BoJack Horseman is ready for his next project. With an audiobook exhorting him to adopt a positive mental attitude, BoJack optimistically embarks on the filming of the Secretariat movie. However, a difficult first scene has him questioning his acting ability.
It’s a new season, and for a time, it seems as if we have a brand new BoJack. Gone is the depressed, self-loathing horse who uses alcohol to drown his sorrows. In his place, we have a positive thinking go-getter who spouts all kinds of acronyms from his George Takei narrated audiobook, and even seems to actively want to hang out with Mr Peanutbutter. How long can it last?
The answer, of course, is not long. The cracks begin to show when BoJack fails to nail a simple line in the Secretariat shoot. The thing BoJack needs in order to play the troubled racehorse is to tap into the inner darkness they both share, and so affecting a positive attitude actually proves to be unhelpful. Before long, BoJack is panicking and questioning his own credentials as an actor – does playing The Horse in Horsin’ Around in any way qualify him for deeper and more serious roles? And if BoJack isn’t a true actor, whatever that means, what does he have left?
But the true catalyst for BoJack reclaiming his misery is his troubled relationship with his mother. We already knew that BoJack didn’t have the best of parents, and this episode only further drives the point home. At the start of the episode, we see nine-year-old BoJack huddled in front of the television, watching his hero Secretariat whilst his parents argue in the other room. It’s a scene that resonates with me on two levels. The first is the obvious one – that of having been in the same position as child BoJack, and all the awful feelings it brings back. The other is from this exchange as BoJack’s parent argue and smash plates:
Butterscotch: Is that to impress me? ‘Coz I can smash a dinner plate, too.
Beatrice: That’s a salad plate, you peasant.
It’s funny in its trivial ridiculousness, but also this is actually the kind of thing that comes up in arguments with angry, abusive people. At one point in my own life, my verbally abusive father told me that the only things I did were “eat, shit and fart”. Now obviously this is an incredibly hurtful thing to hear, especially from a person who is supposed to love you, but at the time I found myself simultaneously thinking “the order is wrong – surely you fart before you shit”. The Horsemans’ plate exchange has a similar feel to it.
After the argument, Butterscotch storms out, and Beatrice tells BoJack that getting pregnant with him ruined her, and that he needs to become something great to make up for it. In another flashback, we see Beatrice attending a recording of Horsin’ Around, which she later complains about, saying it’s “not Ibsen”. In the present, Beatrice has just read BoJack’s book, and the one thing she wants her son to know is that he doesn’t have any hope of being happy. His parents were bad people, and BoJack has inherited that from them – he’s fundamentally broken. And it’s this toxic message that breaks BoJack’s attempt at positivity.
On a slightly cheerier note, let’s check in with the other main characters.
- Diane: Having taken the job as a character consultant for the Secretariat movie, Diane finds that her input is unwelcome, and she is relegated to making sure people don’t trip over a cable. Sebastian St Clair is still interested in hiring her.
- Todd: Todd can’t cope with the fact that BoJack has bought a new couch, and spend the episode sleeping variously in BoJack’s car and his trailer at the Secretariat set. Eventually he decides to overcome a personal hurdle and try sleeping on the new couch.
- Princess Carolyn: As well as urging BoJack to get his act together for Secretariat, Princess Carolyn is struggling to get a Jackie Kennedy project off the ground.
- Mr Peanutbutter: having drunkenly attacked a mirror in the mistaken belief that it was another dog, Mr Peanutbutter not only has a cast on his arm, but has to wear a cone of shame to stop him from gnawing at it.
- Rutabaga Rabitowitz: This smooth talking rabbit is an agent in the office directly below Princess Carolyn.
- The animation for the show intro always changes slightly to reflect changes in Hollywoo and BoJack’s apartment. The most notable change for the new season is that the grocery store scene has been replaced with the set of Secretariat.
- Princess Carolyn’s hapless assistant Charley Witherspoon is now an agent in his own right.
- BoJack now owns a PB Livin’ Smoodie blender.
Summary – Brand New Couch: “What are you doing here?”