Why I Can’t Bring Myself to Say Goodbye to BoJack Horseman

Pop Culture

Why I Can’t Bring Myself to Say Goodbye to BoJack Horseman

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Goodbyes are never easy. Especially when you’re saying goodbye to something that means a great deal to you. There’s an urge to put it off, to skirt around the topic in the hope that by not acknowledging the parting that looms, it will go away. It never does; it hangs over your head until you work up the nerve to get it over with, like ripping off a band-aid. But first, you need to steel yourself for the pain that you know is certain to follow. That’s the reason I still haven’t been able to watch the final season of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman – because the show has made a habit of hitting its viewers right in the feels, and my feels are not ready for its final blow.

Season 6, BoJack Horseman’s final season, was broken into two parts – the first released in December 2019 and the other arrived last week, on January 31. If Netflix hadn’t announced that this was the nefinal season prior to their release, I would have been done with watching both already. But knowing that this was the final chapter was a frightening thought. This is a show that has spent years conditioning its viewers to expect disappointment, and has made an art out of taking a relatable storyline and eliciting a “too real” reaction. For BoJack fans, the show was an uncannily accurate mirror of our own lives, which is why the thought of a less-than-happy ending for our protagonist is so terrifying.

Those who are familiar with the show (and those who have already seen the final season, probably) will know that this is a very real possibility. Despite its colourful, cartoon aesthetic, life on BoJack Horseman is the complete opposite of sunshine and rainbows – again, another similarity with our real life. Those who haven’t seen the show should stop reading after this point, if they want to avoid spoilers for what will go down as one of the most insightful animated shows of the 2010s. With that out of the way, let’s admit that happy endings are not BoJack Horseman’s stock-in-trade.

The reason BoJack Horseman became such a popular show was because BoJack became a fictional stand-in for many of the fans.

From how the spark weakly flickers out for BoJack’s idealised romance with his former partner Charlotte, to how BoJack fails at finding happiness even at the pinnacle of professional success, to how even a genuine bond with a long-lost sister cannot provide BoJack the companionship he so desperately seeks, the story arcs on BoJack Horseman thrive in reminding us that happiness is fleeting, and that the next thing that will make us miserable is lurking right around the corner. If there is any solace to be drawn from the trials of BoJack and his friends, it’s in knowing that even when things fall apart completely, you’re still going to be around to pick up the pieces. The moral of the story is not “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”; it’s “if it didn’t kill you, at least you’re still alive… for better or worse”.

Today, BoJack Horseman’s astute portrayal of millennial angst is an established fact. It’s easy to forget the dissonance viewers first felt when this cartoon show that featured a talking horse started delivering gut-punches instead of punchlines. What was supposed to be an irreverent, surreal comedy became a painful examination of superficial 21st century lifestyles. This contrast has come to be recognised as the show’s signature. Vanity Fair has called it “hilarious and haunting”; AV Club’s review said it was “gut-busting and gut-wrenching in equal parts”; IndieWire praised it as “beautiful and traumatizing”; but I think the most succinct summary of BoJack Horseman has to be when Rolling Stone simply called it “a modern classic”.

The reason BoJack Horseman became such a popular show was because BoJack became a fictional stand-in for many of the fans. His problems, despite the pantomime setting, were identifiable as the same ones we were going through. And since 2014, we’ve seen ourselves in him. So to know that his story is coming to an end is a sobering thought. And since it’s easier to look away than say goodbye, I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch how it all ends. It probably won’t work out the way BoJack planned, but that’s what made the show so believable. And for fans like me, still trying to figure out a happy ending of their own, that’s a frightening notion.