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Bojack Horseman: Forgiveness and lack thereof

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

How I Met Your Mother is wrong. You may spend your entire life and never find “The One” for you. Most people don’t. The unpredictability of death ensures that you will likely die unfulfilled. People don’t find their soulmates, achieve their life goals, see their children graduate college and see their hair become grey. For some, their personal goal might be about redeeming themselves.

If you have ever held a grudge against someone, whether it be about ruining your life, causing you pain or betraying your trust, you know that forgiveness is not something that is handed out. Many people have to accept that they may never be redeemed and have to live on with that burden.

The final part of Bojack Horseman hits this really hard. It does not give Bojack a hopeful and starry ending. After all, Gina wasn’t allowed to escape the trauma. Kelsey had that permanent black mark on her record. There is absolutely nothing Bojack can do for any of them.

None of them are obligated to forgive Bojack. Herb had it right knowing that a grudge does not necessarily mean you will leave unfulfilled or heavy-hearted. An abusive relationship merits absolutely no forgiveness. What Bojack had was exploitation.

Relationship after relationship, Bojack ensures that his best interest is served. He destroys sober, feels guilty, goes on a bender, destroys high, wakes up, woes to change and moves on to his next relationship.

Part one of season 6 focuses on his destructive nature when high. Of course getting high is completely his choice, but he cannot be blamed for addiction. What is completely on his shoulders is the refusal to seek help earlier. However, once he decided to stay sober, he gained perspective. He became the selfless guy, the “needs of the many” guy. The audience may now idolise Bojack.

Then what made Bob-Raphael Waksberg decide that the show may not end like this? Well, this is where the act of redemption comes in.

Would you say a redemption is the universal compensation of all the damage you have done, or the painful transformation that ensures you will no longer cause any more harm? Different people will have different responses to this, and even completely personal definitions of the word. But going forward with these two, we have two schools of thought relating to Bojack’s redemption.

If you believe Bojack should have ended with him becoming a teacher and riding off into the sunset of ambiguity, or that he should have quit after his first interview, then you believe the second one. Throughout part A of season 6, Bojack made sure to make the best string of decisions possible at the cost of his own self-interests. This is enough evidence that, if left untouched by his past, Bojack will, for sure, be a productive and helpful member of society and would create a positive impact on so many lives like he did in the days of Horsin’ Around.

But odds are, you cannot let Bojack walk away after everything. We can still hear those words echoing at the back of our heads. “17 minutes”. We have been faced with so much irredeemability at our faces, but to stand there, besides Bojack with everything being thrown back at us, you cannot help but drop silent when you learn that Bojack, at his most selfish point, waited 17 minutes before calling for emergency services to save the woman he claimed he loved like a daughter. All to save himself from being incriminated, from losing the love that is showered upon him.

What Bojack did may as well be a moment of weakness, an instinct. But the larger picture is that his most basic instinct is to save every ounce of what he has, even if it costs someone else everything. The best thing people like Hollyhock and Diane could do is cut ties with him for good.

The show Bojack Horseman is less of a study into Bojack and more how Bojack FITS into the larger narrative of these people residing in LA, coming from vastly different professions, ideologies and places in the universe. Most of their finales, their narrative conclusions are completely independent of Bojack himself, a result of his time in prison. In the end, as a hero, a villain, a friend and as a foe, none of their lives ended up revolving around Bojack. He did his damage and moved on, all the while everyone came out of it and hopefully, recovered.

We know it to be true for the main cast. As for the others, their failures, which were caused by the direct result of their relationship with Bojack, didn't end their character arcs. Gina may end up breaking ground in Broadway, Kelsey Jannings might make her indie masterpiece that launches her career to stardom. What we can know for certainty is that they are best off never letting Bojack domino their lives again.

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