The Great BoJack Horseman Rewatch: The Showstopper

Filming has begun on the second season of Philbert, but BoJack is struggling to keep it together. As his dependence on painkillers escalates, the lines between fantasy and reality become increasingly blurred.

BoJack has done some pretty trippy episodes in its time, and The Showstopper is up there with the best of them. Thanks to his spiralling drug addiction, BoJack’s work on Philbert and his real life start merging together for him – a problem exacerbated by the fact that the Philbert set looks just like his apartment, and that he’s still dating his co-star Gina.

The result is a gloriously disturbing mix of BoJack’s fantasy and reality, akin to something out of the film Requiem for a Dream. BoJack is functioning just well enough to get through the day, but we viewers know that the inside of his head is a mess. Is someone really after BoJack, or is that a plotline from Philbert? Is he on set, or in his apartment? Walls and backdrops fall away around him as BoJack’s grip on reality weakens. At one point, a hallucination of Gina sings a jaunty number, while actors dance before BoJack in the roles of his family and closest friends.

In his altered state, BoJack is driven by one desire – to keep going so that he doesn’t jeopardise Gina’s newfound career success. Time after time, BoJack’s actions have ruined the lives of those closest to him – sometimes through cowardice and an inability to do the right thing, and at other times through deliberate sabotage. Last season, we saw him start to act selflessly towards Hollyhock, although this wasn’t enough to protect her from Beatrice. This season, he again shows some selflessness, this time towards Gina, but it’s not enough to prevent him from committing another unforgivable act. In his drug-fuelled psychosis, BoJack ends up choking Gina, both hurting her and ruining another relationship.

The most oddly touching and poignant moment of the episode – and also the one used for the Netflix preview – occurs at the end. BoJack finally takes the staircase that’s been repeatedly appearing before him, climbing up to the top. There, surrounded by blue sky, we see him come nose to nose with a giant BoJack balloon. It’s a moment that’s left very open to interpretation, and indeed a quick Google reveals various discussion threads around what it’s meant to mean. For me, it’s a quiet moment of purity and clarity. If we think of all the visual gags and fast-paced dialogue as a whirling storm centred on BoJack, then this is the eye of the storm. Everything is quiet now, and only one thing remains – BoJack himself.

Other notes

  • Gina’s dream of becoming a stage singer is realised in BoJack’s hallucination.
  • The intro animation is entirely replaced with the intro to Philbert.

Summary – The Showstopper: “And don’t stop dancing, don’t stop dancing ’til the curtains fall.”

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