Against all the out-there, goofy plot lines this season, the simplest one has stolen the spotlight: Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter stumbling their way through a new marriage. It’s so easy to get emotionally invested in them because they genuinely do love each other. They work to earn the moments of happiness in their relationship.
That’s why it’s so hard to watch Diane lie to Mr. Peanutbutter for months about leaving Cordovia. She’s been a drunken wreck hiding out at BoJack’s house, but with a new agency to start from scratch, it’s in Princess Carolyn’s best interest to change that. With one of her famous pep talks, she lifts Diane out of her slump and talks her into tweeting for celebrities.
Diane is in a meeting with Sextina Aquafina when she spots Mr. Peanutbutter across the room. It’s a moment that could be painful and hostile, but instead it’s sweet. We hear Diane’s Sarah Koenig ringtone (a perfect follow-up to last season’s Ira Glass ringtone), and it’s Mr. Peanutbutter calling to chat. Within minutes, he invites her home, and not just because he needs help finding spare batteries for the remote.
Of course, Princess Carolyn is only able to help Diane because she has no idea how to help herself. Rutabaga has finally shown himself to be the jerk the show’s been hinting at all season. He never did divorce his wife after all, and he’s been lying to Princess Carolyn about it all along. But then it occurs to her that she’s actually not afraid to be alone. Thanks to a paperwork snafu, she swiftly boots Rutabaga from his own company. Princess Carolyn is finally the badass, confident woman she tries to be in front of her clients, and it couldn’t be more fun to watch.
Predictably, things don’t go as smoothly for BoJack in the finale as they do for Princess Carolyn and Diane. He starts off this season looking for shortcuts to change who he is. But for all his inspirational audiobooks and annoyingly optimistic catchphrases, he couldn’t shake his sadness or his destructiveness. Now it seems like he’s finally starting to realize you can’t become a good person just by going through the motions.
It might be the incident with Charlotte’s daughter was the rock bottom he needed to start pulling himself up. But that’s not to say it ever should have happened or that he should need to screw up a family so badly just to have a simple realization for himself.
In any case, BoJack takes a couple of small but tangible steps toward hating himself a little less. He honors his late friend Herb Kazzaz by naming the orphanage he started after him. Then, in spectacular fashion, he rides up on his boat and saves Todd from improv cruise ship hell. They’re knee-jerk decisions that feel realistic, not overly hopeful. After all, BoJack does explicitly say he wants Todd around at least in part because Todd makes him feel good about himself when no one else will.
For such a dark series of episodes, the second season ends on a surprisingly high note. That’s not saying much, of course. There’s still much to worry about with each character going forward, but the cautiously optimistic note is refreshing.
Maybe BoJack will always be a sad jerk making half-hearted efforts to change, but that isn’t everyone’s fate. Princess Carolyn is finally learning her worth. Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter are building a loving relationship they should be proud of. And Todd, is, well, Todd. But Todd’s frivolousness is just as much a part of BoJack’s beauty as anything, especially in Season 2. The episodes kick off in a much higher gear than its predecessors, and they don’t let up. In a way that imitates the good days in our own lives, for every downer, introspective moment, there’s an out-there, absurd gag that can’t help but make you smile in spite of it all.
Julie Kliegman is the weekend editor for TheWeek.com and a freelance journalist based in New York. She’s written publications including BuzzFeed, Vox, Mental Floss, PolitiFact and the Tampa Bay Times. Tweet her your favorite SpongeBob GIF.