‘BoJack Horseman’ concludes with jokes, meaning

Photo courtesy of Netflix

For a television series, endings are difficult. If showrunners follow their artistic intuition, such as in the case of the abrupt fade to black in “The Sopranos,” viewers get put off. When writers give into the whims of their fans, storylines become resolved almost too perfectly. Alternatively, toeing the line between the two extremes can result in a failure on all accounts, like in “Game of Thrones.”

“BoJack Horseman” remarkably eschews this finale dilemma. After years of assaulting viewers with its protagonist’s crimes, fans have been trained for what was always the creators’ intent: BoJack’s bout with justice.

The sixth and final season of the Netflix animated series was divided into two segments — each comprised of eight episodes. Audiences last observed the eponymous horse recovering from years of alcohol and depression. Just as BoJack (Will Arnett, “Arrested Development”) starts to find his peace and happiness in sobriety, journalists begin to uncover his various crimes, and Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla, “A Simple Favor”) — BoJack’s half-sister — also learns of his previous misdeeds.

Released on Jan. 31, part two follows closely. BoJack accepts a position at Hollyhock’s college where he becomes an acting professor. Meanwhile, Hollyhock gives him a deserved cold shoulder. Then, on the night of his students’ acting showcase, he receives a call from his past that sends his peaceful bliss crashing back down to reality.

With the guidance of his friends — Diane (Allison Brie, “Community”), Todd (Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”) and Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris, “Elf”) — he faces the allegations head-on in an all-access interview. Although he initially handles it well, his typical BoJack vanity leads him to deepen his own mess. Dismayed by the reality of BoJack’s crimes, his friends finally begin to turn on him, sending him into one more depressive spiral.

This might sound awfully serious for an animated comedy. But the final eight episodes are not all BoJack, and they are certainly not all serious.

Todd — the goofy, freeloading asexual who used to sleep on BoJack’s couch — prances through a variety of kooky capers with his new girlfriend, Maude (YouTube personality Echo Gillette). Maude was the adorable “CinnaBunny” from earlier in the season, and she makes the perfect fit for Todd. From enabling his failed “Marshmallow Experiment” to sharing his love for random, nonsensical ideas, her relationship with Todd might truly be the highlight of the season. She even helps Todd reconnect with his mother in the funniest scheme imaginable.

The chipper yellow-lab Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins, “Comedy Bang! Bang!”) somehow creates a love triangle between him, his fiancee and popstar Joey Pogo. His television show, “Birthday Dad,” continues to takeoff and is a constant source of levity and comedic relief during serious moments.

Princess Carolyn’s storyline is not as full of wackiness, but her career and personal life have never been better. Where previous seasons used to perpetuate her awful work-life balance, the final one has found her successfully juggling a baby, a business and now even an unexpected romantic partner who makes that balance even lighter. BoJack thought he had ruined the best years of her life, but it turns out that the best years of her life are still ahead of her.

Diane continues bouts of depression, but supportive loved ones keep her on track. She gives up her fixation on damage and sadness, channeling her newfound happiness into a lucrative book series. In a display of even greater maturity, Diane connects with her boyfriend’s son and helps to maintain that bond.

The key for each character’s progress comes almost as a direct result of the loop of toxicity that BoJack’s presence caused. As soon as they move on, their lives begin to settle. 

BoJack is not quite as fortunate as he finally receives overdue consequences for his actions. When his friends and the public turn on him, he is forced to resort to a fellow problematic celebrity for friendship. Ultimately, he spirals and relapses again before the show’s finale.

The truth is that, despite its nihilist shell, consequences do matter on “BoJack Horseman.” BoJack was always going to face the music, and fans have been primed for just that.

“BoJack Horseman” handles its finale in its own unique way. Existential questions of meaning and purpose are explored. Characters share fond conversations. And there are always a few goofs to lighten the tension.

There might not be a greater meaning than the relationships humans (and animals) forge. Individuals struggle, make mistakes and even commit crimes. “BoJack Horseman” wants viewers to confront their problems and grow. Or, as Todd says, “Do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around.” That is what “BoJack Horseman” is all about.