Bojack Horseman 5.06 Free Churro
Free Churro is not the first time that Bojack Horseman has challenged the form and delivery of episodic television. Fish Out of Water plays with sound and dialogue, Stop the Presses mixes up chronology and Time’s Arrow takes place inside the mind of Beatrice, who is suffering from dementia. There are also other episodes which buck the normal conventions and Free Churro certainly belongs in this category.
The episode opens on young Bojack waiting in the rain on a street. He’s been at school, we assume from the uniform, and is soon picked up by his father. We learn quickly that this is unusual - Bojack’s Dad Butterscotch is frustrated that Bojack’s mother Beatrice is unable to pick Bojack up. It’s really put a spanner in his day - his day of writing his novel, that is. Of Beatrice, Butterscotch launches into his tirade - “it’s one thing for a woman to weep, but it’s another when they do it at a volume where you can hear it through the door. That’s when you know they’re doing it for the attention!”
Also voiced by Will Arnett, we’re once again reminded of the similarities between Butterscotch and adult Bojack. Both are full of bitterness and pent up anger at others in their lives, oblivious to others around them. Young Bojack sits in the car, the silent sounding board of his fathers aggression and it’s easy to see how Bojack turned out so similar to his father.
After the title sequence, we see Bojack standing at a lecturn. He’s at a funeral, giving a eulogy. It’s his mother’s funeral, Beatrice Horseman. Last seen in a home after drugging Hollyhock throughout the end of season 4, Beatrice and Bojack’s relationship has always been rocky (not least for the aforementioned) and it’s unclear exactly how this is going to go down.
Free Churro is a tricky episode to write about. It is, essentially, a monologue interspersed only by various piano noises at the request of Bojack ("knock once if you're proud of me"). He talks at length around his relationship with Beatrice, only to really get into the crux of why he can’t properly grieve for her towards the end his speech. As usual, he expresses his genuine pain but this is continually interspersed with jokes and self-deprecating humour.
The free churro of the title refers to an exchange Bojack recently had with a fast food employee. On hearing that his mother has passed away (in a throw-away comment), the employee gives Bojack a free churro. She has, in Bojack’s words, shown Bojack more empathy and affection than Beatrice ever did in his whole life. This ties in with the last words Beatrice ever spoke to Bojack from her hospital bed. I see you. Except, as Bojack theorises and learns in real time, she didn’t mean that she sees who he is, or that she even physically can see him. Beatrice, it turns out, is merely reading the signage of the room she is. I.C.U.
Free Churro is an incredible piece of writing. It’s not a tight, succinct script piece. It doesn’t follow through on it’s points. It’s best described as a stream of consciousness, straight from Bojack’s brain and into the microphone. It’s raw, emotional and perfectly encapsulates the emptiness one must feel when grieving for someone who showed so little love in their lives, even to her son. Considering the lack of background animation and easter eggs, which Bojack Horseman is renowned for, it’s a seriously impressive feat - something which Bob-Waksberg talks about here at TV Guide. Free Churro is currently the highest rated of season 5, and clearly deservedly so.
The gag at the end injects some much needed humour into what is a deeply unsettling episode, but it also serves as a reminder that Bojack is so entirely wrapped up in himself that he didn’t even notice the other mourners were all geckos.
So far, the most intense episode of the season and my personal favourite. There are few words that can do the episode justice and my advice is just to watch it. But have some tissues nearby.