In a cross talk, two (or in this case, three!) writers sit down to discuss a book, movie, TV show, or piece of art they both feel strongly about. Sometimes they disagree; other times, they’re in perfect harmony. Here, Arts & Culture Editor Tara Joy ’20, Contributing Writer Jesse Sandler ’20, and Executive Editor Emmy Hughes ’20 discuss the second half of season six of the iconic Netflix TV Show “BoJack Horseman.”
This cross talk contains spoilers for the final season of “BoJack Horseman.”
Tara Joy: So I was looking at our last cross talk about “BoJack Horseman,” and we more or less called the series finale, I think.
Emmy Hughes (to Jesse Sandler): Well, you called it.
JS: I think we collectively called it!
EH: I was a little resistant at the time.
TJ: I honestly thought the ending would be happier, if anything. But it was quite sentimental, which I expected, and I also expected that BoJack [Will Arnett] would sort of recede from the public eye, and that he would be on much less close terms with Diane [Alison Brie], and I think both of those things happened. I was quite happy with how it all ended.
JS: I mean not to jump straight to the very end of the show at the very beginning of our conversation, but I did feel like, while it was really sad, I really loved that conversation at the end between Diane and BoJack about having someone who’s really important in your life but ends up gradually fading out of it forever. It was sad, but very much a reality of life and I felt like that commentary was very poignant.
EH: The last episode offered kind of what we needed in terms of the four major side characters. They each had their final moments with BoJack before he disappears again, which was important. The audience needs that to some degree. I wouldn’t say that the ending answered all of the questions that I had, for better or for worse, but it certainly gave those moments of closure.
JS: Is there anything in particular you felt went unanswered?
TJ: I really thought Gina [Stephanie Beatriz] was going to show up in this season, like up until basically the last minute, but then she didn’t. On one hand, that choice does make some sense to me, but on the other, I don’t want to give the show too much credit because I think part of the reason they dropped some storylines is they just ran out of time. I’ve seen interviews where the showrunners suggested that season six of “BoJack” was originally supposed to be two full seasons, not two eight-episode halves of a season, and I kind of see that, especially in this second half.
EH: It felt rushed to me.
TJ: It was a bit rushed, yeah. So like I was saying, I don’t want to give them too much credit, but it did sort of make narrative sense to me that we didn’t get to see Gina because I don’t even know what closure would have looked like for that storyline.
EH: I don’t know if it exists.
TJ: And BoJack doesn’t really get closure with Hollyhock [Aparna Nancherla] either, she just disappears, which makes sense to me too. It feels right that those two people will probably never forgive him or talk to him again.
JS: It’s realistic, and it also feels right that losing contact with Hollyhock was the catalyst for him really hitting rock bottom.
EH: So how did everyone feel about BoJack’s whole backslide, and the fact that he ends up in prison?
TJ: It felt like an appropriately severe ending.
EH: It did feel appropriately severe. I had some mixed feelings about the friendship he starts to develop with Vance Waggoner [Bobby Cannavale] after the truth about Sarah Lynn [Kristen Schaal] comes out and he falls out of public favor. I felt like it dealt with what it means to be ostracized. Vance Waggoner is not a positively portrayed person, and you don’t see him and want redemption for him. But you do see BoJack being ostracized and kind of want, if not redemption, then some form of solace for him. I found their interplay a little—I couldn’t tell whether or not I sympathized with BoJack.
TJ: I know we talked in the last cross talk about the fact that the show makes you complicit in BoJack’s behavior because you’re really invested in the redemption of someone who has inflicted so much damage on others. I definitely felt that with Vance Waggoner and with those interviews BoJack did about Sarah Lynn. That was so hard to watch because I felt a lot of relief when he nailed the first interview and came off looking like a good guy even though he had clearly learned absolutely nothing from the experience. And then, of course, I felt guilty about feeling relieved.
JS: There was something that was so candid and brutally honest about those scenes following the first interview. I mean, you can just imagine people who have been similarly canceled in real life giving similar fake confessional interviews like that and then turning around to their publicists and being like “I fucking nailed that” and not feeling any real remorse, but that’s the part of those interviews that we never actually get to see. So it was both morally gratifying but also depressing on a character level when BoJack goes back, gives a second interview, and just gets torn to shreds. I would also love to talk more about the second to last episode, after he starts drinking again and almost ends up dead.
EH: I loved that episode! My favorite part was the final meal that they were eating around the table. It wasn’t subtle at all, but I thought it was really wonderful and interesting. It’s not a long build for you to realize that he’s drowning and the whole episode is taking place in some kind of purgatory fever dream. It’s quite clear from the onset when he arrives with two dead people that something’s off. Or at least I thought so.
JS and TJ: [both laughing]
EH: Did you feel differently?
JS: Well I noticed pretty quickly, and I was really trying to convince Tara that that’s what was happening.
TJ: No I agreed with you, I just didn’t think he would actually die. And he didn’t!
JS: One of my absolute favorite aspects of the episode, and I might be reading too much into it, but I really liked the animation they used to illustrate the concept of death or the other side or whatever it was. It was that black goop that was constantly encroaching. To me it almost felt like a meta-commentary on the way that the show is delivered. It looks like there’s a bunch of ink blotting out everyone.
EH: Oh I like that reading of it, because when I first watched it the black goo felt arbitrary, and a little bit too much. So after that episode, which was great, we see BoJack immediately brought back from the brink of death in the next episode. That, for me, was the part of the show that I was least compelled by, because they killed him off but we had no time to sit with it. He was immediately revived. And not only was he revived, his revival was revealed onscreen through a series of newspaper clippings, which was an extremely cliché way of exposing plot. It felt too fast for me.
TJ: I guess because I was really convinced from the start that he wouldn’t die at the end, I spent the whole penultimate episode expecting him to make it out. So when it happened right at the start of the finale I was like, “Of course, yeah.” But it was a little bit of a fake out. I have seen some critics and viewers suggest that the second to last episode should have been the finale, and that the actual finale was just self-indulgent and unnecessarily sentimental.
EH: I’m not not on their side.
TJ: For a while I kind of saw their point, but the more I think about it and the season as a whole, the more I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t actually think the final episode is that sentimental. BoJack does have these deep, important conversations with the other four major characters and it ends with that scene of him and Diane on the roof which is a throwback to the first season, and all of those things make viewers feel kind of sentimental. But I don’t think the actual facts of the storyline are sentimental, because it ends with BoJack homeless and in prison. And even though he went to rehab and quit drinking and got a new job and did all of this really hard and productive work in the previous half of the season, he could still backslide at any moment. This half of the season has made that very clear, because when one bad thing happened to him he immediately started drinking again and almost killed himself. Just because the episode ends on a vaguely hopeful note doesn’t mean it’s not still uncertain what will happen to him. And there are all these other threads, like Gina and Hollyhock, that remain completely unresolved and that will probably never be resolved for him.
EH: I think you’re right. The show’s whole thing is that we watch him rise and we watch him gain some sort of momentum only to collapse again. And right before the beginning of this season, we felt as though he had finally gained real ground. So to be hit again with his past coming back to haunt him and his sudden return to drinking sort of sucks for viewers who have gone along with this horse for so long! But in the end there is a degree of hope, even if it’s pretty uncertain, and maybe that’s okay.
TJ: I also wanted to talk about some of the secondary characters, and especially about Diane, who is probably my favorite character. She had less screen time this season, but her story made sense and it seems like she got an unambiguously happy ending, thank god.
JS: Diane was the character that, going into this season, I was most concerned about, so I was really grateful that it ended up going okay for her. In a way I thought that there was something really enlightening or positive to take out of her struggle with writer’s block and eventual transition from writing a memoir to writing fiction. I think the biggest part of her reluctance to embrace the idea of writing a YA novel is she feels like she has all of these life experiences that are so important to put on paper and share with the world. And then there’s that scene where she’s talking with Princess Carolyn [Amy Sedaris] and Princess Carolyn is explaining that she can still have an impact as a writer by writing this mystery for teenagers.
TJ: I also wasn’t sure she was gonna end up with Guy [Lakeith Stanfield] until basically the last minute, I kept thinking they were going to have a really ugly fight, but he was so supportive the whole time.
EH: That reminds me of the whole plot with Guy’s son Sonny, who is kind of inaccessible to Diane and there’s some tension between them. But that culminates with that gorgeous moment where he’s talking about her book and is clearly really moved by it. I thought that was so earned, especially because as you guys noted, she didn’t get a lot of screen time. Their dynamic was one of the sources of tension in her life, and for that to culminate in the realization that her book does heal things, it does make a difference.
TJ: I think a lot of Diane’s storyline, both throughout the show and in first half of this season also, is about the fact that she’s really bad at figuring out what will make her happy, and also feels like she doesn’t deserve to be happy. For example, in the first half of season six she’s very reluctant to move from LA to Chicago, even though it’s quite clear that she’s really into Guy and LA doesn’t seem to make her happy. And then in this half too, she enjoys writing this YA novel but she feels like she has to write this big, important literary book instead. A big part of her interactions with Princess Carolyn and with Guy consist of them telling her to just do the thing that makes her happy.
EH: In terms of character growth, Mister Peanutbutter [Paul f. Tompkins] is another person who had this really important realization where he finally vocalized his pattern of dating much younger women and having his relationships implode. I thought it could have used more work.
TJ: I did think in general, with the exception of Diane, the other major characters’ storylines were all a little rushed.
TJ: And I’m pretty much fine with where they ended up, but we didn’t really spend the amount of time getting there that we could have. But I did like that one conversation between Mister Peanutbutter and Diane towards the end of the season where she talks about her relationship with Guy and how it’s the first time she’s thinking about herself as part of an “us” and not just a “me,” and Mister Peanutbutter says that it’s the first time he’s learning to think about himself as an individual outside the context of his relationships. I thought that was really well-articulated and an important growth for the two of them.
EH: That scene was really lovely, but you kind of nailed it; all of the characters got the endings I would have wanted for them, but I didn’t see the buildup.
TJ: On a related note, my one major criticism of this season is that it wasn’t that funny.
JS: I fully agree with you!
TJ: Well it’s because every single thing that happened was very much in service of moving the plot towards the endpoint. All of that stuff was important but it didn’t leave a lot of room for those random digressions which I think where a lot of the funniest parts of the show come from, because the main storyline is pretty soul-crushing.
JS: I was wondering in a more general sense about the ways that you guys felt like the first half and the second half of this season were different. Because one way that I saw a really marked difference in the two halves is that to me, the first half actually felt faster. I think part of the reason why it felt faster to me is because it wasn’t fully devoted to just advancing the plot. There were digressions, and there was a lot more humor just for the sake of humor. I definitely noticed the lack of comedic touch that we’ve come to expect.
TJ: To be fair, they had a lot of ground to cover both emotionally and plot-wise. I think we’ve probably talked about the finale enough at this point, but the one thing that stuck out to me was the bit where BoJack’s on the roof with Diane and he’s like, “Life’s a bitch and then you die,” and Diane is like, “Well, sometimes life’s a bitch and then you keep on living,” which I thought was a very good thesis statement for the entire show. “Life’s a bitch and then you die” is like the version of the show that ends on that penultimate episode and ends with a bang, but I think is honestly less emotionally mature. Sometimes you just keep going, and then you backslide, and then you keep going again, and that’s just it. That’s what life is.
Emmy Hughes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tara Joy can be reached at email@example.com.
Jesse Sandler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.