If we’ve learned anything from Netflix
shows, it’s this: You have to evaluate new seasons of a series as a whole. Just watching the first few episodes of “Sense8” doesn’t really give you a sense of how weirdly human and intimate the series shaped up to be. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” only hints at the dark underbelly fully exposed in later episodes. And this season, just like last year, it takes some time with “BoJack Horseman
” before you’re able to see past the comedy to hear what it’s really saying.
Yeah, about half of the people I just mentioned are technically animals, but that doesn’t really matter. The absurdist touches that “BoJack” packs into the frame always go well beyond just the fact that it’s a show set in a world filled with anthropomorphized animals. Much like last year
, it’s probably going to take us yet another year to unpack every single reference and background joke being made. (On the shortlist for my absolute favorite, at this moment, is probably a very quick shout-out to the Aaron Sorkin failed-to-be-a-classic-but-I-still-remember-it-fondly “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”) Plus, Character Actress Margo Martindale is back for at least one episode, and that is always a good time.
This year, BoJack is hard at work on the dream project he just barely landed last year — an Oscar-bait-y turn as legendary racehorse Secretariat — but that doesn’t mean he’s any more content with his life, especially as things descend into chaos. No spoilers, but pay attention to the opening credits of each episode, as key details change in accordance with events over the course of the season.
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In general, one of the best ensemble voice casts on television is in fine form again, with some notable additions, like Ben “Jean-Ralphio on ‘Parks and Recreation’!” Schwartz as an agent working alongside Princess Caroline (Amy Sedaris). Oh, and we can’t forget about Lisa Kudrow, who isn’t just making a cameo here; she’s a key character to the series, an owl-lady who, despite having just woken up from a 30-year-long coma, is now a broadcast television executive.
There are the obvious jokes to make there, and then there are the less obvious ones, and the show goes full tilt at both. And while there’s a comfort in having a sense of where a runner is going, there are enough curveballs to the humor that laughs are a’plenty.
Which is a very, very good thing. Seriously, thank God it’s funny because there are some moments of this show that hit really, really hard. Whereas BoJack spent most of Season 1 questioning whether or not he was a genuinely good (horse)man, Season 2 isn’t quite so existential in its exploration. It’s instead a more psychological experience, focused on this: What does it mean to be happy, and why are some people happy with what they have while others never will be? It’s a question not just being mulled over by BoJack, either; each of the main characters puts real time into asking themselves that.
It leads to a few unsettling plot choices, and there’s no episode that delivers quite the gut-punch that “The Telescope” (one of Indiewire’s favorite episodes of last year
) did in Season 1. But what’s maybe most exciting about Season 2 of “BoJack” is how it uses that depth of emotion to keep building as a show, growing out the world and adding new layers, which gives it a sense of real potential for longevity.
“BoJack’s” roots as a showbiz comedy genre ensure that it’s full of jabs at the expense of the industry. But it goes so much deeper than that. So much of the “BoJack” DNA is tied up in BoJack’s origin story as a ’90s network sitcom star because the show itself is actively working against the concept that sitcoms represent the way stories should work; that there are easy answers for any of its characters. And that’s what makes it feel so fundamentally true, at its core. No hugs or laugh track can smooth over this stuff. The only real solution is to keep on asking the questions.
“BoJack Horseman” Seasons 1 & 2 are now available to stream on Netflix.
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