Horseman Episode 05 Review
Boston is the Scunthorpe of the United States.
Why I watched it:
I am the stone that the builder refused; I am the visual, the inspiration, that made lady sing the blues. I'm the spark that makes your idea bright, the same spark that lights the dark so that you can know your left from your right. I am the ballot in your box, the bullet in your gun, the inner glow that lets you know to call your brother son. The story that just begun, the promise of what's to come, and I'ma remain a soldier till the war is won.
How it works:
Gee willickers that's a good theme song. Anyway, enough about me, let's talk about youse.
Diane discovers her dad dies, Bojack discovers that she hates him, and the audience discovers that the supposedly strong Diane is sentimental as to request appreciation from a family which neither deserves nor wants her respect. I suppose the nature of this plot is to teach Diane that feeling sentimental for an abusive household is a Bad Thing to do, though I'm wondering if there are actually enough people who believe this to make this episode not a waste of time.
The Gang goes to Boston and realises it's a piece of shit town, on par with [name of your city] for obnoxious accents and crazy locals. Diane goes to see her dead dad, realises her family is a bunch of dicks, and still does what they ask her to because she doesn't realise that they don't care about her as much as they say. Bojack is also a dick in this episode (as in every episode), because he's petty enough to have wanted siblings growing up in his abusive household and so bums around Diane's. Even though he would know when Diane is being taken advantage of and did nothing to stop this from happening. So he's an especially big dick today, as that makes him a Bad Person.
Diane then learns her dad got chummed by the boys, and then goes apeshit in the bar and steals the truck with her dad's chum in it. Bojack finally gets a soul and goes to comfort her, having a heart-to-heart, and learning that family is a shitty thing to rely on because they're all cunts, and cunts don't deserve your respect. Not the most well-delivered moral, though one that's true. We also get some plot hooks with Bojack calling up an old friend, some birds trying to blackmail Bojack, and the Penguin House still being broke off their ass. None of this is too interesting, seeing as the series doesn't give us any reason to be interested in these disconnected events.
There's also a subplot where Todd runs a celebrity house tour scam, losing most of his credibility from the previous episode by being taken advantage of Princess Caroline the mean cat lady who is actually a cat this time. It's not really important, unless we're going to find out Todd is in jail next episode and moves out of Bojack's house or something, though that wouldn't be an interesting development because it's already being implied this is going to be the case. It's not drama if the audience can guess what's going to happen!
What I feel:
It was painful to watch Diane getting taken advantage of, hilarious to watch her lose her shit, and affectionate to see how she and Bojack actually come to a dialogue with each other. This makes the idiosyncratic personality of Bojack seem even more out of character, as somebody who has the potential to be sweet and relate to things about people is still being hammered back down to their old tricks by focusing on himself and not the people who he should have every right to care about.
What's the point of trying to develop a character who just ends up being his old self anyway? Or is this the entire point of the show, trying to showcase with an unsubtle hint in episode 04 that Bojack isn't going to change. I wonder then what the fucking point of the show is, if we learn nothing new about our main character and watch him make people suffer.
I can see why there would be a point to something like Panty and Stocking, which are characters who are dicks by all reasonable definitions, because in that show they're facing up against people who are worse than them while making light of the absurdity of the situation and their comically unpleasant interactions with everybody. It's a chain of command, where Panty and Stocking are stuck in the middle, with demons and Garterbelt punishing them on top, and Brief, Chuck, and the entire Daten City populace being stuck dealing with them.
It works because you're never supposed to take the show seriously - and also works because you're not supposed to like any of the characters. You're supposed to watch them make fun of each other and people who don't deserve their respect and see what they're going to get up to next. It's a show about spectacle, where everything is inconsequential and you're just eating popcorn while watching the ride. Any drama in this show is unintentional, even that ending sequence which pissed a lot of fans off but it'll probably be retconned in the second season so don't worry about it. Also, there will never be a second season, and that makes me sad.
If you're going to make a show about assholes being assholes to each other with only the smallest of character development, it doesn't make any sense at all to try to make us care about the asshole clusterfuck (a good name for a porn star) when our gut instinct is to laugh at how much they fuck up each other. I would say it's even a mistake to try to make us care about the characters in a situation like that, because then we would just be upset when somebody we like gets fucked over by somebody we don't. Schadenfreude only works if we don't have an emotional attachment to the victim.
I wrote in episode 01 that this show has a lot of potential for a lot of unique storylines, but so far the show seems to be content with calling it in and embedding storylines of little consequence while trying to make us feel something for them. But at the same time, the scenarios are so over-the-top, like the celebrity house scam being likened to a mafia smuggling ring with Todd being bitch-slapped by an old cat lady (literally a cat >:3c) while the police bust a raid and arrest the whole joint.
How the fuck are you supposed to make us take your characters seriously when you have a storyline like a dead dad getting turned into chum, plan to throw the chum in Derek Jeter's face, and then having his barrel of dead remains roll down the entire Boston lifelight, only to kill an old lady being walked by Derek Jeter as he steals her purse. What the fuck? There is a serious issue with tone in this series that wants to include a storyline like that while still expecting us to take it seriously.
My Haruhi series of reviews expressed that the show knew how to be over-the-top without losing its moments of humanity, but I never expressed why. Now I understand the secret of Haruhi - it knew when to compartmentalise its genres. If it wants to devote an episode to pure spectacle, then there aren't any overly serious moments involved, like in episode 11. If it wants to make a dramatic episode, it makes the entire episode dramatic, like in episode 13. And if it wants to split the difference, it would make parts of the episode super cool, while having other parts be super sweet, without whiplashing the tone - like in episode 12.
And that's what made Haruhi so great - it knew when to be serious, and when to be funny. It didn't often mix the two, but when it did, it made it expressly clear to the audience through proper directing which parts were jokes and which parts we're supposed to take seriously. Bojack Horseman doesn't have the budget for the great cinematography that Haruhi had, nor does it know when to separate the absurd moments like the rolling chum, to the sweet moments like the Bojack and Diane talk. It means that you don't know how to react to a scene that could be either a complete joke, or one that's supposed to be super serious.
I understand that Bojack Horseman is an experiment in seeing what would happen if a bunch of shitty characters had to deal with the real-world consequences of their actions, but I'm just not seeing it so far. Is this a show that needs a lot of time to get its bearings? I would think that by halfway through the season you would have already done so! If you want to make a narrarative, fine, but don't make every single storyline disconnected with eachother and then blatantly foreshadow the ones which might actually have a consequence, expecting us to be interested enough to stay tuned.
I hope some serious shit happens to this series during the next few episodes, or else it's just going to be another experiment with a lot of potential that never gets off the ground and fails. Of course, with my mystical tome of "Wikipedia", I can see that a lot of critics think that isn't the case. To which I say, fuck those critics. If they find some sort of pride in being reduced to a number as a part of a publication which decides that one-digit is a suitable approximation for 11,000 bytes of opinions, then fuck them for pandering to an audience that doesn't bother to read the fucking review.
What I learned:
I'm going to use 64 of my 11,000 bytes to say this: FUCK NUMBERS AND I SAID IT WITH AUTHORITY.
A good show knows how to play its audience like Super Smash Brothers - a collection of arbitrary, hidden, and nonsensical game mechanics with a playerbase that prioritises competition over fun, developers who don't care about video games as an art form and instead pump them out in order to create an income and branding mechanism for Big Papa Nintendo, and a long history of fucking over its unpleasable fanbase every installment when all they want to do is play a mechanically broken and needlessly technical game from 2001. Actually that's a really shitty example.
A good show knows how to play its audience like Mass Effect - a complex yet still intuitive story that can be summarised in two words (fuck Saren), a deep lore with characters that make you want to get to know them, a universe that provides ample opportunities for unique adventures, and intuitive mechanics that never fuck over the player or make them feel like they don't belong in the game.
Bojack Horseman does a few things right in regard to that, providing unique storylines but have room to grow, and characters that have potential to develop, though doesn't seem interested in either growing or developing as a series. You can tell that it wants to, but you have to wonder whether it wants to bad enough. While the show does exhibit competence, it doesn't exhibit what makes it great, or even what makes it a series worth watching. But I do anyway, because that is my duty.
An experiment in choking: Froghand.
Today's page was updated on September 8, 2016!
Boston is probably a shithole.