The Great BoJack Horseman Rewatch: The View From Halfway Down

BoJack is at a dinner party. But it’s no ordinary gathering. Sarah Lynn is there, and his mother, plus a few other friends and acquaintances – all of them deceased. In fact, it’s the same as the recurring dream he’s been having, the one where he always wakes up after dessert. But is BoJack going to wake up safe and sound this time?

When I first watched season six, I loved this episode – in no small part because I’m a real sucker for characters stuck in worlds that are distorting or slowly disappearing. Second time around, I found myself more aware of the little flaws, of the dialogue that wasn’t quite as sharp as it might have been in earlier seasons. Where other season six episodes improved on rewatch, this one didn’t quite live up to my fond memories.

That being said, there’s a lot to like here. The ending of the previous episode and the visual clues here all point to the one thing we feared might happen ever since we saw it repeatedly teased in the opening credits – BoJack is drowning in his swimming pool. A selection of his dead friends and relatives are with him for one last dinner, before they all say a final goodbye. Has BoJack reached some sort of purgatory, one last stop on the road to the afterlife? Well, perhaps, but as his old friend Hank repeatedly points out to him, it isn’t in any way real – this is just the last hallucination of his dying mind.

On the one hand, this makes for a satisfyingly dark setting. We see each dead character perform one last time, before each of them steps through a door into nothingness. Some are reluctant, others accepting. And, far from cheapening it, Herb’s insistence that this is all in BoJack’s head and there is no “other side” just adds to the emotional weight. This isn’t the next step on some great metaphysical journey – this is it. The end.

But on rewatching, it’s possible to also cast these events in a hopeful light. The BoJack we’ve come to know over the last six years has been one weighed down by his demons. Zach Braff aside, the deaths of the people at the dinner table have all affected him deeply. Perhaps their passage through the door represents BoJack letting those feelings go, finally being able to move on.

At the end credits, we’re left with only the sound of a heart rate monitor – an indication that BoJack seems to have escaped his own death. I’ll leave it to the next episode to talk more about that.

Foreshadowing

BoJack Horseman is nothing if not masterful at foreshadowing, and earlier episodes this season hint at what was to come.

  • In “Surprise!”, Diane asks BoJack “what if something happens and I’m in Chicago?”. Indeed, in this episode BoJack remembers that he called Diane after getting out of the pool the first time, but later realises that even if she had picked up, she was in Chicago and thus too far away to help him.
  • In “A Little Uneven, Is All”, BoJack tells Doctor Champ about a recurring dream involving a dinner party with his dead friends.
  • In “Good Damage”, Diane’s thoughts are interrupted by imagining BoJack saying “Diane, answer your phone – I’m calling you right now”.

Dinner party guests

  • Sarah Lynn: died of a heroine overdose after going on a bender with BoJack at the end of season three.
  • Beatrice Horseman: died in a care home after BoJack left her there indefinitely.
  • Herb Kazazz: even though her was suffering from cancer, he ultimately died of a peanut allergy.
  • Secretariat: BoJack’s childhood hero committed suicide after being banned from racing. He also represents Butterscotch Horseman, who died when he tripped and fell in a duel. I can’t decide if the decision to represent the two characters as one is a clever move or not. Secretariat definitely represented more of a role model to young BoJack than his real father, so on that level it makes sense to blend actual father with aspirational father figure. However, it also feels like a bit of a lazy and random move, even if it wasn’t meant to be.
  • Corduroy Jackson Jackson: died from autoerotic asphyxiation on the set of Secretariat.
  • Crackerjack Sugarman: BoJack’s uncle was shot and killed in World War II. BoJack never met him, but his death had a lasting effect on the Sugarmans and ultimately shaped Beatrice’s personality and worldview.
  • Zach Braff: was eaten in “Underground”.

 

Summary – The View From Halfway Down: “I really should have thought about the view from halfway down”.

2 thoughts on “The Great BoJack Horseman Rewatch: The View From Halfway Down

  1. IMO Secretariat and Butterscotch are combined because in the dream BoJack gets the (false) affirmation that his father did care about him, but can’t imagine that affirmation actually coming from his father’s person, so he ascribes the image of his hero.

    I also love when characters are in surreal, decaying settings. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power also has some of that, if you’re interested.

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