The first season of “BoJack Horseman” was a mixed bag. Though its second half provided a darker, more real experience that allowed its viewers to care for the characters within the show, the rest of the show was filled with loads of animal puns and corny wordplay jokes. I also found that the animal-based world of the show lacked depth and was not enough to overcome what I found was the largest problem with “Bojack”: its self-aware, but empty amounts of running gags.
Having stuck around to see what the second season was like, I can say that “BoJack Horseman” has quickly fixed a lot of these flaws. No longer dealing with an identity crisis about whether it wants to be “Arrested Development” lite in its brand of comedy or a worthwhile drama about a guy dealing with depression and crumbling social life like “Louie”, “BoJack Horseman” has opted for the “Eastbound & Down” type of middle ground.
However, unlike “Eastbound & Down”, which basically is geared towards a predominantly privileged male audience, “BoJack Horseman” is incredibly progressive as a show, with characters like Alison Brie’s brilliantly voiced third-wave feminist and journalist Diane Nguyen bringing a level of intellectual humor into the show’s fabric. Her finest moment comes in an episode revolving around a scandal related to a Bill Cosby-like figure within the show’s fictional entertainment industry, and Nguyen’s struggles to expose him to the public, with huge drawbacks.
Other characters in the show slowly gain exposure and develop their own level of depth. For example, Mr. Peanutbutter, a dog with typical dog tendencies of humorously playing with dog toys and being mindlessly obedient towards people he cares about, is given a refreshing amount of substance within his relationship with Nguyen, his girlfriend.
One of this season’s most memorable moments for me was a quick few seconds where he is actually wearing a cone around his neck to prevent himself from biting his stitches after a medical procedure. This leads the audience into questioning: is this a simple dog joke or an analogy for self-harm?
Surprisingly, the show’s weakest point is its titular character: BoJack Horseman, who while excellent in the first season, took a step back in this one and did not really develop further, despite his many chances to. The problem, however is not Will Arnett’s powerful voice acting. It is that the authors do not utilize Arnett’s voice to convey other aspects of depression!
Every time we see BoJack upset or unhappy, it is because of a decision he makes or because of some event in his past – or repetitive event, like enduring his mother’s verbal abuse – that has shaped his identity. It is disappointing to see the writers use these generic A to B explanations because Arnett does such an incredible job conveying the amounts of anguish and subtleties of depression in his portrayal of BoJack.
When given the chance to, Arnett carries the show delivering memorable lines, such as when he tells a woman he’s dating, “You didn't know me. You fell in love. Now you know me.”
We certainly do know you, BoJack. Maybe we have not quite fallen in love, but let’s see how that third season comes out.