Friday, September 15, 2017

REVIEW: 'BoJack Horseman' - BoJack Finally Puts in the Effort to Help Hollyhock in 'What Time Is It Right Now'

Netflix's BoJack Horseman - Episode 4.12 "What Time Is It Right Now"

Princess Carolyn pitches "Philbert" to company execs. Todd gets a better business idea. BoJack comes to a realization about Hollyhock.

BoJack Horseman is usually at its darkest at the end of its seasons. That was true for the first three years where BoJack kept making the same mistakes over and over again. Each year, the twists just kept getting darker and darker. Of course, there was only so far the show could go with that premise before it started becoming unbearable. So, this season was fundamentally different than the previous three years. It had such great respect and awareness of everything that has happened so far. In fact, this season really seemed to be moving at a quick pace with lots of time flying by for these characters. Their lives are happening much more rapidly but their pursuit for change and happiness is still only making slow progress. This was the year of BoJack Horseman wanting to be a better person. It's not something that just magically happens either. He has spent his entire life believing that he's broken and destined to poison anyone who gets too close to him. Nevertheless, he chose to return to Hollywoo and take in his daughter, Hollyhock, and mother, Beatrice. He suddenly had a family. He was always living in fear that he would hurt them. And he did. But he's much more aware of his problems and his struggle to change. And now, he's realizing just how much further he has to go to be seen as a good influence for anyone. And yet, this season ends on a hopeful note that that change is happening with BoJack. He is becoming better. His actions prove that he's improving his life. It's just small steps that could have a big impact later on.

It's a different kind of ending for a different kind of season. This entire year has been laced with melancholy as the characters truly realized just how difficult it is to get what they want out of this life. Happiness is forever going to elude them. Pretending to be happy can only go so far. BoJack truly believes that he has formed a connection with Hollyhock only for it to all be destroyed because of something Beatrice did. She cost him his relationship with daughter. That made him want nothing to do with her anymore even though she is still technically dying. But even that action is full of conflicting feelings. BoJack hates his mother but it was in saying goodbye to her and accepting the reality of her situation that the two of them were able to connect. That feeling is still present in BoJack's life. He's realizing that he never did enough to help Hollyhock in her endeavor to find her mother. It always seemed like a grand mystery he couldn't solve about who this woman he slept with in the '90s is. The audience knows the story of her birth is so much more complicated than that. We know that Hollyhock is actually his half-sister from an affair his father had with the maid. It's the conclusion the audience wants the characters to find because it will mean so much. But doing so means actually having to put in the work. Only then will it pay off for them.

It takes a really obscure and unexpected reference for BoJack to realize he could have done more for Hollyhock. The fact that it's Matthew Perry that serves as the reminder is hilarious. BoJack isn't motivated to question the DNA results because of anything Beatrice said when she believed him to be Henrietta. Instead, it was a reference to an actor which reminded him of a story Hollyhock shared about a Saturday Night Live sketch where Perry's character from Friends was in Schindler's List questioning if he's done enough. It's a really obscure reference. It's the show subverting the expectation and commenting on the use of this plot device to solve big mysteries in shows. And yet, it still works. BoJack is able to figure out that Henrietta is Hollyhock's mother. He just needed to go to courthouses in both Los Angeles and San Francisco to find the truth. But he eventually did and rushed to tell Hollyhock about it. Her dads are still against BoJack seeing Hollyhock again. But this is still information she deserves to have. It's a gesture that shows he does genuinely care about someone in his life other them himself. He also has to be content with not knowing if this brings any kind of closure or acceptance to Hollyhock's life. He sees this as the last meaningful interaction they will ever have.

Of course, it isn't. The season ends with a phone call between BoJack and Hollyhock. He's surprised to be hearing from her again because of what her dads think about him. They don't know if Hollyhock is ready to be out there in the world all by herself. It's them being very protective of her. That shows that they are great dads while still allowing the show to be very ridiculous with their individual character traits - especially the one who likes foreign films and not foreign movies. And yet, this one thing that BoJack did for Hollyhock proves to be life-changing for her. This entire season has focused on BoJack worrying that Hollyhock would be exactly like him. There was a long stretch were it seemed like she suffered from the same fears and insecurities as he did. She was following the same trajectory as him but didn't know it yet. But that's not true at all. It was all a reaction to the drugs that Beatrice was slipping into the coffee. That was forcing Hollyhock to act erratically. Now, she's much better. She's happy and healthy. She has started talking with her mother. And now, she's already going to visit her in Minneapolis. Her dads are letting her travel to somewhere new all by herself. That's empowering. But it still leaves conflicting feelings for BoJack. He formed this connection with Hollyhock as his daughter. But that's not true. That's what makes it so hopeful when Hollyhock says she doesn't need another dad but would like a brother. It's just such a simple and sweet gesture that proves BoJack still deserves good things in his life. He is still capable of being a better person.

This extends to BoJack's interactions with the other characters as well. The rest of the ensemble are largely kept to their own stories in this finale like they have been for most of the season. BoJack is just a character who comes in and out of their lives with less frequency now. Princess Carolyn needs to talk with him because she forged his signature on the contract to star in Philbert. Everyone is only interested in doing this project with him onboard. He still has that kind of appeal and influence in the entertainment industry. She believes her career will be over as soon as her actions are found out. BoJack doesn't want to be doing any work right now. He's still selfish in his first interaction with her. But then, the two of them are able to have an actual conversation later on. He agrees to do the show because he deserves to do something for Princess Carolyn. That's an encouraging sign of growth. Him telling her she should adopt because she would make a great mother is another sign that he's capable of being a good friend. Meanwhile, BoJack doesn't interact with Todd, Diane or Mr. Peanutbutter at all here. But their stories seem to be heading in a hopeful direction as well. That seems to be the big theme of this finale. Despite everything that has happened, it's good for these conversations to be happening now. Todd has accepted his identity as an asexual person. And now, he has found a potential romantic partner in Yolanda who feels the same way. The two of them are able to have a lot of fun in dealing with the clown dentists in the woods who now have rabies. And finally, Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter's story is very different from everything else. It's the more dark plot. But it's still a conversation that the two of them needed to have. They both have fears about what moving into their new house for the rest of their lives actually means. They are both having doubts about this marriage. Mr. Peanutbutter feels that Diane isn't comfortable enough in this life and worries she'll bail like his two ex-wives ultimately did. Meanwhile, Diane feels that Mr. Peanutbutter doesn't always understand her and her fear of big, romantic gestures. It's odd in the context of this episode but also very necessary in what happens next between them. They are both good for each other. But is this a marriage that is going to last? They've been trying to make it work for awhile but it still has problems. And now, they can both admit that.

Some more thoughts:
  • "What Time Is It Right Now" was written by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and directed by Tim Rauch.
  • This was a different season for the show. I've said that many times this season. It was more ensemble-driven than ever before. It didn't have the same creative highs as Season 3. None of the episodes could rival "Fish Out of Water" or "That's Too Much, Man!" But "The Old Sugarman Place," "Ruthie" and "Time's Arrow" were still phenomenal. If I had to rank the seasons, I would probably say 3, 4, 2, 1. What about you?
  • It was so disappointing that Kristen Schaal didn't win the Emmy for voiceover performance for her work last season. It's also understandable why she wasn't in this season until a brief glimpse here of a Horsin' Around episode. That character was great. But the show also doesn't just bring people back because they love working with them or the characters are fan favorites. The story has importance because it feels like the various actions have consequences.
  • That being said, it's also disappointing that there was no Character Actress Margo Martindale or Vincent Adultman this season either. Perhaps Character Actress Margo Martindale really did die during that boat crash last season. That's a strong way to go too. She shouldn't return unless the show has the right story. Meanwhile, it seems likely that Vincent Adultman will never return. If so, he probably won't be voiced by Alison Brie anymore because a significant amount of time has passed. He probably doesn't even need to be three boys standing on each other's shoulders anymore either.
  • Do any of Hollyhock's eight dads stand out? It's just important that there are eight of them and they always appear together in a group. That way they appear as mob that's ganging up on BoJack with their own special language. That works. But some individuality to them could be interesting to see as well.
  • It will appear that Natalie Morales and Rami Malek will be sticking around the voice cast for awhile. Both have been great so far as Yolanda and Flip. She could be a nice romantic interest for Todd while he could be an interesting writer for BoJack's new show. Of course, BoJack doesn't seem too excited about the script for Philbert.
  • And more importantly, the show hasn't technically been renewed for a fifth season yet. That's shocking. And yet, it still feels like a formality at this point. This is a show still loved by its audience and has driven a lot of conversation this week. It still feels like it has story to tell as well. It's not gotten repetitive yet. That's a very good sign.
  • Todd: "As my blood type always says, be positive!"
  • Princess Carolyn on Philbert: "It's a phenomenal script that may or may not involve ghosts or newts."
  • Hollyhock on honeydew: "It is literally the worst part of everything it's in. It's like the Jared Leto of fruit!"

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.