5 August 2015

BoJack Horseman season two review

I was a big fan of the first season of BoJack Horseman, which despite a handful of mediocre opening episodes really upped it's game from it's mid point onwards, delivering a solid animated series that was not only genuinely witty but also delivered one of the most on point emotional gut punches ever seen on TV, the kind of profound character work that would have been rightly recognised as near genius in a non-animated show.

Season two of BoJack Horseman picks up the threads left by the first season, predominantly focusing on how BoJack's life has changed since the publication of Diane's book about him. Despite his new found positive attitude and the fact that he has been cast in his dream role as the lead in a biopic about his childhood hero, his insecurities about his skill as an actor start a spiral of self doubt that quickly pushes him into old habits and self destruction.

The first season of BoJack Horseman used the lighter and more comedy focused opening episodes as a way to set up the relationships and events that went on to inform the more character based episodes in the seasons back end, and that basic structure is repeated and improved upon in the second season - the main difference being that even in its opening episodes, season two of BoJack Horseman is able to continue the impressive character work of its first season thanks to the shows refusal to fall into a status quo. It would have been easy to deal with the Secretariat plot line in an episode or two and then have BoJack looking for work again, but instead BoJack's involvement with the biopic is used as a through line from which much of this season hangs, at least for BoJack..

If there is one thing that can be seen as the "main" improvement of the second season over the first, it is the increased focus that is given to the many supporting characters in BoJack Horseman, recognising that they have the potential to be just as big a draw to the series as BoJack himself is thanks to some consistently great writing and a truly stellar voice cast. My one complaint in this area would be that Todd, BoJack's long suffering house mate, still has very little to do in this season - acting purely as comic relief much of the time, he seems to be the only character in the show that hasn't had some kind of meaningful arc. It seems that the writers don't really know what to do with him, which is frustrating and an issue that really needs to be rectified in the third season.

On the other hand, the addition Lisa Kudrow to the cast as an owl named Wanda mostly makes up for this. Wanda is the head of programming for a television network and starts dating BoJack after waking up from a 30 year coma, not knowing anything about BoJack as a celebrity. Her upbeat attitude and determination to see the best in everyone (as well as her complete lack of knowledge about the last three decades worth of pop culture, a recurring joke when she is on screen) makes her the perfect counterpart to BoJack's cynicism, and I found myself genuinely caring about both her and her relationship with BoJack. Additionally, she has some of the funniest moments in the season, which when coupled with Kudrow's Phoebe-esque delivery (a naive kind of excitement) make her one of the funniest characters that BoJack Horseman has created so far.

The second season of BoJack Horseman manages to succeed at everything it attempts, seemingly both more ambitious and more confident than it's first season, delivering episodes that are not only full of great characters and interesting plots but are also emotionally complex and accurate in their skewering of modern events in celebrity culture (the episode "Hank after Dark" being particularly relevant). There are few shows out there more able to hold up a mirror to our own culture, which when married with the perceptive character work that BoJack Horseman revels in creates a season that only improves on what came before. BoJack Horseman season two isn't just good, it's unmissable, and you deserve to see how great a show about an anthropomorphic celebrity horse can be.

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