about BoJack talking when he should probably be silent. But as he sits alone, in the bar where his whole career began — well, what is he thinking then?

Horsin’ around:

• Diane finally meets Guy’s sullen teenaged son Sonny, and accidentally brings him to tears in fewer than two minutes by bursting his belief that his parents will get back together someday.

• In a very brief aside, Pickles calls Mr. Peanutbutter to confirm that they are broken up forever.

• Hooray! Todd and Maude are (probably) moving in together!

• A partial list of BoJack-ified comedians on the photo wall at the Laugh Shack: Maria Bamboo (Maria Bamford), Gallagator (Gallagher), Whoopi Goldfish (Whoopi Goldberg), Steve Marten, (Steve Martin), Robin Williams (Robin Williams), Sarah Silverfish (Sarah Silverman), Dalmatian Wayans (Damon Wayans), Dave Chapelican (Dave Chappelle), George Marlin (George Carlin), Billy Goat Crystal (Billy Crystal), and Polly Shore (Pauly Shore).

• Early in his career, BoJack apparently cohosted an all-horse comedy night with E. Mane Boosler (Elayne Boosler) and Mitch Horseberg (Mitch Hedberg).

• The photo wall also includes Kristen Schaal, who voiced Sarah Lynn (and who is apparently a horse in the BoJack Horseman universe as well).

• Diane still insists that Roxy — her rarely glimpsed, barely defined “best friend,” who hasn’t appeared since season four — is her closest friend.

• Selections from the news ticker on Tom Jumbo-Grumbo’s MSNBSea show: “Mass shooter stopped by other mass shooter who happened to be mass shooter”; “ICE abolished by climate change.”

• Paige’s sister Patience on Paige’s His Girl Friday patter: “”Why do you talk like that? We’re from Fresno.”

• Maude on an interesting-sounding TV show that is somehow very boring: “It’s about New Orleans and jazz and Hurricane Katrina and drugs and John Goodman.” Hmmm, what could that be?

BoJack Horseman Recap: On the Record