[Editor’s Note: “BoJack Horseman” Season 3 is a feat of storytelling on both a serialized and episodic level. To honor the impressive accomplishment, IndieWire will be reviewing all 12 episodes over the next few weeks. Below, we delve into Episodes 2 & 3.]
“What are you talking about? It’s just whales!”
The idea of seeing zoos as prisons is nothing new, but Raphael Bob-Waksberg took the concept a step further in “BoJack Kills,” the third episode of “BoJack Horseman” Season 3. In light of the allegations made against SeaWorld in the wake of “Blackfish,” the opening moments of Episode 3 obliterated all other interpretations, efficiently and effectively establishing how parents paying for their children to watch abused animals perform is pretty damn similar to grown men throwing dollar bills for grown women to scoop up from their knees.
“Families come together to admire the fine female form of the majestic killer whale. It’s educational!”
“You and your little ones are going to get moist!”
“Bring your pre-pubescent daughters who are just beginning to be cognizant of a woman’s role in the world. They won’t internalize deeply problematic notions about the commodification of sexuality in today’s society. What are you talking about? It’s just whales!”
Frankly, we can’t say it any better than what’s above, so — after taking a moment to appreciate the phenomenal scene — let’s shift focus to our other spotlight episode: “The BoJack Horseman Show,” the flashback story so loaded with nostalgic references to 2007 it made us feel impossibly old (it was just nine years ago, right?).
Generic 2007 Pop Song: This Is a Pop Song, It’s 2007
Before BoJack could go on a one-on-one adventure with Diane, we took a trip back to — you guessed it — 2007; a time when flip phones were plentiful, banks were giving away houses and Jessica Biel was a movie star (more on the “Stealth” actress later). While the flashback structure served two primary purposes — defining BoJack and Princess Carolyn’s romantic backstory and explaining what happened with “The BoJack Horseman Show” — Bob-Waksberg made the brief trip back in town hit hard with specific spot-on references, to returning characters.
Seeing Diane with her boyfriend — try-hard future Buzzfeed writer, Wayne (voiced by Wyatt Cenac) — made Mr. Peanutbutter’s relationship with Jessica Biel all the more delightful, even if the future host of “Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out!” topped out with his on-stage namecheck of everyone’s favorite unseen acquaintance: “Erica! You know you’re not allowed to vote in national elections!”
Still, Episode 2 built toward the future as much as it honored the past, which leads us to…
Each episode served as a key example of how to set up a season without sacrificing immediate payoffs. In Episode 2, the emphasis placed on BoJack and Princess Carolyn’s complicated relationship indicated the two may go through something similar — rough times or a rekindled romance, who’s to tell? Everything to do with “The BoJack Horseman” show, meanwhile, delivered on the foreshadowing from Episode 1 (when BoJack passed on the question re: the failed comedy, as well as when Jill Pill asked him to check in on Cuddly Whiskers when he got back to L.A.).
But it also teased what came next in the present: BoJack’s search for Cuddly Whiskers in Episode 3. The journey was all about Diane and BoJack bonding — or coming to terms with why they hadn’t been bonding of late — but the payoff promised doom and gloom. “Only after you give up everything, can you begin to find a way to be happy.” Hmm. Giving up everything doesn’t sound like something BoJack, king of vice-driven self-distraction, is going to ease into. He may have to bottom out — if he has a bottom.
Yet Bob-Waksberg didn’t sacrifice any entertainment in establishing storylines for the rest of the season. As you will soon know if you don’t already, “BoJack” Season 3 feels as though it was constructed with a specific challenge attached to each episode; as though breaking the season became a party game where not only do participants have to say the alphabet backwards, but they also have to hop on one foot while doing it. In Episode 2, hopping was the flashback. In Episode 3, he developed a murder-mystery plot to satirize SeaWorld. Episode 4 is an even better example, but we’ll get to that soon enough. For now, it’s enough to know more is coming — of everything.
The Jokes You May Have Missed, In .gifs
And in case you couldn’t make out all the business’ signs:
Umbrella Ella Ella’s
Britney Shears Hair Salon
Home Loans: No Job, No Credit? No Problem!
My Chemical Spray Tan
I’ll Flip For You Flip Phones
Velour Track Suits
Don’t Tase Me Fro-Yo!***
SubWaay – Kids Eat Free!
Washington Mutual: Refinance If You Dare / Everything Will Be Okay
Eel or No Eel
2007 T-Shirt Outlet (Lock Up Paris & I Got a Crush on Obama t-shirts)
Wii Remote Straps Warehouse – Nothing But Straps!
Circuit City – Re-Opening Soon?
David Hasselhoff’s Floor Burgers
***our pick for best sign
Best Pop Culture Reference
“Lena Dunham takes baths with her friends and no one gives her shit.”
There aren’t many pop culture references on “BoJack” we don’t quickly recognize, but color me baffled by this name drop from Todd. Luckily, we have the internet, and the internet knows all. That being said, Todd’s comparison doesn’t quite hold up under the scrutiny of, you know, purpose.
Character Actress Margo Martindale Award for Best Celebrity Guest
“I now pronounce this marriage over! Biel with it!” may be the most inane comment ever uttered to end a marriage, or it’s the best sentence anyone’s ever uttered ever. Right now, we’re leaning toward the latter, as Mr. Peanutbutter’s “second and final” wife won us over big time in Episode 2. By opening herself up to self-mockery, the early 2000s’ most used but least appreciated actress leapt back to relevancy in 2016. Good for you, Jessica Biel. Way to own it all — film flops, celebrity marriage and, yes, your nude photo shoot — in the most productive way possible. We’ll Biel with that just fine.
Quote of the Week
“It takes a long time to realize how truly miserable you are,
and even longer to see that it doesn’t have to be that way.”
– Cuddly Whiskers
What’s interesting about this pointed reference to BoJack’s seemingly permanent state of unhappiness is the word “long.” How long is a long time? How much more can BoJack go through? Yes, Cuddly Whiskers was clear he’d first have to rid himself of “meaningless” desires (like an Oscar), but what kind of road does that pave for our protagonist? How many more seasons will we watch him struggle to find bliss? And how much longer will that quest remain compelling with instructional statements like this one laying out a clear path for BoJack’s salvation?
So far, it looks like it could last forever, and that’s OK. The journey is what matters, as viewers are more than likely joining BoJack on what becomes a lifelong quest for many — and could for him, as well. As long as Bob-Waksberg keeps introducing fresh challenges in BoJack’s life, we’ll keep watching. For even if he seems like he’s at his most miserable, there could always be a deeper floor.