The Weird and Wonderful Storytelling of BoJack Horseman - Part 2

a continuation

this newsletter is part 2 (!) of this week’s whole ass newsletter, so if you haven’t read the first you can read it here. I broke up the newsletter into two parts for many reasons: you’d probably get bored if it’s long; i’d get bored if it’s long; there was just so much content to write; i got a little tired, okay. But also, the subject matter of the latter seasons of BoJack is super grim. Like, the next three episodes, probably the grimmest and maybe most painful to watch. So, I didn’t want to make my newsletter THAT depressing. It’s not my tumblr blog circa 2011.

“Time’s Arrow” Season 4 Episode 11

BoJack Horseman - Netflix - “Time’s Arrow”

”Time’s Arrow” is a doozy of an episode. We enter into the mind of Beatrice - BoJack’s mother - who has dementia. “Time’s Arrow” jumps space and time. Faces are scribbled out or are entirely blank. Signs change. Wallpaper moves. We are as disoriented, trying to figure out where and when we are, as much as Beatrice is.

While the plot line tends to jump around, what stays in tact is a trajectory of Beatrice’s life. From her relentless school yard bullies, to her overbearing and restrictive father, to her meeting of BoJack’s father Butterscotch Horseman and the eventual birth of her son BoJack. Beatrice, who we had previously only seen through the eyes of BoJack becomes sympathetic as we watch her truly tragic life unfold. We see how intelligent she was and how strong of a woman (horse?) she was in her youth. She had dreams. She did not want live the life her father told her to lead. She met Butterscotch who promised to open up a world of possibilities for her.

But much like BoJack, his father is full of empty promises. Beatrice and Butterscotch wed and eventually have BoJack but become so miserable and bitter that they are constantly fighting with one another. BoJack, in his perceived incompetencies, becomes a point of contention for the two. We saw previously how cruel BoJack’s mother was to BoJack, but now we see the legacy of that cruelness. From Beatrice’s dealings with her own father who controlled all the women in his life, to the point where he lobotomized his wife Honey Sugarman - an experience so traumatic for Beatrice that even in her dementia-mind Honey becomes a shadow of her former self never fully coming into focus. The episode is as much a viewpoint of how someone with dementia could be understanding their reality as it is also a look into how trauma and cruelness carries on like a gene from generation to generation.

“Time’s Arrow” is its most poignant when it makes sense of all the clues strung along about Beatrice’s state of mind throughout this particular season. In an earlier episode, present day Beatrice with dementia demands a stuffed doll she calls her “baby,” in this episode, we see that this is an echo of a childhood traumatic experience of her father destroying all her precious toys after she contracted an infectious disease. The scene jumps between young Beatrice holding her baby doll in her bed, to an older Beatrice giving birth to BoJack, to an even older Beatrice watching her trusted maid Henrietta give birth to Butterscotch’s child after he had an affair with Henrietta. Beatrice treats Henrietta much like her father had treated her with an unsympathetic cruelty and a belief that what she is doing is for Henrietta’s own good. All these moments exist simultaneously for Beatrice. Beatrice’s father even states after burning her doll:

BoJack Horseman - Netflix - “Time’s Arrow”

”Time’s Arrow” isn’t without its moment of dramatic irony. As we jump back to present day, BoJack is leaving his mother at the most depressing and ill-kept home he could find. BoJack enacts the same cruelty to Beatrice that many men (read: male horse) have done so in her life already. For the briefest moment, Beatrice becomes lucid and calls out to BoJack. Hesitant, BoJack is unsure how to respond, but ends up telling Beatrice a false story that they are back in their home in Michigan. BoJack offers a moment of kindness and hope for Beatrice and BoJack accepts her reality after denying it for so long.

Truly a devastating episode.

“Free Churro” Season 5 Episode 6

BoJack Horseman - Netflix - “Free Churro”

”Free Churro” is one of the more iconic episodes of BoJack Horseman. The episode starts off with childhood BoJack waiting to be picked up from soccer practice. His father begrudgingly arrives. During the car ride, BoJack’s father goes on an extended monologue that essentially is a stream of consciousness of whatever upsetting thing he has encountered in the last few days. BoJack’s father does this while completely ignoring BoJack.

We fast forward to the present day, and BoJack is giving the eulogy at his mother’s funeral. Much like his father, BoJack starts ranting about whatever thought comes into his mind. One thing I love about BoJack Horseman, as you can tell from this episode and from the last episode, is how easily you can map BoJack’s qualities onto the people who raised him. We see him becoming exactly like his father.

So, this episode. BoJack gives his eulogy, but he is completely unprepared. He starts the eulogy by describing an interaction with a Jack-in-the-Box employee who offers him a free churro because his mom died. For the next twenty minutes, we watch BoJack rant about the most trivial topics that loosely tie together. BoJack is clearly grieving but is unsure how to process it. He tries his hand at a few jokes - even making a “beating a dead horse” joke! He does all these jokes at the expense of his mother. Throughout the rant, there are moments of appreciation for his mother and how much he, her, and his father struggled to make their life work. He acknowledges that they all were drowning and only a few times could muster up the courage to swim and stay afloat.

The camera never pans too far from BoJack’s face. Every once in a while the camera will pull back and we’ll see BoJack standing next to a closed casket. But, there’s nothing else. Just BoJack. Just BoJack giving this unprepared and long meandering speech. Well, there is a piano man who gives musical soundtracks to BoJack’s speech, but other than that, it’s just BoJack and his speech.

At one point, BoJack expounds upon the last few days he had with his mother. He references a certain point where his mother had become lucid and states, “I see you” to him. This moment becomes meaningful for BoJack. It is the first time in his life that his mother had openly stated that she sees him - that she acknowledges that he exists and acknowledges his lived experiences. Throughout the eulogy, BoJack returns to this moment until at one point, he realizes that his mother was not saying “I see you” but really “I C U” like, intensive care unit.

Poor BoJack.

In the end, BoJack stops talking long enough to look around the room and he sees that he’s very clearly at the wrong funeral - the audience is an entirely different species. BoJack looks into the coffin, which has been closed this entire time, and sees that it is not his mother.

Classic BoJack.

“The Showstopper” Season 5 Episode 11

BoJack Horseman - Netflix - “The Showstopper”

This one is way too depressing to even write about. BoJack is addicted to pills and plays a detective whose fictional life mirrors closely to BoJack’s real life. His sense of reality shifts. Think of it like Fight Club almost. The narrative is a bit more predictable than the other episodes as the season builds up to this moment with many instances of foreshadowing. Watch it. But, watch something lighthearted after. It cuts deep.

What I’ve been consuming lately:

  • Can’t believe they took a movie about monsters and tried to make me care about a heterosexual relationship!!! Truly awful but the fights were A+

  • Holy shit. I haven’t stopped thinking about this piece. I want to feel bad for these men, but also, I don’t know, I don’t?

  • Always Be My Maybe was cute but the best part was hands down Keanu Reeves playing “himself” but like, this alternate version of himself where he’s an extremely aggressive masculine-type person. I laughed out loud at every scene he was in. Also, check this interview with Randall Park whose life is pretty much the plot of the movie.

  • I recently watched The Matrix for the first time. Surprisingly, it held up after 20 years. Costumes were still absolutely ridiculous though.

  • As per Maya’s recommendation, it’s Lana Del Rey season.

  • People who arrive to airports late give me anxiety.

  • If you’re not subscribed to Hell World, what are you doing with your life?

  • A Jungian look at our relationship to the underground. Wish I read this around the same time I watched Us.

Lastly, I am off social media this month for *vague reasons*. So, my capacity to find interesting articles or media to consume is a bit smaller. Send me things you’d think I’d enjoy. As always, thanks for reading! Like, subscribe, and share.