It’s been long enough since we last saw BoJack and Diane interacting as real friends, but “The Shot” is a reminder of why they bonded in the first place. Both of them are unhappy; neither knows how to fix it. Both of them want something more, to evolve, to move forward; both of them are terrified. For all their big talk, BoJack and Diane have been stuck in their own self-destructive patterns ever since we met them. “The Shot” follows their biggest attempts at leaping forward yet, as BoJack fights to keep his dream role gritty and uncompromised, while Diane follows activist slash rich person Sebastian St. Clair around war-torn Cordovia. Both of them are trying to break their own patterns, in the hopes that they might find someone new underneath.
As BoJack said live on Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know: Do They Know Things?: Let’s Find Out!, having his dream role still hasn’t fixed all his problems. But BoJack isn’t one to dwell on big revelations for long, and so he channels all his energy into making sure his big break movie doesn’t suck. The studio, nervous about how poorly a “gritty” movie would do in the box office, has completely revised the script so that Secretariat is less the no-holds barred story about a revered American legend so much as an even milder Horsin’ Around. Kelsey sighs that the scene where Secretariat compromises all his morals to send his brother off to Vietnam in his place is cut, and BoJack is devastated. But even if BoJack doesn’t acknowledge it, the fact that he cares so much about the integrity of this movie is a pretty huge leap from where he was in the pilot (i.e. drunk on the sofa watching Horsin’ Around reruns). He could do the sitcom dad hugging his children around the hearth thing in his sleep, but this is Secretariat. It means too much to him to just let go and cash his check.
From there, writers Elijah Aron and Jordan Young are off and running with an homage to classic capers, though in BoJack‘s case, the crack team is breaking into the Nixon Library’s reproduction of the Oval Office with all the subtlety of Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know: Do They Know Things?: Let’s Find Out! He can’t get the first, second, or third best lock pick around to join, so he settles for Todd, as always. He and Kelsey pull up to Princess Carolyn’s window and convince her to join in, even though the outcome will have “no advantage for [her] whatsoever.” Last, and in no way least, he swings by a prison to grab character actress Margo Martindale on her way out. Thus, he has assembled a completely dysfunctional and largely useless team, but hey, he’s trying, and that feels pretty okay.
But this being BoJack, there’s always another shoe ready to drop, and so it crashes down on him when he finally opens up. They get the shot—and Kelsey gets fired. Hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Kelsey Jannings, both because that would suck for her and because it would suck for us to be deprived of Maria Bamford’s nuanced performance. It’s unclear whether BoJack cares because he actually cares about Kelsey or if he realizes that this is the final death knell for the Secretariat movie he’s dreamed of, but it’s safe to say he’s still looking for whatever it is that can fix the broken thing inside him.
Meanwhile in Cordovia, Diane comes to grips with what it means to be on the front lines. Like Mr. Peanutbutter says later, it’s one thing to talk about helping, and another thing entirely to leave your life to do it. She doesn’t want to admit it, but she’s woefully unprepared to deal with the realities of war, and the fact that Sebastian St. Clair is a raging egomaniac definitely doesn’t help. On its own, this plot is pretty basic, but the script weaves in some subtler touches that help Diane’s story resonate more. The characterization of Sebastian St. Clair, for one, is brilliant. Keegan Michael Key’s booming British accent alternately softens the blow of the terrible tragedies he’s conveying and rises to a fever pitch as St. Clair gets passionate about something (usually himself).
As St. Clair prances about the refugee camp, we hear the notes Diane is taking in voiceover. Her thoughts start off optimistic; she finally feels like she’s a part of something. As St. Clair reveals more of his calculated and egocentric mindset, though, something in Diane starts to break. The voiceover gets more scared, more confused, until the closeness of the trauma gets to her. The last beat with Diane at the Los Angeles airport, grimacing as Mr. Peanutbutter tells her on the phone how proud he is that she’s in Cordovia, is one her character’s been moving towards all this time, and it’s awful. She tried; she failed; she doesn’t know what else to do. The voiceover wilts: “And that’s when you realize the book you’re writing in your head will never be a book, so you stop—”
The silence of that beat is the perfect way to make us feel just how devastated this moment is for Diane, as she resigns herself to giving up. Alison Brie’s proved that she can voice everything from a bratty teenager to a game show shriek to a kid wobbling in a trench coat, but her subtle work as Diane since the beginning has made the character all too real. It makes this moment—when Diane feels like she has no idea who she is or what she’s doing anymore—a true heartbreaker.
BoJack Horseman may have tricked us with its goofy animation, animal-based puns, and wild card slash character actress Margo Martindale, but at this point, the show more of a drama with comedic elements than the other way around—and that’s great. BoJack’s willingness to push its own genre into darker places was what made it stand out, and it’s the clear driving force behind this back half. Taken on its own, “The Shot” is a fine episode, if a little frayed around the edges where it tries to bring in levity with the Nixon asides and Princess Carolyn’s serene fantasy. But it should be more significant for what it does to BoJack, Diane, and even Princess Carolyn’s stories going forward.
- The end is in sight! It’s all very exciting! Don’t spoil things in the comments!
- Tentatively excited for Princess Carolyn and Rutebega Rabitowitz’s new agency, even if I have a feeling Rutebega is never leaving his wife, i.e. I have a feeling Rutebega is garbage. (Ben Schwartz can and should stay forever, though.)
- Welcome back to John Krasinski (Secretariat) and Kristen Chenoweth (Vanessa Gekko). Also, shoutout to Brian Huskey as Nixon/Nixon’s not-son. Seriously, this voice cast is something else.
- Sebastian St. Clair howling into the ether (“SHUT UP CHILDREN!!!!”) as an alarm, please.
- Today in Hollywoo signs, Shady Art Commentary Edition: