The season primarily follows in the aftermath of its former, as the oft-satirized Road to the Oscars plays out with the aftermath of Secretariat, Bojack’s latest passion project and biopic. Having served as a faux star in the film (his role was entirely computer generated), he plays through the motions of interviews, press conference, TV shows, and other publicity stunts with the help of his new publicist Ana Spanikopita.
In the meantime, he tries desperately to reconnect to his past, and to make amends to those he cares about. In true Bojack fashion, he screws up far more than he fixes, and as the episodes continue on, it seems almost as if any lesson he learns has entirely disappeared by the time the next episode begins. His relationships slowly break down, as seen in the changing intro to the episodes.
As the Oscars nominations loom closer and closer, Bojack begins to question his true purpose in life, and whether he can really be happy. While the second season left the question off on a more positive note, there seems to be no turning back from the downward spiral in this season, with its numerous ground-breaking themes only sidelining the ultimate truth that Bojack will soon discover.
While the premise of the show may strike reminiscence of Mad Men or other stereotypical storylines about the seemingly mundane lives of superstars and their subsequent philosophical and existential crises, Bojack Horseman manages to strike a different chord in its portrayal of its equine hero, or anti-hero for that matter.
Explored more so in this season than its past two, the idea of a flawed protagonist is nothing new in animation. Nonetheless, creator of the show Raphael Bob-Waksberg maintains a unique balance between the darker sides of the characters and their facade of nonchalance that allows viewers to see deeper into the personal lives of each of the characters as the season progresses.
Had the series been strictly told from the perspective of Bojack, the show would have been a much harder sell. Fortunately, the storyline is consistently told from a number of different viewpoints, notably those of Princess Carolyn (voiced by Amy Sedaris), Bojack’s pink-furred workaholic agent, Mr. Peanutbutter (voiced by Paul F. Tompkins), his long-time nemesis/friend and fellow celebrity star, Todd (voiced by Aaron Paul), his lovable and lackadaisical couchsurfer, and a number of other members of the ensemble.
Most of the main characters are given room to grow in the season as well, with the notable exception of Diane Nguyen (voiced by Alison Brie), a writer who happens to have been his autobiographer, friend, and wife of Mr. Peanutbutter. This is perhaps due to her inner turmoil seemingly reflecting that of Bojack’s. After all, in her own words, she is far too similar to her friend, and connecting with each other only brings chaos and hurt into each others’ lives. Nonetheless, she does play a role in a number of relationships, which are notably built upon the succeeding episodes of the series.
The rich and poignant social commentary woven into the comical antics, detailed illustration, and incredible work by voice talents Arnett, Sedaris, Brie, Tompkins, and Paul combine to create a season that - despite its darker themes - succeeds in elevating Bojack Horseman to perhaps one of the foremost seats in animation. In an era saturated with Rick and Morty, Adventure Time, Bob’s Burgers, and any number of incredible series being released, Bojack Horseman still manages to tap into the very humanity of our society, and to bring forth questions that we long to ask, but never can.
By revealing Bojack at his lowest, the season risks alienating its audience, but instead it draws us in. None of the relationships of the show are ever taken for granted. While Bojack’s issues may be his own, the characterization of the other individuals in his life are immaculate, their own flaws constantly sabotaging their own happiness just as much as it does to the title character.
Compared to previous seasons of the show, this season has become less of a chronological narrative, and more of a hodgepodge of different literary techniques and storylines that follow a chronological timeline. From a musical sequence, a silent film, a flashback episode, an episode told entirely through an Inception-like telecom conversation, and other gimmicks employed, the consistency previously blatant on the show has since been defenestrated.
In addition, while the show has been known to combat difficult social issues in the past, this season has seen perhaps some of the most controversial topics in today’s society placed into public eye front and center. From an episode dedicated to abortion to Todd coming out as perhaps one of the first major animated character to be asexual, to Hollywood drug culture and animal abuse in water parks, Bojack Horseman has managed to open up public discussions about issues typically kept behind closed quarters.
That isn’t to say that this season hasn’t been on par with the hilarious antics and punchlines of its predecessors. The animal-themed jokes are as present as ever, highlighted in more than a few episodes with great detail, especially in fleeting scenes. Furthermore, even the topic of abortion receives perhaps one of the catchiest pop tunes in the show, alongside an equally exuberant performance by its star Sextina Aquafina.
The darker themes are much more highly contrasted with the more light-hearted meandering jokes of the season (much of the Mr. Peanutbutter and Todd’s antic this season leads up to one insane, unpredictable punchline), but none more so than the season’s finale. Opening with one of most tragic deaths of the series, the episode continues to spiral downwards, only briefly rewarded with an aforementioned comic scene. With Bojack’s inability to cope with his reality, he takes off at last in a scene that almost becomes the series’ last.
While more disconnected than its previous seasons, Bojack Horseman has managed to secure its trademark voice for revealing the humanity, destruction, and meaninglessness in the lives of its characters. With the introduction of an entire new cast of characters, alongside a number of celebrity cameos (including a roaring performance by Jessica Biel), the show still manages to make use of building tension and action even in the face of comic relief. Smaller characters from the past are renewed, storylines are continually referenced, and with each additional episode, the animalistic world is continually built.
The conclusion of Season 3 brings more anticipation than ever before for its next, already renewed for release on Netflix.
BOJACK HORSEMAN SEASON 3 is now available on NETFLIX