New season, new credit sequence, same Bojack?
The third series of Bojack Horseman is undeniably brilliant. For a show that already has a reputation for being difficult, its latest season takes this to the extreme. It is deliberately polarising, difficult and uncomfortable television. There’s a lot to like about these twelve episodes: I welcome Princess Caroline in more prominent a role; there’s a more microscopic focus on the existing relationships, predominantly PC and Bojack but also Diane and Bojack, which changes the dynamic; it’s more experimental in its art style; it’s even more experimental in its sound design with one touching, completely silent episode.
But I’m not going to write a long form review of this season today. Instead I want to talk about how this new batch of episodes continues an hypothesis I have previously discussed on this blog – episode eleven of each season is an emotional crescendo of each contained narrative arc. Therefore, after the break in the page I aim to look in depth into the third “eleventh episode” and the main gut-punch offered in the new episodes. (In case it wasn’t clear, massive spoilers to follow)
Two years of grinding later, but finally this devil can stay dead.
Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is arguably one of my favourite games of all time, it’s certainly one of my most played. I’m not normally one to chase trophies in any game, but Diablo is so satisfying that this just sort of happened over the last few years. Almost everything about the game is perfect: killing demonic hordes feels satisfying; loot is frequent; the classes are distinct from one another, but varied enough to encourage experimentation; hell it even controls phenomenally well with the controller.
But as I said, almost everything is perfect. If there was one detractor from this brilliant game it’s the narrative – it’s boring enough to the point of being nonsensical. At no point do you really care about the story being told across the game, especially after you’ve gone through it once. The narrative thread is just a pretext to kill more enemies. The solution to this? Turn the sound off, go to your podcasting app of choice and listen to something better as you mindlessly slay the minions of both heaven and hell.
This is predominately how I played the game. When the game controls and feels so good, but lacks a cerebral plotline it makes perfect sense to just zone out and listen to something a little more stimulating. So as much as I adore this game, there’s nothing I can really say about it that hasn’t already been said, so instead I want to use this opportunity to talk about the three podcasts that allowed me to enjoy the game to it’s fullest.
Before we get into the meat and bones of this piece I mention a couple of podcasts I love that didn’t make the final cut, but are still worth checking out: What Say You?; The Tenderloins Podcast; Desert Island Discs; Book Shambles With Robin and Josie.
I genuinely try not to buy into the hype concerning the release of a trailer, let alone a very early teaser like this. But I’ve watched this one close to twenty times today now.
I have previously written about my absolute love of Gaiman’s source material on this blog, but I have yet to discuss my adoration of Bryan Fuller. I’m of the opinion that Hannibal is one of the greatest television shows ever produced. So in many ways I’m the crossover market that this show was explicitly made for, but even so I didn’t expect to love it as much as a did!
After the jump in the page, I’m going to break down what I gained from the trailer as someone very familiar with the book, and exactly why that makes me excited for this show. Fair warning, if you’ve never read American Gods the rest of this thing is going to be spoiler heavy for the first third-half of the novel.
Part one of this article can be found here
Escape From LA (S2e11)
“How long do I have to keep putting out fires for you?” “I don’t know Princess Caroline, maybe just let them burn.”
If “Downer Ending” was Bojack realising that he could have chosen the perfect life, then “Escape From LA” is when he finally chooses it. Over the half hour long episode, Bojack finally finds his perfect life, filled with substance and people who actually care, but then loses it. Not to over-generalise but I’ve found that American television rarely attempts to pull off “car-crash TV” like the British shows I grew up with. Look at The Office and it’s American adaptation; the original is grimace inducing through the awkwardness, whilst the remake (still brilliant) is more sentimental and likeable. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to this episode of Bojack Horseman – it’s twenty six minutes of excruciating tension as the audience is forced to watch a character systematically burn the bridge to the life he always wanted deep down.
You know, when we first met, I was looking for something in my life. And I wanted it so badly that I made myself believe you were it. But I think that wanting to believe something isn’t the same as something being real. And this isn’t real.
This line is spoken by a pink anthropomorphic cat as a means of breaking up with her boyfriend – who is clearly just three children stacked on top of each other under a trench coat. Cartoon or not, Bojack Horseman pulls no punches when it comes to emotional heft.
The series follows the titular Bojack Horseman, a washed up actor who made a name for himself on a broad, lowest-common denominator sitcom in the 1980s. But the cartoon itself imbues none of those qualities; instead the material is niche, obtuse and deliberately alienating. It is a funny show, but the overall aim isn’t to make the audience laugh. Instead, Bojack Horseman uses its characters as an intimate portrait of those struggling with their mental health. In a weird way, a cartoon that predominately follows a horse is one of the most human shows on TV. Those who are familiar with the show will know that often times it hurts to watch. There are no happy endings or easy resolutions; the narrative tensions are never sugar-coated, but rather full gut-punches that leave you reeling. Bojack Horseman is a made for those who recognise their own behaviours in these deeply flawed characters. It’s a mirror that allows the viewer insight into their own lives.
It’s because these characters are flawed that makes the show so refreshing. Take Bojack himself as an example – whilst it’s never explicitly stated, the show implies that he is suffering from a form of depression or anxiety. That’s not Bojack’s central flaw though, his flaw is ability to recognise these feelings but never take a step in the direction of help. Bojack Horseman is unable to reconcile the person he is, with the persona that has been created for him. Thus was follows in the show are the consequences of such a disconnect: loneliness; mood-swings; alcoholism; hedonism; self-sabotage. These behaviours are perhaps hard for an individual to recognise in themselves, but easy to recognise in a cartoon horse. This is why Bojack Horseman is so painful – the audience is positioned in such a way to recognise this behaviour as harmful, yet as Bojack pushes himself further to the point of collapse it’s incredibly easy to recognise some of yourself in him.
In preparation for the impending third season, I recently watched the entirety of the series again. Whilst I maintain the whole thing is a constant series of gut-punches, both season one and two have an episode where the emotional narrative reaches an apex. What surprised me however is in my re-watch, these apexes weren’t necessarily where I remembered. Therefore rather than discuss the series generally as a whole piece of work, I want to look at these two episodes in a bit more detail and discuss what exactly makes them work, and why they are so impactful.
So Pokemon Go finally released in the UK yesterday! But I’ve never been a patient person so I’ve had the game since it’s original release in Australasia. (Un)Fortunately this week I’ve had to travel around the country a lot, for both my job working in events as well as for my graduation ceremony (officially an adult, woop woop!). So my review is going to take the form of a chronological log of the events I experienced whilst playing the game, with a specific focus on a particular park and heritage site very close to my house in SE London.
Miloš Forman’s 1975 adaptation of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is an extraordinary piece of cinema. It is one of three films ever to win all five major Academy Awards (Picture, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director, and Screenplay) and this is a legacy it very much deserves. Yet despite this I consider it to be a terrible adaptation of a wonderful novel. The film and Kesey’s text make two very different points.
The narrative of Forman’s film is thus: Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) escapes a prison sentence for statutory rape by pleading insanity. He then finds himself in a mental institution run by the tyrannical Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). McMurphy immediately starts his institutionalisation by testing the boundaries of his new confinement, whilst Nurse Ratched quickly sees her new inmate as a threat to her authority. This tension drives the film. McMurphy is genuinely disgusted by how his fellow inmates are treated, so he leads an open rebellion against the staff and encourages those around him to love themselves and have some fun. The film reaches a head when the Nurse, needing to quash the rebellion, has McMurphy lobotomised. When Chief, a native american inmate who until this point had appeared to be deaf and dumb, discovers his friend in this state he smothers him and breaks out of the asylum. The moral of the film therefore is clear: McMurphy’s rebellion and his ultimate sacrifice ultimately work, as without it the Chief could not escape. McMurphy is the quintessential rebel because he is willing to become a martyr for his cause.
Now this is a fine narrative to have, the sacrifice of good in the face of evil is a tale as old as time after all, but this is not the narrative of Kesey’s novel. In the book McMurphy isn’t the true rebel, Chief is.
Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is probably one of the most loved novels released in the twenty first century. I honestly didn’t expect I would write anything about it – what could I add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said? But I can’t not verbalise exactly why I loved this book. Because, despite not a big fantasy guy traditionally, I adored Gaiman’s novel.
What normally puts me off from any “higher” forms of fantasy is how it tends to lose the human aspect. Smaller character explorations tend to give way to a bigger narrative arc. American Gods is a novel where Shadow, an ex-convict, learns that Gods literally exist as long as there’s still someone in the world who believes in them. But this leads to tension – the “Old Gods”, e.g. the Egyptian and Norse Pantheons, have found their positions usurped by new gods such as Media. Gone are the ritualistic sacrifices, instead populations now sacrifice their time sat in front of a TV. The main tension of the text is that a war is coming. But this war never comes. In a sense American Gods is the atypical fantasy novel in that it skips the big flashy climax for more intimate character resolutions. Instead of a mythical fight, the reader is shown a series of conversations that conclude several different character relationships.
I’m back with the songs I’ve found infectious recently. This has been a long time coming, so I’ll level with you guys: it took a while to find five songs. I’m still listening to way too much Raleigh Ritchie and Modern Baseball. So if anything, these are especially good since they’ve managed to beat out my addictions!