Wednesday, September 13, 2017

REVIEW: 'BoJack Horseman' - A Disaster at Mr. Peanutbutter's House Brings Everyone Together in 'Underground'

Netflix's BoJack Horseman - Episode 4.07 "Underground"

Mr. Peanutbutter's posh campaign fundraiser takes a terrifying turn. As chaos swirls around them, BoJack and Diane get drunk.

For the past few episodes of this season, I've had to note that some stories have been less effective this year because they've been kept separated. And now, "Underground" brings its five lead characters together for the first time of the season. It's as if the show was also aware that it couldn't delay the inevitable reunion between them any longer. The five of them aren't really in the same location until the very end of the episode too. And yet, they are all affected by the same story. Their plot concerns are similar. They are all trying to survive after Mr. Peanutbutter's house plummets into the ground as a result of all of the fracking in his backyard. It's a completely absurd premise. This show has such a mastery and command of its tone. It can be incredibly dark and traumatic in one episode and then a completely ridiculous animated comedy the next. That's basically what happens in going from "Stupid Piece of Sh*t" to "Underground." They are incredibly different episodes. And yet, both exist within the world of this show and are successful in many different ways. There are plenty of dark moments in this episode as well. But they are played for laughs as it's amusing to see just how far the show is willing to push some of the premises for these twisted moments of humor. It's fun to watch while also serving its purpose in bringing the characters together.

The most important reunion is between BoJack and Diane. This is the first time they are interacting in person all season. They served important roles in each other's lives at the start of the season. Leaving voice messages with BoJack was a way for Diane to cope in the early days of Mr. Peanutbutter's campaign. And now, she's coping in a really unhealthy way with their sex fights. Meanwhile, a simple phone call with Diane made BoJack realize that he truly belongs in Hollywoo. It's the world that he understands better than anything else in this world. And yet, he has kept his distance because he wanted to be better when he returned to her life. He's been back in Hollywoo for awhile now. Everyone else knows that he has returned. But it's still a secret with Diane. He still wants to improve his life more before invading hers again. He believes she deserves better than that because he has so much love and respect for her. He doesn't want to be the same person who will make truly destructive mistakes that could destroy their friendship for good. But BoJack hasn't completely reinvented himself either. He's more aware of his worst tendencies. He's still making them though. He's trying to be better. That effort is progress. But is it enough to be a good influence in Diane's life? That's what he's ready to find out now.

Of course, time has changed. Diane is no longer willing to answer the phone and listen to what BoJack has to say because over a year has gone by and she's had to make due without him. Her life in Hollywoo has continued. Her husband is running for governor and she has an exciting new job where she is actually writing meaningful content again. And yet, she still isn't happy. Her new dynamic with Mr. Peanutbutter isn't heathy at all. But she needs to be the supportive wife who hosts celebrity fundraisers for the campaign. That's the role she is asked to fill here and simply has no time for BoJack and his selfish shenanigans. The house falling into the Earth is her breaking point though. She's furious at Mr. Peanutbutter because she told him that fracking would be disastrous. He didn't listen to her because he needed to be liked by the people. And so, Diane spends a lot of time with BoJack here. It's funny how the two of them are largely left alone in their room just drinking all of the alcohol. It shows just how great and amusing the two of them are as a character pairing. But underneath it all is still the pining for more out of life. They are still two miserable, depressed people who want to be happy. They see everyone else succeeding at it and want to know the secret. BoJack has meaningful advice of just pretending to be happy and eventually it will be true. It sounds incredibly simple and easy. He can't even really listen to his own advice. But the sentiment is nice and brings the two close together once more.

But the true appeal of this episode comes from the absurdist reality of this party as it spins into chaos as days go by with no rescue in sight. Mr. Peanutbutter believes they'll all be fine because they are all celebrities whose disappearances will be noticed by the world at large. And yet, three days pass and nothing changes. In fact, the only rescue mission is mounted by Woodchuck Coodchuck-Berkowitz who digs his way down to the house but then gets his hands crushed because Mr. Peanutbutter needs to celebrate his heroics. It's a completely amusing story that brings the central fight of this gubernatorial campaign to this very intimate setting. It's the two of them battling it out to be the leader of this community. Woodchuck has the natural charisma and know-how to be an effective leader. He has the calm, rational response that will allow everyone to survive for a long time. He understands that they need to ration the few supplies that they have left. But rational isn't what these characters are known for being. So, it seems completely fitting that Mr. Peanutbutter sends the situation into chaos once more in order to take back the position of power. It's Katrina once again manipulating him because the campaign is the first thought on her mind at any given moment. She knows this situation could be pivotal to the campaign. So, Mr. Peanutbutter needs to be the man in charge and not just the designated leader of the food. Of course, Mr. Peanutbutter being in charge is a terrible idea. Several more days pass and all the supplies are gone. It's a perfect reveal that Mr. Peanutbutter wouldn't be great as governor at all.

And yet, the final shift in power is perhaps the show's most inspired comedic beat throughout the entire episode. The introduction of Jessica Biel as Mr. Peanutbutter's second ex-wife last season was hilarious especially because of how good a sport Biel was at mocking her own career. That trend continues here with people calling her a wannabe celebrity or a less successful Michelle Monaghan. The characterization of Biel also makes her very vain, obsessed with looks and being the center of attention. But as soon as the house falls into the ground, she immediately embodies a sense of chaos and panic. She's leading the charge in that regard. She's suddenly ready to burn people alive in order to survive. It's brutal and dark but really inspired from a comedic standpoint. It's just so hilarious to watch. It only works because Biel is so committed to the show and what the writers are asking her to do. She even outshines fellow guest Zach Braff who is doing his own self-deprecating with his career thing throughout this episode. He's busy monologuing about always delivering monologues at the end of episodes that signal everything is about to be neatly wrapped up for the week. Meanwhile, Biel is setting him on fire. That's the moment of her takeover. She ascends to power because she's giving the people a new power to pray to. Fire is warm and comforting while providing substance. Everyone feasts on the meat of Zach Braff which is a really twisted but effective joke.

The next of Biel's victims is going to be Mr. Peanutbutter because peanut butter is literally in his name. Everyone is going crazy and feral. The comedy is really boiling now. It's so fantastic to watch. BoJack and Diane believe they have a way out of this situation by digging for water. Digging is what got them into this mess in the first place. And now, they foolishly believe it will be their rescue. Of course, it only adds to their demise. It saves Mr. Peanutbutter from being burned alive. But it sets a time limit for how much longer they will all survive. The running water they discover is actually from a burst pipe that is actually flooding the entire house. There's no way to escape. Things are looking grim. And then, Princess Carolyn and Todd arrive to save the day. It's the ending that was completely expected. The two of them were trapped underground as well. Fortunately, it was in a different area where they were able to make friends with the ants who live beneath the city. They've just taken awhile to mount the rescue because they get caught up in a plot of the worker ants fighting for more opportunities in the workplace. It's mostly just giving the two of them something to do while also explaining a way out of this situation for everyone else. It succeeds at that. The point of all of this though is Diane admitting to Mr. Peanutbutter that he is the best thing that has ever happened to her. She may not say it enough but she truly feels that way. Meanwhile, he admits that he doesn't really want to be governor. So, this could be bringing an end to that story for the season while also bringing the cast together to possibly go get Ethiopian food.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Underground" was written by Kelly Galuska and directed by Aaron Long.
  • It's going to be so fascinating to see if Ralph or Hollyhock have any big reactions to their loved ones being missing for over a week. Hollyhock may be fine with it because she has seen how BoJack can just go randomly missing from time to time. She has already experienced that. But Ralph is the more loving boyfriend who lives with Princess Carolyn. Surely he is going to be concerned and she should get back to him right away.
  • Of course, Princess Carolyn also notes that she still has the apartment she was living in before she moved in with Ralph. It's just a precaution for the moment. It's just in case things don't work out. That may be foreshadowing something. Or it could just be giving Todd, Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter a place to live now that their house is destroyed.
  • The queen ant is voiced by RuPaul which is just such perfect casting because RuPaul is a queen! It's just a minor role in this episode that serves its plot function in the end. And yet, it's amusing to think that the ants take issue with the gentrification of the world above them just like the ordinary citizens being pushed out of this communities to the benefit of Whole Foods.
  • Katrina isn't going to be happy that Mr. Peanutbutter is deciding to quit the campaign. She is the one constantly pushing him to do something. As such, she may have one final way of getting him to do this for her. Or perhaps this story will shift into something else that is just as enjoyable moving forward.
  • Diane has a pretty good suggestion for how to find out who Hollyhock's biological mother is. BoJack and Hollyhock have no clue what to do. But Diane suggests reaching out to the company that handled the adoption and simply making a request to make it open and seeing if her mother feels the same way. It's very sensible and will give the two of them something to do next.
  • Todd: "I was going to go to the party after my bath. And then I realized the bath was the party!"
  • Princess Carolyn: "Sometimes life is like Season 2 of Friday Night Lights. You gotta push through and hope there's better stuff ahead."
  • Mr. Peanutbutter: "So turns out three cheers was the adequate number number of cheers."
  • Todd: "Now can we please return to the surface world? All my favorite clouds are up there."

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.