What is the Best Episode of Bojack Horseman?
Netflix released the final half of Bojack Horseman‘s sixth season on January 31, 2020, bringing the show to a close. Here’s a look back on the ten best episodes of the animated series.
Warning: this article reviews spoilers for the final season of Bojack Horseman.
10. “A Quick One, While He’s Away” (Season 6, Episode 8)
Summary: In the second episode completely devoid of Bojack (after “See Mr. Peanutbutter Run”) several characters grapple with the fall out of his past mistakes. Hollywoo Reporter Paige Sinclair looks into the death of Sarah Lynn at her mother’s behest, Hollyhock goes to a party in New York, Kelsey Jannings tries to earn respect in Hollywoo, and Gina struggles with unresolved trauma.
Because the show is told from Bojack’s perspective, “A Quick One, While “He’s Away” allows a rare glimpse into the lives of supporting characters without his presence. At this point in the series, Bojack is putting in the hard work to be sober through rehabilitation. As he gets happier in the present, the show reminds us that his past actions still have far-reaching consequences. We root for Bojack to be better, but we know that he can never fully separate himself from his past.
By directly centering on women in the world of Bojack Horseman, the episode also delves into the double-standards of Hollywoo. The world gives Bojack endless second chances throughout the show, while Gina gets shafted for being difficult to work with after only one project. Likewise, Kelsey Jannings is still trying to save her career in the industry after one risky decision on the set of Secretariat.
Hurting others never ends with the initial blow. It ripples outward, affecting them in ways you could never foresee.
“A Quick One, While He’s Away” also drudges up the deep scars of mental trauma. Gina struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder from Bojack’s drug-addled attack in the prior season. Forced to keep quiet out of self-preservation, her behavior is dismissed as dramatic by a well-meaning director and the future of her career is placed in jeopardy.
Bojack Horseman shows that hurting others never ends with the initial blow. It ripples outward, affecting them in ways you could never foresee. After the incident on set, Bojack feels a crippling sense of guilt. But it is Gina who has to re-live it time and again, every time a panic attack creeps up on her.
In a similar vein, the episode shows how Bojack’s actions indirectly affect his half-sister Hollyhock. At a college party, Hollyhock is thrust into the uncomfortable position of hearing about her brother at his worst. The only living family member he has left, Hollyhock has genuinely grown close to Bojack over the course of the show. But even though they meet when he is trying to be a better version of himself, that doesn’t free him from the weight of his past mistakes. In the end, the episode forces the viewer to question whether Bojack is entitled to future happiness when his actions still hurt people in the present.
9. “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” (Season 5, Episode 8)
Summary: Set over the course of four Halloweens — in 1993, 2004, 2009, and 2018 — “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” delves into the retriever’s various love interests through the years at his annual party. The episode shows the growth, and lack of growth, of certain characters as Mr. Peanutbutter questions why his seemingly happy relationships always end in divorce.
It’s not often that a holiday-themed episode, let alone a Halloween themed one, would find its way onto a series’ best episode list, but “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” has all the ingredients of a near-perfect Bojack Horseman episode. Though the darker moments of the series make for some of the best episodes, “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” delights in the lighter elements of the show. It is littered with sight gags, puns, and timely references that allow the writers to flex their comedic muscles.
A former sitcom star himself, Mr. Peanutbutter is Bojack’s polar opposite and brings much-needed levity to a series that ruminates on depression, anxiety, drug addiction, and abuse. But Mr. Peanutbutter has his flaws too. He’s a gregarious, supportive partner, but he’s also self-absorbed. Concerned with popularity, he’s forever walking off-screen to greet a fan or friend. He loves whoever he’s with unconditionally, but he has trouble listening to them.
His relationships with younger women through the years pokes fun at the tendency for Hollywood celebrities to date girls half their age. As he gets older, he keeps seeking women who make him feel young. But inevitably, at a Halloween party, a misstep leads to a messy, public fight that leaves his partner in tears.
At one point, Mr. Peanutbutter asks Diane why he “ruins” the women he loves so much. Diane corrects him, saying he doesn’t ruin anybody, they just outgrow him. By constantly dating women in their early twenties, he watches as they grow into more mature versions of themselves, while he stays the same. Diane’s advice: date older women or finally grow up. Can you say “Doggy doggy what now?”
8. “Ruthie” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Summary: Opening up in the distant future, a young cat named Ruthie does a show-and-tell presentation. It’s on her ancestor Princess Carolyn, walking her classmates through a 24 hour period in her life. In present day, Princess Carolyn’s day goes from bad to worse as she receives devastating news.
Princess Carolyn is one of the central hearts of the show, and Amy Sedaris’ voice-over acting deserves an award all its own for all the complicated tongue twisters the writers throw her way. There’s one such word avalanche in “Ruthie” as she tries to get her star actress Courtney Portney cast in “Corpse me if you Can-Can, the Cannes, France—set story of a can-can dancer who contracts cancer but continues to can-can as a canny cadaver who plays the accordion with Kevin Corrigan, Kevin Kline, Chris Kline, Chris Pine, and Chris Kattan.”
Used to solving everyone else’s problems with a confident flourish, Princess Carolyn becomes overwhelmed by problems she can’t solve.
Princess Carolyn has climbed the Hollywoo ladder throughout the course of the show and proven time and again that she’s the best at what she does. But strong women contain multitudes. Although she’s used to solving everyone else’s problems with a confident flourish, Princess Carolyn becomes overwhelmed by problems she can’t solve in her own life. First, the family heirloom that her mother gave her turns out to be worthless and then she realizes that her assistant Judah lied to her about a career-changing merger. The most crushing blow reveals that she had her fifth miscarriage.
On the brink of reaching out for help, Princess Carolyn suddenly feels thrown when Ralphie says she’s so “easy” to deal with. Not only does she accomplish so much in her career and her life, but she also makes it look effortless. In trying not to look weak, she fails to allow herself to be vulnerable. The words Ralphie intended as a compliment only make her feel worse for being human.
Princess Carolyn takes a page out of Bojack’s book in “Ruthie” and turns to alcohol. Instead of reaching out to loved ones for support she lashes out at them. She ends up breaking up with her boyfriend Ralphie and firing Judah. At the end of the episode, Bojack himself calls to vent about his bad day. Princess Carolyn admits that when she has a bad day, she imagines her future descendant talking about her in a classroom. It is then we realize that Ruthie was never real. She was simply a shred of hope she clung to on a miserable day.
7. “Escape from L.A.” (Season 2, Episode 11)
Summary: Bojack travels outside of Hollywoo to reconnect with his old friend Charlotte in Tesuque, New Mexico. Although he was hoping that she would be single, Charlotte happily reveals she has a husband and two kids. After overstaying his welcome by two months, Bojack accompanies Charlotte’s daughter Penny to prom and does something unforgivable.
First introduced in the season one episode “The Telescope,” Bojack’s friend Charlotte was often the subject of Bojack’s fantasy of escaping the more suffocating aspects of Los Angeles. It speaks to his self-absorption that Bojack placed Charlotte on a pedestal to make himself feel better. For so long, he held an image of Charlotte in his head. He expected her life to stay static while he lived his own.
It speaks to how desperately Bojack wants to be a different person that he would rather insert himself into a new family than return home with his tail between his legs.
When he arrives in New Mexico and meets Charlotte’s family, Bojack is thrown. But leaving L.A. was as much about Bojack living out a fantasy sequence as it was about him escaping himself. It speaks to how desperately Bojack wants to be a different person that he would rather insert himself into a new family than return home with his tail between his legs.
By crashing with the Carson family, Bojack takes on an almost uncle-like persona and helps Charlotte raise her kids. Glad to be useful, Bojack offers to take Penny to prom in an attempt to feel young again. Although Bojack doesn’t seem to have ulterior motives in taking Penny to the prom, his drunken self comes too close to doing something that would ruin his life, and ruin the viewer’s relationship with him as a character. By fleeing to New Mexico, Bojack hoped to leave his old self behind. But his toxic relationship with alcohol uncaps the worst parts of himself. Seeing himself for who he truly is, Bojack bottles it back up before he retreats home to L.A.
6. “The Dog Days Are Over” (Season 5, Episode 2)
Summary: After Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter finalize their divorce, Diane moves into a dingy one-bedroom apartment downtown. In an attempt to distance herself from her painful breakup, Diane travels to Hanoi, Vietnam and writes a piece for her editor titled “10 Reasons to go to Vietnam: A GirlCroosh Personal Travel Guide.”
Chopped up into non-sequential scenes, the episode opens with Diane sobbing in her car. She then impulsively buys a plane ticket with tear-stained mascara ringing her eyes. Although Diane convinces her editor that flying to Vietnam is about connecting with her cultural identity, it’s a decision fueled by her divorce and a desperate need for a change of scenery. In the same way that Diane gets a haircut, she uses her trip to Vietnam as a temporary bandage over her broken heart.
The trip to Hanoi is initially driven by Diane’s desire to place as much distance between her and Mr. Peanutbutter as possible, but it naturally progresses into a genuine exploration of who she is as an Asian-American. Raised in Boston by parents who dove headfirst into America’s loose culture of football and beer, Diane felt disconnected from her Vietnamese heritage. Once she gets to Hanoi that disconnect initially deepens as she struggles to communicate with the locals. But she learns enough of the language to comfortably get by and eventually embraces the complexity of her identity.
Above all, “The Dog Days are Over” is a look into the notion of “wherever you go, there you are.” Traveling abroad can grant you perspective and distance, but it can’t absolve you of heartbreak. Introduced in the very first episode as a couple, Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter had the longest-running relationship on the show, and their break-up grants viewers the opportunity to see what each of those characters looks like on their own. Diane experiences the gut-wrenching pain of seeing her ex-husband move on. But the chapter ends on a high note as she realizes that she’ll be okay too.
5. “Time’s Arrow” (Season 4, Episode 11)
Summary: “Time’s Arrow” acts as a glimpse into the past through Beatrice Horseman’s deteriorating mind as she battles dementia. Told in bursts, the episode unravels the story of Bojack’s parents, as they fell in love at a young age and moved to San Francisco after an unplanned pregnancy. Their unhappy marriage culminates in an affair between Butterscotch Horseman and their maid, Henrietta, revealing that Hollyhock is Bojack’s half-sister.
By fleshing out Bojack’s parents and giving insight into Beatrice’s unhappiness as a mother and wife, the episode proves that Bojack was unwanted from the second he was born. He could never live up to his mother’s impossible expectations. “Time’s Arrow” also explains why Beatrice tormented Bojack, fueled by her own childhood trauma and the unreachable standards her own father set for her. At a certain point, Beatrice decided she was broken. She pushed him away, the same way Bojack pushes away people in his own life as well.
The non-linear structure mimics Beatrice’s dementia in a haunting way, infusing the chapter with dread and confusion.
Perhaps the most impressive magic trick “Time’s Arrow” pulls off is humanizing Beatrice, who has inhabited a villainous role in the series from her introduction in “Bojack Hates the Troops” back in season one. The non-linear structure mimics Beatrice’s dementia in a haunting way, infusing the chapter with dread and confusion. From faceless onlookers to disconcerting time skips, Beatrice simultaneously exists everywhere and nowhere. In a flash, the show transports her from her debut at a debutante ball to a nursing home. Bojack dumps her off, leaving her reeling with confusion and genuine fear.
Bojack often uses both of his parents as scapegoats for his destructive behavior, and while he learns to shoulder more responsibility for his actions over the course of the show, he’s not entirely wrong in harboring anger towards Beatrice and Butterscotch Horseman. But just as the Bojack Horseman builds her up as a cruel, unloving character that is so easy to hate, “Time’s Arrow” strips everything from Beatrice until she’s simply a scared child, reaching out for something familiar. In the last second, during a rare moment of peace, Bojack reaches back.
4. “The View from Halfway Down” (Season 6, Episode 15)
Summary: In the penultimate episode of the series, Bojack falls down the rabbit hole of his subconscious when he overdoses and lies floating in a pool. On the brink of death, Bojack’s mind fires off a feverish tribute to all the people he’s lost throughout his life.
Invited into a dinner party that’s an assorted “who’s who” of dead friends and family, Bojack quickly accepts that he’s dreaming. But as the dinner guests wrap up dinner and exit to a grand hall, Bojack goes deeper than he ever has before. The dream mutates into a nightmare. And this time, Bojack doesn’t know if he’ll wake up.
The dead dinner guests include Horsin’ Around showrunner Herb Kazazz, co-star Corduroy Jackson Jackson, Zach Braff, Bojack’s unforgiving mother, his war-hero uncle, a Freudian mix of Secretariat and his father, and of course, Sarah Lynn. The guests perform for Bojack, filling out the line-up for an absurd talent show in his head. And as each of their segments end, they drop down through a door to nowhere, disappearing into the inky blackness.
When his friends and family (and Zach Braff) vanish from the stage one by one, Bojack tries to make sense of everything. He not only questions the reality of his dream, but the reality of death itself. As his physical self drifts helplessly in a pool, Bojack confronts the idea that there may not be anything waiting for him after he drowns. He stands before the door to nowhere and asks if he’ll see his old friend Herb on the other side. “Oh Bojack, there is no other side,” Herb says, dissolving before his eyes. “This is it.”
Faced with a fear of death and the unknown, “The View From Halfway Down” is the show’s last attempt to shake Bojack out of his self-destructive spiral. Bojack has tried to save himself before, but he always cycles back to his lowest point. Now, inches from death, he realizes how badly he wants to live and what he would give for one more phone call. To reach out to a friend. To ask Diane about her day. Like Secretariat shared in his poem on stage: “I wish I could have known about the view from halfway down.”
3. “That’s Too Much, Man!” (Season 3, Episode 11)
Summary: Just as Sarah Lynn wakes up to mark off her ninth month being sober, Bojack calls and asks if she’s ready to party. Sarah Lynn abandons her sobriety with a handle of vodka and the two embark on a drug and alcohol-fueled bender. After crashing an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Sarah Lynn and Bojack go on a misguided apology tour making amends for past mistakes.
Pushed out of an Oscars race Bojack longed for all season, Bojack predictably deals with the career blow by turning to his old friends: drugs, booze, and former teen idol Sarah Lynn. As they knock back bottles and snort increasingly questionable things (like drywall) the two also binge watch old episodes of Horsin’ Around.
Bojack gets sucked into the past, waxing poetic about old days on set. He talks about how easy things were, even as Sarah Lynn reminds him of the daily strain of network television. Sarah Lynn remembers that fellow child actress Joelle got an eating disorder and missed five days of filming. A nostalgic Bojack ignores her to say, “We didn’t know how good we had it.”
Their lack of judgment keeps their bender spiraling out of control until it grinds to a heart-wrenching halt.
As Bojack and Sarah Lynn set off on their apology tour bender and expose the skeletons in their respective closets, “That’s Too Much, Man!” reminds viewers that even though Bojack looks back fondly on his career-high as a 90s sitcom star, that decade carried its own mixed bag of alcoholism and toxicity. A later episode reveals that Bojack’s reckless drinking on set directly led to Sarah Lynn’s introduction to alcohol at an early age, making the emotional weight of Sarah Lynn’s overdose at the end of the episode even heavier.
Though its one of the best-written and hardest-hitting episodes of the series, “That’s Too Much, Man!” is a tough pill to swallow. The show revisits Bojack’s cringe-worthy relationship with Sarah Lynn, where he doubles as her sexual partner and party friend as well as pseudo-father figure. They see themselves mirrored in each other. Their lack of judgment keeps their bender spiraling out of control until it grinds to a heart-wrenching halt.
2. “Free Churro” (Season 5, Episode 6)
Summary: In “Free Churro” Bojack stops at Jack in the Box on the way to his mother’s funeral, and receives a free churro from the cashier out of sympathy. He goes on to deliver a eulogy to a crowd of mourners as he reflects on his complicated, and at times abusive, relationship with his mother. He also tries to parse out the meaning of his mother’s last words, which were simply, “I see you.” After an episode-long monologue, Bojack opens the casket and realizes that he attended the wrong funeral.
Show creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg wrote “Free Churro,” and it’s a testament to his abilities as a writer that he was able to conjure up an episode that relies on a single character’s voice. Credit is due to Will Arnett as well, who not only delivers Bojack’s twenty-minute eulogy without interruption, but also voices Bojack’s father Butterscotch Horseman before the hard cut to the opening credits. Although it’s animated, Bojack Horseman may be the most emotionally rich project that Arnett has acted in and “Free Churro” is further evidence of that.
A standard episode would have a shorter eulogy; maybe Bojack would get a few good jabs in at his mother’s expense before realizing he was at the wrong service. The rest of the episode would center on him distracting himself from her death through day drinking and shenanigans with Todd. But the episode doesn’t give Bojack, or the audience, the relief of a funny cutaway.
Armed with decades of bottled trauma that he never got to unleash on his mother, Bojack has his first captive audience in years. Her death doesn’t bring grief so much as it does a mixture of relief, anger, and a crushing realization that he will never receive the approval he desperately sought from his parents for so long.
By letting Bojack speak freely, untethered by the confines of a serialized TV episode, “Free Churro” almost acts as a therapy session. He goes on and on, dissecting his mother’s final words and describes one tiny moment of shared love between his parents. He cracks knock-knock jokes on his mother’s casket. The monologue delivers a nuanced look at the complicated pain of losing someone who was more abusive than loving. It also demystifies the idea of closure. “You never get a happy ending,” Bojack says. “Because there’s always more show. Until there isn’t.”
1. “Fish Out of Water” (Season 3, Episode 4)
Summary: In “Fish Out of Water,” Bojack reluctantly goes underseas for the premiere of his film Secretariat at the Pacific Ocean Film Festival. Equipped with a fish-bowl helmet, Bojack soon realizes that he can’t communicate underwater. His inability to talk complicates matters when he tries to reconcile with Kelsey Jannings, an indie director who was fired from Secretariat due to Bojack’s reckless actions. As he seeks forgiveness from Kesley, Bojack soon finds himself on his own side adventure when an abandoned baby seahorse follows him off a bus.
Bojack Horseman is built on cleverly crafted dialogue, silly wordplay, and achingly real character interactions. Bojack is defined by his words, a person who loves the sound of his own voice, whether he’s combing his own ego or devolving into a self-destructive tirade. By stripping him of his ability to talk, the creators of the show challenged themselves like never before and delivered one of the most unique television episodes in years.
Without dialogue, every other aspect of the show shines. Jesse Novak’s score of atmospheric synths and electronic, at times jazzy, beats work to submerge the viewer further into the underwater world. Likewise, the animation style speaks for itself. Multiple viewings reveal all the small touches animators added when building the underwater landscape.
“Fish Out of Water” is also a monumental episode for Bojack as a character. Initially irritated by the teetering baby seahorse that comes under his care, Bojack worry borders on paternal as he tries to track down its father. After finally bringing it home, there is a bittersweet moment where Bojack watches the adult seahorse interact with his children. He’s able to quietly observe a peaceful family moment he never had growing up.
By stripping him of his ability to talk, the creators of the show challenged themselves like never before.
The episode is bookended by Bojack’s attempts to talk to Kesley. Desperate to reconnect, Bojack writes a hurried note: “Kelsey, in this terrifying world, all we have are the connections that we make. I’m sorry I got you fired. I’m sorry I never called you after.” After he finally hands Kesley the note, she passes it back with annoyance. Bojack realizes that the water has lifted the ink off the page, rending his apology unreadable.
In a single moment, Bojack Horseman communicates one of the most pervasive elements of the show: you can grow and change for the better, but you may never receive forgiveness from the people you’ve hurt. Moments like this cement Bojack Horseman’s place in television history as a poignant, sometimes painful, depiction of what it means to be human…even if you’re a horse.