Spoilers for the most recent season of Bojack Horseman ahead!
The finale of Bojack Horseman‘s third season, where Bojack narrowly avoids his own suicide attempt set to Nina Simone’s Stars, was one of the most powerful moments in what is a surprisingly emotional show. Part of the power of this sequence comes from the desperation that Bojack goes through after the events of the season’s penultimate episode, That’s Too Much, Man!, where the process of Bojack alienating everyone close to him ends with him being directly responsible for Sarah Lynn dying of a drug overdose after he interrupts her nine months of sobriety. This set-up is a repeated theme in the series, and Bojack is brilliant in how it uses this dynamic from the first two seasons to set and uproot our expectations of the finale of season 3.
First, we need to jump back to episode 11 of season one, Downer Ending. The episode itself is a great contrast to That’s Too Much, Man!, in terms of its an episode of Bojack engaging in an ill-advised drug binge relating to shaky logic that ends with a major emotional gut-punch. However, after the “Am I a good person?” ending, the finale shows Bojack finally managing to pick up the pieces of his life, repairing his relationship with Diane, and getting his dream role as Secretariat. While these provide an interesting contrast to episodes 11 and 12 of season three, Bojack has more cards up its sleeve, cards that require an examining of the final two episodes of season 2.
At the end of the 10th episode of season 2, Yes And, Bojack has destroyed his relationship with Wanda, and heavily strained his relationship with Diane and Todd, and runs off to New Mexico to find Charlotte. The episode ends with Bojack attempting to seduce Charlotte out of some idea that they were meant to be together, and when she rejects him it is heavily implied he’s about to sleep with her teenage daughter. However, at the end of episode 12, Out to Sea, Bojack manages to mend his relationship with Todd, and the episode ends with Secretariat being a critical darling, and when Bojack has trouble running up a hill, he’s told that every day it gets easier, so long as he did it every day, which serves as to convey that Bojack is finally ready to be a better person and gives the audience a similar sense of optimism going into the third season.
The irony of season three’s ending then, is that Bojack doesn’t get the happy ending that Bojack has trained us to expect. Both of the previous seasons use the penultimate episode to show Bojack at his lowest as a means of springing him back onto his feet for the finale. And while the show does make a quick switch-out, once Nina Simone’s Stars begins playing in the background, and it is revealed that all of Bojack’s friends are achieving new successes, while Bojack has alienated everyone close to him and ultimately has nothing of substance to show for his life – his relationship with Todd seems to have been broken beyond mending, he alienated Princess Caroline for a woman who no longer wants anything to do with him, he didn’t win the Oscar for a performance that wasn’t his, and the one thing he thought brought any meaning to his life, the idea Diane gave him that his time on Horsing Around brought joy to people, is shattered when the child actress Chloe says she wants to be just like him. With nothing left, Bojack attempts to commit suicide, with the show denying Bojack the redemptive moment that we as the audience have come to expect from the show.
However, as the song says, “We always have a story,” and Bojack decides against committing suicide, however despite this his future is still uncertain, and his decision not to die hasn’t changed his relationship with any of the supporting characters. How (or if) Bojack will redeem himself in the fourth season remains to be seen, perhaps his newly discovered daughter will make him finally change his ways, or perhaps the tale of Bojack Horseman is that of an irredeemable person destroying everything in his path until his own bitter demise that he, for so long, has desired.
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