The opening of BoJack Horseman’s second episode places BoJack where we often find animated ne’er-do-wells — a watering hole. Like Homer at Moe’s Tavern, or Peter Griffin at The Drunken Clam, BoJack slouches dolefully, hoping to find a respite in his brew.
But the episode’s melancholy mood wears through quickly. If the premiere episode was dull, the second attempts to atone, by taking the leap from sarcasm to satire. In the span of roughly 30 minutes, BoJack tackles issues like the depravity of reality television, and the dangers of jingoism— an ambitious assignment for a fledgling show about a talking horse.
The episodes shambles about for a few minutes before introducing the real conflict: BoJack’s Chris Hayes moment. What begins as a grocery store confrontation over muffins, quickly explodes into a 24/7 news cycle scandal, with BoJack on the wrong side of a debate about veterans. (“I’m sure a lot of the troops are jerks,” he says in Will Arnett’s gravelly voice.) BoJack consequently finds himself swept up in a media tempest, playing himself on MSNBC—bitter, angry and probably inebriated.
The episode’s arc is funny at times, but largely feels passé. If “Support Our Troops” rhetoric is overused, so too is the “Hate Our Troops” foil. The writers work to position BoJack as a stark voice of reason (“Maybe some of the troops are heroes, but not automatically”), but instead they place him atop a soapbox that’s been trotted out too many times.
In “BoJack Hates the Troops,” it’s the secondary plots that ultimately succeed. BoJack unleashes a rightful harangue on a rude fan, only to undo his conviction by bedding the leggy blonde moments later. We also see a funny—albeit darker—side of BoJack ,when the curtain is pulled back to reveal his childhood: he’s a horseman whose parents quarreled, drank and philandered, molding a son plagued by crippling self-doubt. We learn of BoJack’s horse tranquilizer addiction, too, casting this washed-up star as more Charlie Sheen than Nicholas Cage.
In addition to assailing news, the episode takes swipes at cable pundits (with a particularly self-aware performance by Keith Olbermann as a barnacle-encrusted, newscasting whale) and, bizarrely, Eric McCormack.
Performances are largely on-target throughout, though Aaron Paul’s Todd is sadly underutilized. We see the Jesse Pinkman-esque loafer fall for a seductive Japanese swindler via Skype, but he only manages to nab a few lines of dialogue. Patton Oswalt returns for another cameo, this time as slighted Navy SEAL, Neal McBeal.
The dynamic between BoJack and his ghostwriter Diane (Alison Brie) is explored a bit more, and for good reason — the two have the best rapport on the show. At the episode’s close, during an ad hoc rooftop therapy session with Diane, BoJack promises to pull back the curtain further. “From now on, full truth,” he promises. The “full truth” might be just the spark the show needs.
Kevin Zawacki is a New York City-based writer and reporter. You can find him on his website.