Dark comedy doesn’t get much darker than BoJack Horseman. Netflix’s animated gem continues this trend in season three, which is once again addictive, hilarious, and surprisingly heartfelt. Horse actor BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett) is back in the spotlight after a lengthy career nadir: his role in award-bait film Secretariat has him in contention for an Oscar, which his new publicist Ana Spanikopita (Angela Bassett) is determined to win for him at any cost. But BoJack’s Oscar campaign stokes his every neuroses and self-destructive behavior, engendering a philosophical crisis that may destroy him, if not everyone he cares about.
If that doesn’t sound like a laugh-riot to you…well, it somehow is, even as pitch-black tone bubbles along beneath the surface of its witty banter and frantic sight gags. Speaking of which, season three really takes it up a notch in terms of fast-paced eyeball kicks, visual jokes, and hilarious background text. It also steps up experimental metahumor, to mixed effect. I watched this season on full throttle, but I’m pretty sure a second viewing would add several new layers of laughs, from the silly to the cringeworthy to the shocking. But be forewarned: the humor is a set-up, raising your spirits only to dash them with tragic plot turns…but in the best possible way? BoJack may be an addict and a narcissist, self-absorbed and stubborn, and his ambition and need for validation is almost appalling. But he has just enough moments of relatable doubt and self-awareness to make him accessible, and his distinctly American success story, full of chaos and greed and confusion, serves as a brutal, unforgiving critique of celebrity culture. At the same time it’s also a thoughtful, existential exploration, capable of hauntingly beautiful moments of insight into the human (er, horse) condition.
Season three has a few weak hours late in the run, and despite a strong finish, it’s not quite as powerful as the earlier seasons taken as a whole. But a number of episodes — especially the magnificent “Fish Out of Water,” a visual story-telling masterpiece — are as edgy and superb as anything the show’s ever done. In the era of peak TV, it’s hard to put a finger on what shows will be worthy of rewatching down the road, but I’m putting my money on BoJack. If you haven’t checked this out yet, I strongly encourage you to get on it.