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‘BoJack Horseman’ Isn’t a Father, But Fatherhood Has Changed Him

As the hit Netflix show heads into its fifth season, will BoJack continue to grow or fall back into old habits?


The fifth season of the animated comedy BoJack Horseman premieres on Netflix next week, with the new season promising to further explore the psyche of television’s most interesting antihero with its patented brand of dark, absurdist humor. But while the show is guaranteed to be as hilarious and devastating as ever, viewers may be wondering what last season’s brush with parenting might mean for BoJack. Could he finally be ready to leave his immature and selfish behavior behind and turn a new leaf or is he destined to continue to wallow in his own worst tendencies?

For those who need a refresher: last season, the primary storyline was BoJack trying to come to terms with the fact that he was seemingly a father, as Hollyhock, a teen horse, appeared in his life with the belief that she was his daughter. While his potent blend of self-loathing, self-doubt, self-pity, and self-destructive behavior led him to, at moments, fail to be there for Hollyhock, in the end, he seemed to take the initial steps towards putting the needs of others before the needs of himself.

Of course, BoJack is a show that loves to subvert any and all expectations, so at the end of the season, BoJack discovered that Hollyhock was actually his half-sister, not his daughter. Hollyhock leaves Hollywoo to meet her biological mom, leaving fans to wonder what it would mean for BoJack to no longer have to consider the wellbeing of another person in his daily life. Now that he’s free of that responsibility, will BoJack revert back to his own ways?

If the trailer for the fifth season is any indication, the answer seems to be a resounding yes. In the preview, BoJack is still shown to be self-medicating with alcohol and at one point even declares, “I’m a bad guy and the world needs to know.” On the surface, this seems like an obvious indicator that BoJack can never really change, no matter how badly he wants to. However, there are also signs that BoJack’s run-in with fatherhood may have put him on the long and winding road to becoming a better horse.

After all, while BoJack may actually not be a dad, the last scene of season four indicated that the experience had impacted him in a meaningful way. During his phone call with Hollyhock, BoJack shows genuine care for his half-sister and while he is far from perfect, the growth he has experienced from the start of the season to the end is evident. Fans of this dark comedy will know not to expect BoJack to suddenly be a model citizen but considering that Hollyhock is in the new trailer, he clearly hasn’t turned his back on her and maybe he hasn’t turned his back on the idea of a brighter and more fulfilling future either.

At its core, BoJack has always been a show about how fucking hard it is to grow as a person, as evidenced by the wise jogging baboon who told a frustrated BoJack at the end of the second season that “[i]t gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part.” The baboon is talking about specifically about running but his words also represent the worldview of the show. For his entire life, BoJack has always been too scared to put in the daily work that is required to become the best version of himself. But when Hollyhock came into his life, he finally seemed open to giving it a real try.

Will his difficult journey continue in season five or is he doomed to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of self-sabotage? We’ll have to tune in to find out but don’t be surprised if the fake reality of parenting was the wake-up call BoJack finally needed.

Season Five of BoJack Horseman will be available to stream on Netflix September 14.