8 Actual Positive Moments in BoJack Horseman‘s Second Season


BoJack Horseman, Netflix’s new original animated show, has been getting a ton of accolades. It’s a deep, in-depth look at depression and failure, within a Hollywoo(d) ecosystem built upon the facade of power, happiness, and false images of self-worth. There has been a lot written about how dark the show can get, and indeed, there are moments so cringe-worthy, so startling, that even those that closely identified with Bojack’s predicament struggled to connect with his most grotesque behavior.

But, see, I’m actually a rather positive guy – or rather, it’s hard for me to fully grasp BoJack’s failings, even though he’s a successful actor, particularly in a fame-driven, artificial world that rewards aggressive go-getters. So, really, we should look a lot closer at the moments where BoJack – or the show’s secondary characters – notch real, tangible wins that suggest a more positive outlook that stands above a bleak worldview. SPOILER ALERTS, obviously.

1. BoJack Gets a Girlfriend


If we believe that it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all, BoJack temporarily finding a girlfriend is a real, wonderful moment for the character. Sure, she just woke up from a thirty year coma, has the personality of “a stunted twelve year-old,” and runs a soulless network that represents everything that BoJack hates, but for a couple of weeks, BoJack had someone he could really talk to.

We shouldn’t dismiss this moment, even as it eventually reaches its breaking point. BoJack has been wallowing in self-deprecation for so long, getting lost in alcohol and easy sex, that finding a real connection with someone is a win, however brief. Things may have fallen apart with Wanda, but doesn’t mean it isn’t completely hopeless for the talking horse-man.

2. Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter Work Through Their Marriage Woes


Television kind of makes marriage look shitty, doesn’t it? Between smarmy “marriage means no more sex!” gags, and the “fat guy/hot wife argue all the time” plot lines, marriage looks like an emotional hassle. (If I see one more “forgot our anniversary” plot, I might scream.) So it’s a serious breather to see two people whose love for each other is strong enough that they can work through an argument like (relatively) mature adults.

Contrary to most of the Internet, I don’t necessarily believe that Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter are wrong for each other – the notion of two people being “right” for each other is too idealistically simplistic. Marriage is tough, so watching the naively easy-going Labrador retriever and the talented-but-insecure human being actually talk through their personality differences and personal life issues to reach a real understanding is not just a win in their relationship, but a win over generic marriage plotlines as well. Take that, King of Queens.

3. Todd Never Loses His Positive, if Moronic, Personality


A lot of people seem to struggle with Todd as a character. While the rest of the cast, for the most part, have opened themselves up to reveal darker, more complex versions of themselves. Todd has remained blindly lovable. BoJack Horseman uses Todd as a outlet to tell more ridiculous, outlandish stories – stories with very little weight or purpose behind them – which make it hard for people to relate to Todd or his situations.

But what if someone is happy because they’re actually… happy? Mr. Peanutbutter’s positive outlook has been shown to mask some fairly deep emotions and struggles, but Todd seems pretty content in his semi-burnout, bad-ideas/delusional fantasies. All Todd really wants is to share that kind of easy-going enjoyment of life with someone, and even when rejected or put down, he still manages to maintain his charm. And you know what? This is okay. Even after losing his newfound confidence from a Family Matters prop, almost placing a country into civil war, or joining an improv group that is definitely not a cult, Todd maintains his genuine love for life, and who are we to criticize that? Honestly we’re no worse than BoJack in that regard.

4. Mia McKibben Just Does Her Job Without Whining


In “Let’s Find Out,” the Aaron-Sorkin-inspired episode that showcases the premiere of “Hollywood Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know, Do They Know Things, Let’s Find Out,” we’re introduced to a young, confident mouse-woman named Mia McKibben. Voiced by Tatiana Maslany (the star of Orphan Black, and also, you should really watch that show), Mia snagged attention quickly by being a no-nonsense, confident woman who not only does her job but also refuses to give in to Todd’s crap.

Sure, we only see Mia for one episode, but she makes such an impression because she’s serious, smart, and sophisticated. Even though she’s fooled into giving her victory pen to Todd, the bottom line is she won that pen because she earned it, and not once is she portrayed as sad, stunted, or lost. Mia is driven in a way very few characters on the show seem to be, and in an ideal world she’d come back for season three as the perfect foil to Diane and Princess Carolyn’s current struggles. Who says mice are easily scared off?

5. Sebastian St. Clair Actually Does Good Work


Here’s a question: is the sheer amount of genuine good work accomplished by someone diminished if said person doing the work is a narcissistic bastard? That’s the central question to snow-leopard-guy Sebastian St. Clair, voiced by Keegan Michael-Key – a question Diane asks herself as she spends some time with him in the war-torn fictional country of Cordovia. St. Clair is viciously full of himself, screaming about images of himself with the same breath as the hospitals that will host them.

But from the perspective of those desperate refugees… would they care whose face is on the front of a health crisis center? For all his bluster, St. Clair does good fucking work, and he does it fast, with the sheer abject bravery that Diane realizes she lacks. BoJack Horseman leans hard on its cynical voice more than anything, but good work is good work, and not even the most skeptical of us can play off the real services that Sebastian provides. Cynicism has no place in poverty.

6. Princess Carolyn Finds Power in Being Alone.


BoJack Horseman’s first season is stronger than its reputation, but one of its major faults was that it struggled with bringing dramatic depth to what amounts to a joke (the second season has issues with this as well, but not nearly as pronounced). A clear example is Princess Carolyn, a smart, savvy agent who fell into the “single, middle-aged” woman trap that many stories struggle with. Not to say that such a story line can’t be compelling, but it ended with her in a serious relationship with Vincent Adultman – who is two kids on top of each other. It’s funny, but the courtship is played so straight that it makes Princess Carolyn look like an idiot.

Contrast that with season two’s Princess Carolyn, who not only realized that she thrives in the hustle and bustle of agency brown-nosing, but that she can do it alone! After sleezeball Rutabaga Rabbitowitz tries to put Carolyn down so he can mark her as his “side chick,” the new-and-improved feline finally acknowledges her strength in her singlehood and kicks him to the curb. It’s a fantastic moment for her; I can’t wait until she starts kicking more tail in the upcoming third season.

7. BoJack Accepts Todd as a True Friend.


For the better part of two seasons, BoJack has put Todd down in immensely cruel ways. He ridiculed his rock opera. He criticized his lifestyle. He, in one single quote, destroyed the confidence Todd found in a Family Matters prop (the thing I mentioned earlier). But in the final episode of the season, “Out to Sea,” BoJack finally accepts Todd as a true friend, someone who stuck by BoJack even through his worse moments.

This is significant, more so than critics of the moment seem to realize. It’s hard, particularly for someone as depressed and broken as Bojack, to recognize someone who he can personally rely on. Todd’s simple pleasures and ill-advised thoughts may get him into all sorts of trouble, but it also allows him to shrug off Bojack’s abuse, abuse that pushed so many others away. Todd actively sees through BoJack’s self-destruction and sees a person worth being with, and the fact that BoJack now sees this part of his slow, steady progress towards being a better person.

And speaking of which…

8. BoJack Realizes he Needs to Take it Slow to be a Better Person.


Super spoiler: in “Escape to L.A.,” nothing was worse than watching BoJack, at his lowest, almost give into having physical contact with the underage daughter of Charlotte, his good friend. He gave into so many self-destructive habits, but that one was the point of no return. Even BoJack knew he took it too far.

So it is wonderful, almost empowering, to see BoJack step away from such a terrible moment into something that resembles self-respect. There’s a reason this moment of clarity takes place in the same episode that he accepts Todd as a friend. Given a new opportunity to promote the Seabiscuit movie he abandoned (although, to be honest, the fact that the movie is apparently “pretty good” and he’s back working the Hollywoo(d) promotion machine is kind of nonsense), he decides take the slow, arduous steps to improve. As the old monkey stranger tells him, he has to take it one step at a time, and BoJack accepts that. The fact that BoJack is even listening to an old monkey stranger is a massive improvement.

Previously by Kevin Johnson

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