Horseman Episode 04 Review

Featuring unexpected John Carmack.

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Why I watched it:

Trying to shorten this long face.

How it works:

After a brief encounter with Buzzfeed and Mr. Peanut Butter's surprisingly clairvoyant sitcom, we find ourselves in the ever-present discussion over whether or not Bojack is a Zelda, or a Zoey. The Zelda is the fun-addicted, happy-go-lucky type, while Zoey is an SJW. The distinction does not matter to the overall message of this episode, which can be summed up as "people never change", though delivered in a half-assed manner with a poorly paced plot.

After a brief discussion shitting on Buzzfeed, Todd performs his rock opera, which he wrote at some point in the past but never told the audience, seeing as Bojack shits all over him and didn't bother to ask. Five hours of poorly-compressed synth tunes later (in show time, not real time, as they've saving that for the Broadway adaptation), Diane gets Bojack to encourage Todd to finish that shit. To his credit, he does, even after calling it worse than 100 9/11's.

Initially Bojack shits all over Todd's opera (he's shitting on everything, being a horse and all), though after a sex scene with him and the bed, they eventually do connect to each other in a ~completely convincing~ way and eventually starts connecting with eachother, which makes Bojack's dickishness at the end of the episode seem incredibly dishonest on the parts of the writers.

Basically, Todd performs in front of a big shot, gets a chance at a big break, finds a video game in the dime bin at 8-12 (they couldn't get the rights to 7-11...), plays discount Tetris in what was the only thing the animators could animate without going over their budget of two dimes, and relapses his video game addiction, blowing the performance and his chance to move out of Bojack's house. I feel you, Todd. You get addicted to Tetris, you get addicted to every game...

We then find out that Bojack planted the game to ruin his career in order to get Todd to spend more time with him. Alright, what the fuck dude? You have the guy in your house for five years, you don't even bother to talk with him, you make him a success within a week, and you don't even talk with him about your concerns? Are you retarded, Bojack? Is this some sort of ploy to make us think even less of you? Jesus Christ, you'd think the guy who wants the Holocaust to happen before Todd's opera would already have been firmly established as a dick, but the writers are really slapping that shit heavy.

I'm guessing the mentality that this episode has is that "any plot is better than no plot", even though it's an idiot plot, where neither Todd has the balls to put down a video game which ruined his life and caused him to drop out of high school (fucking Tetris), Bojack has the balls to fucking talk to the guy, or the rock opera producer has the balls to forgive Todd for bombing his performance despite being willing to sign on to a full theater release. Did everybody take retard pills in their toaster strudels, or do they just want to be Zoeys?

What I felt:

In situations like this, and indeed situations where I happen to be playing a game like Tetris, I'm reminded of a quote by John Carmack, co-creator of Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D, and thus the first-person shooter, the speedrun, the machinima, the online deathmatch, the Quake Engine (and thus GoldSrc and Source), the entire PC games industry, and a bunch of other things which makes him generally better than either of us, "Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important."

This is not to say that every piece of media should abandon a story for the sake of doing what they're really good at - it's just that it's an option. While a damn good story in a video game can turn a mediocre one into a great one (see Spec Ops: The Line), in some cases it would actually distract from a game, such as with Gamma Brothers (flash-based free version on other sites), which has some of the tightest and most intuitive game design I have ever seen out of a video game. It has an extraordinarily basic plot and setting, and it can be entirely ignored just because of how great the game is on it's own. It is like everything you desired out of an arcade game - fair and balanced, with sensible mechanics that can be learned on their own, and twitch-shooting action that's rewarding to those who think arcade games are damn great.

It should also be clarified that a story just refers to things that happen, and it's what goes on during those happenings which determine is a show is great. A story can be as simple as a Seinfeld episode where The Gang tries to stop mail from getting delivered to them. Almost every piece of media has some sort of story in it, and to say that something has no story is to instead refer to it as having a minimal story.

When I suggest that the writers were shoehorning in a story, I'm also implying that it would have been better for them to not add in some dramatic plot twist where it turns out that Bojack screwed over Todd for no real reason, and to instead capitalise on Bojack being a complete twat who gets his shit handed to him on a constant basis, because at least that would have the potential to be a damn funny character comedy. It works for Panty and Stocking, it works for Seinfeld, and it works for It's Always Sunny in Philidelphia. Why can't it work in Bojack Horseman?

Well, beyond the cheap animation, the show has a need to be satirical and having a continuity between episodes - foreshadowing events in the future with obvious red herring lines and supposedly irrelevant scenes, which is the opposite problem that Haruhi Suzumiya had. It had great foreshadowing but a tendency to blow its wad on everything, whereas Bojack Horseman has shit foreshadowing but never leads up to anything important.

It's this need to be an adult satire that may make it feel obliged to draw out a long and important plotline, which would at least be different from the vein of shows like South Park which take everything episode-by-episode instead of drawing everything out into one big narrative. South Park worked when it was episodic, and it also worked when it established a continuity, though they had two decades of experience under their belt so maybe it's not a fair example.

So we have to ask why Bojack Horseman is making a series of plotlines despite them not being particularly well though-out. Is it because they want to go against the wave of adult cartoons doing things without consequence, not establishing a world where the characters hate The Gang for being unpleasant people? It is because they're sick of satire being a series of one-off jokes, and decided to show the new guys (read: the very very very old guys) how it's done? Both noble pursuits, but I'm having a hard time understanding how they plan to do this.

Are they going to continue forming idiot plots as they throw out rational character developments, expressing morals that they half-assedly appended to the story that barely has any relation to it? Are they going to ditch the one-off satires of various topics of the entertainment industry in order to focus on a cast of characters with potential to grow but don't seem interested in treating each other like decent human beings? Are we going to be expected to root for this cast of generally unpleasant characters as their world is slowly torn apart from them as a result of their actions?

The show is supposed to answer these questions, not make the audience answer them, and to place the burden of proof on the audience for noticing your incoherent writing is a cop-out. Or to put it another way, wipe your ass before you give me shit.

What I learned:

John Carmack is a badass and you should feel ashamed for not wanting to be like him. Except for his poorly-explained obsession with rockets.

I suppose the crux of this entire review, the one I made while having to fend off the manchildren at Github who would complain about a seven-byte change if it meant moving away from the status quo, is that if you're going to do something, do it well. Indeed, this is a koan that Bojack Horseman has yet to get its hooves around. It wants to be a satire while having its effectiveness be hit-or-miss. It wants to be a drama without establishing a reasonable plot. It wants to be character-focused without giving us much reason to like the characters in it.

This show actually reminds me a lot of It's Always Sunny, and for good reason. The characters are all assholes, but you like them because they get their shit kicked in all the time, and the antics they get up to are so bizarre you just have to see where they're going with it. If Bojack Horseman was a lot like that, it could be as effective, though as for now it's a mediocre series of events acting as part of an experiment to develop a continuity that may or may not turn out to be effective.

The 100 9/11's joke was the bomb, though.

Non-Zoey-Zelda spectrum: Froghand.

Today's page was updated on September 7, 2016!

In a world where the Zeldas have been brutally suppressed...

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