近海る (Kin Kairu)

JET, Japan, Journalism and other J words

BoJack Horseman Season 2, Holes, and Hills

When I published my first Bojack Horseman review back in April, I really wasn’t sure what kind of reaction it was going to get. Honestly in retrospect, I think it reads more like a confessional than a series review. But I was honestly surprised by the response. Many friends reached out, commented, and appreciated the fact I wrote the piece. Even more shocking was when I noticed a high up-tick in page views here and saw that my article had been linked in another review (meta-linking?).

When the second season of BoJack came out in mid-July, I was a little hesitant to start. “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.” and “This year… He’s really trying to be a better Horseman.” were the main taglines for the upcoming season, and I was a little uneasy about what direction that meant for the show. The parts that impacted me most in the first season were the “honest truths” the show presented, and I was worried the writing was going to suffer if they tried to go in a different direction. Depending on how you read that, I guess you could say a part of me still wanted BoJack to be in a “hole”. But that’s unfair to him as a character, and unfair to the message the writers tried to present this season. And I do think it was for the better.

And of course we’ll be going into some minor spoilers with this season as I did in the last review, but I’ll be a vague as I can.


A New Horseman

Beatrice Horseman: I know you wanna be happy, but you won’t be, and– – I’m sorry.
BoJack: What?
Beatrice: It’s not just you, you know. Your father and I, we– Well, you come by it honestly, the ugliness inside you. You were born broken, that’s your birthright.
You’re BoJack Horseman.
There’s no cure for that.

When we last left BoJack, he had landed a new movie deal on the Secretariat movie, had a top grossing biography released, and stared out into the sunset wondering might be next for him. In his new quest for change, he starts listening to motivational audio books (excellently narrated by George Takei) leading him to try to make every moment in his life bright and shiny, to the annoyance of his friends and coworkers. He then meets Wanda Pierce (voiced by Lisa Kudrow), an owl who just got out of a 30 year coma, and begins a relationship with her shortly after since she’s the only one that doesn’t know about BoJacks recent events. Although BoJack’s life seems to be getting together, these changes bring their own trials and tribulations. As he balances managing his old personality with his new responsibilities, BoJack begins to wonder if any of that is what he really asked for or frankly needs.

Just like I was the same age as Harry Potter when the books were newly released, I was in the same spot as BoJack when the new season started. While I didn’t end up #hashtagging everything in my life, I was absorbing an incredible amount of advice and self-help media, perhaps to the discretion of those around me. My book of choice ended up being 10% Happier by ABC reporter Dan Harris, which help me start meditating. Meditation has in no way erased my anxiety or depression completely, but the practice of mindfulness Harris talks about in his book really helped me. Being 10% happier is certainly better than 0%.

I was originally worried that “Season 2 Episode 1 BoJack” was going to be the BoJack we got for the rest of the season; Another “A Mr. Peanut Butter Type” without any of the emotional depth reached in season 1. Indeed, I would say there are far more “straight comedy” than “hard truth” episodes in season 2 than its predecessor. However, many of the “straight comedy” episodes end with a more dark or direct note, as in Episode 3 “After the Party,” Episode 7 “Hank After Dark,” and Episode 8 “Let’s Find Out.” And in the last episodes of season 2, the show does take the more harsh reality spin that it did earlier parts of season 1. Season 2 has much more of a balance of comedy and tragedy than perhaps it did in season 1, but with BoJack slowly coming to terms with who he is, it’s perhaps a balance that needed to happen. While it took a little longer, I was still satisfied when the show got to those deeper episodes.

I also have to mention BoJack’s more subtle humor which really knocked it out of the park this season. I think both seasons are worth a second watch just to catch all the little jokes and puns they seem to pack in, but this season especially has some excellent background treats.

Stuck in Holes

BoJack: You know, when I won that Golden Globe last month, I went to a very dark place.
I was in a hole. And I realized, “I can wallow in this hole or I can change.” While I was tempted to go with the former, sometimes the only way out of a hole is a latter.
No pun intended.
Carolyn: You clearly intended that pun.

When I’ve tried to describe my depression, the illustration of “being in a hole” tends to be most frequent. In fact this description seems to be common for many other people, but perhaps it’s the most straightforward way of describing the feeling. More recently, I find myself saying “I don’t want to fall down that hole again.” After confronting my feelings, and in an attempt to handle them better, I find myself out of that hole for the first time in a long time. The feeling is still a bit strange, as it feels like I’m starting to appreciate the sunlight more. But I can now say that I’m better, and I was glad to see BoJack seemed to be better as well.

BoJack: I’m not perfect. I’m cynical and I’m possessive and I can sometimes fly off the handle. I’m not always the best at being not terrible.
Wanda: I gotta say, I’m not loving this pitch so far.
BoJack: But I want to be better, I’m trying to be better.
And when I’m around you, for the first time in 30 years, I feel like I can be.
Wanda, you make me want to be a better man.

There is an old Chinese myth about The Frog in the Well in which a frog brags to the passing animals about his “kingdom” in the well. However, in contrast to the frog, I thought the well was all I was allowed. I could see the sky, and I heard of the sea, but I thought they were simply things out of my sight and grasp.

Bojack: Before you left town, you told me L.A. was a tar pit. Do you remember?
Charlotte: Oh, God. I said so many things when I was young. I thought I was so deep.
BoJack: Well, do you still think it’s true?
Charlotte: Do I think L.A. is a tar pit? No, I think you’re the tar pit.
BoJack: Me?
Charlotte: No, not “you” you. I’m just saying, like It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s who you are, and that’s not gonna change whether you’re in California or Maine or New Mexico.
You know, you can’t escape you.

What I neglected to acknowledge was that I’m allowed to be out of the well, and people frankly liked me better when I was. Even though much of the weight keeping me down was just in my head, or weight I needed to learn to carry better, I was allowed out. Much like how I thought season 2 of BoJack was only allowed to be more wallowing, it’s also a comedy with plenty of writers who are worthy of doing such. BoJack too is allowed to achieve some sort of happiness, even if it takes a lot of work to achieve it. While we both may seemingly be out of the hole now, the next part is perhaps where the true work begins.

Climbing the hills

George Takei: You got to conquer that hill.
The hill is a metaphor.
Everything is a metaphor.
You are literally a metaphor.

Most of season 2 is BoJack learning to run both literally and figuratively. While BoJack missed the running advice from Secretariat when he was a child, attempting to go up the hill right outside his house is a near impossible task for him. My own physical and social activity suffered when I was going through the worst of it, and I found going back to be a little harder than I imagined. But when my nerves were calmed, and I was ready to start again, those workouts and interactions went by so much easier. The weight, literally and figuratively, is still there, but I feel that I can maneuver a little bit better now.

While one’s past anxieties, problems, and issues may leave a scar, that doesn’t mean they can’t climb that hill. Using the metaphor of the hill might entail there is some sort of peak to reach, but I cannot say to what that may be. I think those distances will be different for everyone. Maybe that peak is “happiness”, “forgiveness” or “giving every day a chance.” While I thought the the flat lands between the top of the well and the base of the mountain were my “content” zone, maybe that’s someone else’s peak they’re trying to reach. There is no wrong or right way in someone trying to achieve happiness. While this quote has been passed around by so many who watched season 2, it really does solidify the act of progression the writers tried to present this season.

Runner: It gets easier.
BoJack: Huh?
Runner: Every day, it gets a little easier.
BoJack: Yeah?
Runner: But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.
BoJack: [panting] Okay.


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