‘BoJack Horseman’ Mixes Visual and Existential Humor

Bojack Horseman



When Netflix released the inaugural season of BoJack Horseman in August 2014, it was met with surprisingly mediocre reviews in comparison to the almost unanimously positive response from the general public. Every season since then has been labeled, by both critics and the public, as a masterpiece. Season five continues that tradition of near perfection.

This particular season follows BoJack through the production of the first season of a new show, of which he is the star. While filming, secrets from his past are reintroduced and other characters learn more about themselves. This season doesn’t hold back in the emotional roller coaster department, throwing plenty of the heart-wrenching twists that the BoJack Horseman fan base has become accustomed to seeing.

Since its conception, BoJack Horseman’s greatest strength has always been its ability to seamlessly mix humor with genuine emotion. The show is able to use this to reel the audience in through a very modern brand of humor, and then keep them invested through the highs and lows of the emotionally diverse and usually likeable characters. This wonderful aspect of the show can be credited to the fantastic group of writers behind the great scripts that are composed for each episode, and they craft each part of it differently.

The humor of BoJack Horseman comes in two different forms: visual and existential. Since the show takes place in a world where animals are much more human-like and are integral parts of society, the writers and animators can use them in endless visual gags of anthropomorphic animals doing very animal-like things in a human environment. For example, two dog characters are on a date in this most recent season, and instead of eating civilly like the humans at the next table, they put their faces in their food and chow down messily.

The other kind of humor is existential, and this is the kind that bridges the gap between the humor and the emotional impact of the story, because a lot of it pertains directly to some of the horrible things that happen to the characters. Many of the characters use this sort of existential humor to cope with what they are going through, and most of it is funny because it is either legitimately hilarious or so cringe-worthy that the awkward secondhand embarrassment is humorous.

The awkwardness of the humor when it pertains to the major plot points in this show makes a lot of the characters feel more realistic, because they react to their issues in believable ways. Because of this, it is much easier to get invested in the characters, and then feel however the show wants you to feel whenever something happens to them.

Another thing that sets this show and season apart is its dedication to leaving little secrets in the background of its shots. For example, during an airport scene, there is a computer screen showing the status of the upcoming flights, and for a flight that will be departing for Istanbul, Turkey, the flight status is “Stuffed.” Little hilarious tidbits like that make it more enjoyable to sit back and watch BoJack Horseman because it’s so interactive. It’s more satisfying to find these little details because the show doesn’t point them out, but rather lets the audience discover them for themselves.

The last reason this season is great is simple: the best episode of BoJack Horseman is in this season. The entirety of episode six consists of one character talking to a captive, unseen audience. From the end of the title sequence to the credits, he is the only character who speaks, and somehow the episode is one of the most emotionally engaging of the entire show. This character undergoes an entire character arc in the span of about 23 minutes of continuous dialogue, and the voice actor does such a phenomenal job at giving subtle voice changes to indicate feeling. This episode is a testament to the masterful voice acting of Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Paul F. Tompkins, Aaron Paul and the rest of the BoJack Horseman supporting cast.

BoJack Horseman is a masterfully made television show, and its fifth season may just be the best yet. Anyone who has yet to see this show needs to pull up Netflix and get to binge-watching it, because it is as captivating as an animated show can get, and it is worth the time it takes to get invested.

Featured Image by Netflix