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Hopes and houses come to ruin on BoJack Horseman

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“Fuck, man. What else is there to say?”

Despite airing on a platform that has no constraints on profane language, in its entire life BoJack Horseman has only pulled the “fuck” trigger twice before “It’s You.” (You could argue thrice, but I counter the well-timed split between “Love And/Or Marriage” and “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” takes Diane’s expletive out of contention.) This choice meant the two times they they did use it, after Herb’s apology rejection in “The Telescope” and the disaster of BoJack and Penny in “Escape From L.A.”, it carried real weight—and would have even if it wasn’t being hissed by a perfectly furious Stanley Tucci and Olivia Wilde. It underlined the true degree of how far BoJack had gone, the damage he’d done and, and the anger he’d engendered from someone who cared about him.

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And now they’ve pulled the trigger a third time, and the impact isn’t any less devastating. BoJack begs Todd not to leave him alone after he learns he’s not going to be nominated for an Oscar, tries some emotional blackmail to get his wawy, and winds up destroying another friendship. Todd finally loses his patience and unleashes on BoJack for his directionless, never-ending self-pity, the third excoriation in two episodes. Aaron Paul’s had great moments on BoJack Horseman, but this raw wounded sincerity is on a level that hasn’t come out since he was yelling at Mr. White in the dying days of their partnership on Breaking Badanother show that knew the value of a well-deployed f-bomb:

Oh, great! Of course! Here it comes! You can’t keep doing this! You can’t keep doing shitty things, and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay! You need to be better! … No! No, BoJack, just stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you. It’s not the alcohol, or the drugs, or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career, or when you were a kid. It’s you. All right? It’s you.

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That’s a devastating moment, and one that comes on the heels of a lot of devastating moments—that also come on the heels of some ludicrous ones. For a show who’s stock in trade is going from the silly to the serious with little time to breathe between the two, “It’s You” is an emotional tilt-a-whirl. They shatter their season-long arc, at the same time it’s producing both what’s arguably the most farcical scene and the densest visual gag in the show’s history.

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Emotional whiplash is on display right from the start as Oscar nominations come out, and alongside such luminaries as Jurj Clooners for The Nazi Who Played Yahtzee and Colin Firth for First Things Firth is BoJack Horseman. It’s the big win that BoJack’s wanted all season, and he is… completely unmoored by the news. So much of this season has been about the momentum to win the award that the early qualms about winning it have been buried, and now he’s got the unwelcome time to reflect. It plays out as an interesting repeat of what we saw last episode when The BoJack Horseman Show tanked, his doubts and fears only counterbalanced by reinforcement that he’s not what he always feared he was—and that once he overcomes the initial hurdle he’s able to squash in a sea of excess, alcohol and Oscar swag: “Tell them I want my free Tesla parked in my goddamned living room. I’m BoJack!”

Only one person has an idea that being up for this award might not be the best thing for a person as mercurial as BoJack is. Diane, fresh from being let go from the struggling Vim (or promoted “to the position of finding a job somewhere else” as Princess Carolyn puts it), comes by the party not to congratulate BoJack but to see if he’s doing okay. If “BoJack Kills” showed why the two could work well together, “It’s You” makes it clear how much of a double-edged sword that familiarity is. Diane’s there trying to help him, but she’s projecting onto him at the same time. And having seen her insecurities and subsequent breakdown, he’s able to pick at that scab and keep picking as she dares to not join the masses in celebrating him.

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For the second episode in a row, BoJack uses his friendship to cut someone—only Diane can cut back even deeper than Princess Carolyn, because she’s been to the bottom. She takes Cuddlywhiskers’ warning and throws it back in his face, pointing out that he’s going to win this award and not be happy about it, and then drives it up to suggest he’ll kill himself. It’s a chilling moment that not even the system overload of the party can counter, and one the show even approaches by replicating the second half of its opening credits without the credits’ fantastical element. BoJack’s flirted with darkness before, but it hasn’t crossed that self-harm threshold before this point, and the way it plays out—BoJack ignoring Ana’s early wisdom about following the bubbles and needing Mr. Peanutbutter to pull him up—makes events seem chilling plausible.

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And then, BoJack Horseman becomes a completely different show as we flash back to the week before to Mr. Peanutbutter’s appointment to announce the Oscar nominations. Even if it’s still on the bleak side thanks to Mr. Peanutbutter in a malaise over his brother, the absurdity levels are ramped up again. There’s the award nominations being protected by ancient monks Brothers Pricewater and Housecoopers, there’s the wordplay of the award show organizer’s name (“I’ve got a real pepless step, Shep”) and then there’s the Peanutbutter brothers sharing their aunt’s sayings that are wise words without the wisdom. It’s a tonal shift that shouldn’t work, and yet somehow Vera Santamaria’s script grabs the momentum of the first half and redirects it in the right directions.

Said redirection takes us on one of the loopier visual gags the show’s ever done, when Mr. Peanutbutter’s waffling over what to do with his phone sends it down the hallway in a manner that can’t not be commented on. (“Now, other people are kicking it and it’s sliding across the floor! Okay, this is getting absurd.”) Set to the theme song of Mr. Peanutbutter’s House, it’s overtly cartoonish, Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter chasing a phone like it’s the Jerry to their Tom. How silly is it? They wind up passing four turtles in the sewer with different colored headbands. Hmm, that sounds familiar.

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This move goes to one that is somehow even more outlandish: the envelope is lost in transit, which is Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter deciding to come up with their own list of nominations. Now, at many times throughout this season of BoJack Horseman I’ve praised it for the visual density of its jokes, but the whiteboard where they plan their ballots out is so extensive and brilliant that I fought the urge to just make this entire review a dissection of those jokes. Do we want to talk about the animal puns that make up the Best Supporting Actor nominees? Jennifer Lawrence’s unprecedented number of nods? The fact that The Leisure Class made it into Cinematography? It’s superb inside baseball for the entertainment industry, a background visual made for the Netflix audience to pause and dissect.

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And yet buried in all of that silliness is the ember of resentment that’s been burning for the last few episodes, as Todd needs to be talked into Mr. Peanutbutter’s pitch to throw BoJack in the nominations. They once again go for some sort of levity—Todd’s stories about childhood baths and counting are ridiculous cutaways—but it doesn’t last long and leads to the f-bomb already discussed. It turns out my earlier belief that Todd knew exactly what had happened with Emily was a mistaken one, though the approach they take works even better. Todd just knew something had happened, but there was still a part of him that wouldn’t believe the worst, that part that led him to think BoJack had a heart buried in his chest.

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That’s gone now. The Oscar nomination is gone, and the giant chocolate Oscar with it. All the crowds are gone. Diane’s gone. Ana’s gone. Todd’s collecting his things and doesn’t look that far behind. BoJack lost everything he didn’t have control over, and the things he could control he screwed up. He needs to be better, and it’s scary to think of how he could do worse. What else is there to say, indeed.

Stray observations:

  • Achievement in Voice Acting: Given the odds are slim that we’re going to see Ana again now that BoJack’s Oscar hopes are gone, let’s take a moment to recognize Angela Bassett’s spectacular work this season. Ana was perfectly polished, ruthless in all the right moments, and made an ideal counterpart to all of BoJack’s self-centeredness and self-destructiveness in Oscar season. And as she proved in her opening story about almost drowning, she can monologue with the best of them.
  • Speaking of that story, “It’s You” gives Lisa Hanawalt and the rest of the art team some time to experiment with different art styles thanks to both Ana and Ralph telling stories. If you’d like to see more of her diverse work, check out her brand new comics collection Hot Dog Taste Test.
  • Opening credits note: no sign of Princess Carolyn in her usual spot in BoJack’s kitchen. She’s visible in the episode however, letting Diane go and realizing that maybe she’d rather try happiness with Ralph instead of Vim. As a Ralph fan, I applaud this decision.
  • Great to see that Captain Peanutbutter is rebounding from his twisted spleen surgery, if only because the door should never be closed to “Weird Al” Yankovic on any show. However, I admit I was betting on his death as previous episodes appeared to be laying some groundwork for Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane to take in their adorable nephews.
  • A little surprising to see Jimmy Fallon not play himself, but great to see that the year-round Halloween store is still open.
  • BoJack’s words awakened some part of Diane, who’s back to taking a stand on issues by ranting against free water in restaurants.
  • “Michael Fassbender for… I wanna say Bill Gates?”
  • “We gotta party like it’s 1982, the year that Prince released ‘1999!’”
  • “You come to work, clock in, you put sugar in your coffee, and watch it slowly disappear into nothingness. But the sugar doesn’t know why. Sugar didn’t ask to be born.”
  • “Second opinion? You know there’s only one doctor on the peninsula. I could ask him twice if it would make you feel better.”
  • “Bradley Cooper? We love him for some reason!”
  • “I have found it to be an above-average experience. I apologize for getting emotional.”
  • “You’ve reached Ana Spanikopita. How did you get this number? Please explain yourself.”
  • Today in Hollywoo signs:
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