BoJack Horseman Finds Creative Ways to Self-Harm in Third Season Debut

Episode 3.01

Comedy Reviews
BoJack Horseman Finds Creative Ways to Self-Harm in Third Season Debut

I watched all of season three of BoJack Horseman in one go and now I’m trying to untangle my thoughts about it. More so than the previous two seasons, this one seems meant to be inhaled in one go. Its arc is somehow both delicate and crushing and by the end I felt like I’d been holding my breath for hours. As a person who suffers from depression, this is the most accurate reflection of how it feels to be underwater in that particular way, and this is a show about a fucking cartoon horse.

The first episode sets up the thing that BoJack is going to be chasing to make him happy—an Oscar nomination for Secretariat. But of course, BoJack could never actually be happy. He’ll find a way to ruin it, just like he always has, and he comes very close to doing so in this very episode by falling into all his old vices at once: substance abuse, self-hate and fucking people he shouldn’t be fucking.

Keeping him back from the ledge this time is Ana Spanakopita, voiced by the absolutely incredible Angela Bassett. Why isn’t she is everything? She’s amazing in this, and every, episode. She is terrifying and hilarious and sad and I love her. Ana is the character that Princess Carolyn can’t actually quite be—as a publicist, Ana is ruthless and fearless. Carolyn cares a little too much about people, which is to say that she cares about people at all.

Ana spends the entire episode emphasizing to BoJack what, exactly, he’s going to have to do in order to win an Oscar, the new object he has decided will fill his sadness hole. Every season he ends up getting what he wants, in some fashion or another, and then moves the goalposts around once he realizes that that’s not actually how happiness works. My therapist reminded me recently that happiness is fleeting—contentment is a more reasonable goal. BoJack will never learn this, not as long as he’s in Hollywood.

The episode is funny—the jokes are good. There’s a bit where Todd gets lost literally the moment he exits a hotel room in New York and then laments that this city will eat you alive. Diane Nguyen, a character that is such an accurate reflection of the particular insecurities that drive one to be a writer that she makes me want to lay down in traffic, is now a social media manager, which is just so sad and so perfect. It’s still a comedy, just one that makes me want to lay down on the ground and stare at the ceiling for hours.

But in the larger scope of the season, this is where we begin to see BoJack self-destruct, again. One of the things Ana needs him to do to win an Oscar is stop defending Horsin’ Around, his old sitcom, because it was a shitty ‘90s sitcom. But the memories of that show do make him happy. He liked his old shitty show, but he’ll get on stage and say he hated it anyway, because, like me, he finds incredibly creative ways to self-harm.

Gita Jackson is Paste’s assistant comedy editor.

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