/BoJack Horseman Recap: A Horse With No Name – Vulture

BoJack Horseman Recap: A Horse With No Name – Vulture

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

These days, BoJack Horseman isn’t getting many phone calls from Hollywoo insiders. So as he sits in his trailer on The Horny Unicorn, drinking vodka from a water bottle as he prepares to degrade himself for the money he so desperately needs, he’s surprised to get a phone call from a long-lost connection: Angela Diaz.

Angela Diaz had a relatively small role in BoJack Horseman, but her shadow has loomed large over the events of the series. In a flashback all the way back in season one, we watched as Angela turned up on the set of Horsin’ Around and warned him that standing by Herb Kazzaz — who had recently been outed as a gay man — could mean the end of both the show and BoJack’s career. On Angela’s insistence, BoJack refused to stand by Herb. Horsin’ Around went on without him, and Herb’s career was effectively over as a result.

So yeah, there’s a little history there. And when Angela — very rich and quasi-retired — invites BoJack to her mansion, he has little choice but to accept.

Angela plays nice for a little while, but her real motive for calling BoJack quickly becomes clear., Angela wants BoJack, through financial need and sheer emotional manipulation, to sign off on Horsin’ Around being recut into Around — a “new” series of much shorter episodes, designed for millennials’ attention spans, that remove BoJack altogether to reimagine the series as three orphans living alone in a house. (According to Angela, the same trick worked for The Cosby Show, which is now just The Show.)

From the very beginning of BoJack Horseman, BoJack has clung to Horsin’ Around like a life raft. It’s the TV show that made him rich and famous, and gave him the validation he had desperately craved all his life. Since the second interview aired, BoJack’s life has been characterized by loss: his teaching job, his half-sister, his friends, his house, and his sobriety. But the loss of Horsin’ Around, which probably represents his most lasting legacy outside of the death of Sarah Lynn, is the loss of his whole identity.

He signs the contract anyway. And as rough as that moment is, Angela’s cruelest blow comes after. As she and BoJack get drunker and drunker, she reminisces fondly about the “glory days” of Horsin’ Around — and reveals that her whole terrifying speech about what would happen to BoJack if he stood by Herb Kazzaz was a bluff. If BoJack had just had the loyalty and courage to say he’d quit Horsin’ Around without Herb, the network would have backed down.

For BoJack, this was the original sin — the self-centered betrayal that hardened his heart and made it that much easier to commit all the other betrayals that followed. And now Angela is telling him that — despite how he’d always told himself that he didn’t have any choice — the choice was always his to make.

In a rage, BoJack nearly tosses the contract he just signed into the roaring fireplace — but even as he sputters about how Angela’s manipulations ruined his friendships, his career, and his life, she refuses to allow him to let himself off the hook. “You play these stupid games: If I hadn’t done this, if I wasn’t so that. But you did, and you were, and here we are,” she says, before offering him another drink. And — apparently accepting Angela’s judgment — he puts the contract down and slugs down another cocktail instead.

If whatever BoJack read in Hollyhock’s letter was enough to bump him off the wagon, this new revelation is enough to send him careening away from it. He gets absolutely hammered, takes Angela’s car, drives to his old house, and sits down — with an armful of booze and pills — to watch the Horsin’ Around Blu-Ray that, thanks to his misdeeds, will never actually be released.

This has been a pretty bleak recap, so just to be clear: There are several happy endings to be found here. Despite the title, “Angela” features several disconnected subplots that show how the show’s other characters might be looking toward a brighter future. Picking up a guitar, the buttoned-up Judah literally lets down his hair and admits he’s in love with Princess Carolyn — and while it’s not clear if she reciprocates his feelings, it’s nice to see someone who understands and respects everything about her express some genuine affection for her. Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter bury the hatchet and wish each other the best, as Diane prepares to move to Houston with Guy and Mr. Peanutbutter publishes a memoir. Todd and his mom finally reconcile, and their early awkwardness is quickly broken by their mutual excitement over one of Todd’s goofy whimsical mess-arounds.

That brings us back to BoJack, and I am sorry to say I think it’s very, very unlikely that there’s another happy ending on the horizon. The episode ends as he sits drunk on the couch, in a house that used to be his, revisiting his own glory days on a Horsin’ Around, and remembering how he thoughtlessly betrayed the friend who worked so hard to help his dreams come true. And if BoJack is literally back where we found him at the beginning of the series — a sad, egotistical addict who spends his time pathetically obsessing over a happier, more successful time in his life — it’s only because there’s so little that makes him happy in the present, and so little that seems poised to change in the future.

I’d like to believe that BoJack can pull himself out of this spiral and get back on track again. But by his own testimony, BoJack has always had a knack for hitting “rock bottom” and managing to find another rock bottom below it — and with just two episodes left in the series, there’s not a lot of time for him to turn things around.

• In the most important subplot of all, we finally get some closure for character actress Margo Martindale. After reuniting Todd and his mother — and claiming that’s been her real goal ever since she ruined Todd’s rock opera in season one — Martindale is sentenced to prison… only to be saved by Nicole Holofcener, who convinces the judge to free Martindale so she can star opposite Catherine Keener in a movie called Classroom Warfare. Honestly, sign me up.

• Angela isn’t exactly a sympathetic character, but it’s interesting to see her in the episode-opening flashback to the ‘90s: A woman of color working at a TV network that is clearly a smarmy boy’s club. You can easily imagine how her ruthlessness and lack of sentimentality were necessary skills in an industry that was so clearly stacked against women like her achieving any real success.

• The text above the signature line on BoJack’s contract: “I have skimmed this agreement and retained nothing, yet I am beholden to its contents.”

• The slate of BoJack-ified TV shows during Angela’s run at ABC includes Sabrina the Teenage Fish, Mr. Belvedeer, Purrfect Strangers, Fin City, and Twin Beaks.

• Diane’s Chicago signing is held at a store called — what else? — Da Books.

• BoJack-ified sections at the bookstore include Shrew Crime, Orca’s Book Club, Sci-Fly, and Poultry.

• Remember Elefino, the restaurant that specializes in small plates/Lazy Susans/Mr. Peanutbutter’s face on the menu? It’s in trouble due to a protest by actual women named Susan — led by Sarandon, of course — who object to being called “lazy.”

• A bit of meta-humor about Michael Eisner, the former Disney CEO who founded the Tornante Company, which produces BoJack Horseman: “We don’t need to bring Eisner into this. Obviously Michael Eisner is a compassionate and progressive individual. This isn’t about him.”

• Guy and Diane, trading notes on moving to Houston: “Go Astros!” “Go rodeos!” “Hope you like barbecue!” “Hope I don’t need another abortion, because they are hard to get there!”

• Lenny Turtlelaub on what he needs for his new women-centric movie studio: “Someone who can be more professional and less… Moonves.”

• Angela Diaz: “Don’t get old.” BoJack: “I’ll see what I can do about that.”

• I hope you enjoyed “Do the BoJack” over the closing credits, because I suspect it’s the last time this show will make anyone smile for a while.