Bojack Horseman: 5:11 The Showstopper
It feels as if season five has been leading up to this very moment. Episode 11, The Showstopper, finally sees two worlds collide as Bojack struggles to differentiate between real life and ‘Philbert’. Shooting on season two of ‘Philbert’ has started, thanks to Henry Fondle ordering ‘more, more, more’ at the premiere, and Bojack is seriously struggling. We’re more inside Bojack’s head than we’ve been so far this season. Continually switching back and forth between Philbert’s life and Bojacks, the result is a disturbing mental breakdown for our main character.
The absence of Diane, both on ‘Philbert’ and in Bojack’s life, is sorely felt. After their argument at the end Head in the Clouds and Diane’s horror at how ‘Philbert’ turned out, she is no longer part of the writing team on the show. As a consequence, the show is darker than ever. This is another factor which is taking it’s toll on Bojack - without Diane to write vulnerability into Philbert’s character, Bojack as Philbert has no way to feel ‘okay’ about who he is and what he has done.
It's a nail bitingly tense episode of television, one which pulls all the best strings that Bojack Horseman has to offer. The culmination of Bojack's pill addiction, his long standing self esteem issues and his inability to trust those around him all feature heavily in his slow demise.
Paranoia is a key player in The Showstopper. Philbert has become suspicious of those around him, and therefore Bojack begins to distrust Gina, Diane, Princess Carolyn and Flip. Whilst Philbert is trying to solve the crime of whose been strangling who, Bojack is trying to work out who knows his secrets. He draws ridiculous conclusions after he starts believing he is being blackmailed after receiving a flyer which states 'I know what you did'. The flyer is actually promotional material 'Philbert' are using, one delivered to every house in Hollywoo. The damage is done by this point though.
It's horrifying to watch, particularly as The Showstopper concludes with Bojack finally tipping over the edge. Foreshadowed in Bojack the Feminist, he ends up strangling Gina whilst shooting a scene where Philbert strangles Sassy. Except Bojack isn't acting. He definitely did not mean to strangle Gina, but at this point his ideas about what is real and what isn't is so confused that he can't stop himself. Bojack only stops when he is physically pulled off of Gina, who is left gasping for breath and understandably terrified.
Visions of a staircase leading towards a bright light plague Bojack consistently throughout the episode. Is it heaven? An afterlife of some kind? It's unclear exactly what it is, other than something for Bojack to fixate on when he can't comprehend where his life is going.
It was only a matter of time before Bojack completely lost his grip on reality. Confusing his real life and responsibilities for a character he is playing on a dark TV series is almost a natural progression - Bojack’s own personality is shaped by the characters he has played, all of which have had a huge impact on his life.
It's a dark episode, the type of which we have come to expect from Bojack Horseman. This feels like a more uncomfortable watch, particularly after the conversations this season about accountability. It's no bad thing that we feel uncomfortable watching Bojack behave in this way - we probably should do. If Bojack is irredeemable, where do we go from here?