Bojack Horseman: 5:05 The Amelia Earhart Story
In series 4 of Bojack Horseman, we took a trip into Princess Carolyn’s potential future in Ruthie, an episode about Princess Carolyn’s imagined future descendant. Ruthie also happens to be one of the most heartbreaking episodes of Bojack Horseman. The Amelia Earhart Story, the fifth episode of season five, takes us back in time to Princess Carolyn’s past - all the way back to her hometown of Eden, North Carolina, in equally heartbreaking fashion.
In a bid to adopt a baby from local girl Sadie (voiced by Jaime Pressley), Princess Carolyn returns to 'home' to meet Sadie and discuss the adoption. Seeing her dilapidated family home next to the equally dilapidated Wallace Mansion of the family her mother used to clean for, along with Sadie’s pregnancy, a myriad of painful memories come flooding back to her. Whilst Princess Carolyn tries to connect with Sadie, the episode flashes back to her teenage years in Eden and, in particular, the difficult relationship with her own mother.
We see Princess Carolyn growing up next-door to ‘the big house’, watching a single VHS on repeat so often that the tape has begun to wear out. It’s ‘The Amelia Earhart Story’ - an indication of where Princess Carolyn got her ambition and drive from. It's also telling that the writers chose to use an inspiring woman who literally took flight and was never seen again, much in the same way that Princess Carolyn does when she leaves for Hollywoo - never to return to Eden again until her mother's funeral many years later.
Princess Carolyn’s family heirloom, the necklace which turned out to be a cheap piece of costume jewellery in Ruthie, makes it’s first appearance in The Amelia Earhart Story. After discovering that she’s pregnant with boy-next-door Cooper’s child, Princess Carolyn’s mother gives her the necklace as a symbol that she comes from ‘a long line of women that have taken their licks, but always land on our feet’. It’s entirely the kind of moment that a coming home story needs, yet it’s all the more prevalent because we already know the real origin of that necklace. We also know how Princess Carolyn’s relationship with her mother will inevitably end - making this moment all the more bittersweet.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, Princess Carolyn miscarries the baby and her mother’s dreams of moving up in the world go up in smoke. Miscarriages are a major recurrence for Princess Carolyn, and the sting is that much worse here as we know that this will ultimately be the reason for the breakdown of her relationship with Ralph in the future.
Unlike the traditional ‘coming home’ stories for career driven women (Sweet Home Alabama, Home Again, The Proposal, Young Adult), Princess Carolyn can’t stand being back in nowhere-ville, North Carolina. She acts the part in front of Sadie, but is quickly spitting out the local hushpuppies as soon as Sadie is out of sight. She manipulates a customer into buying Sadie’s quirky clothing line, accidentally revealing to Sadie that she doesn’t think very highly of Sadie’s creations at all. She’s used to the Hollywoo lifestyle, and ultimately doesn’t fit in back home. Neither does she want to.
We’ve always known that Princess Carolyn’s entire career (whether she’s an agent or a manager) has been about handling other people. This becomes even more apparent throughout The Amelia Earhart Story. She is, of course, the producer on ‘Philbert’ and so it’s not a stretch to imagine that Diane and Bojack would be calling her as they are both working on the show. Yet, Diane, Bojack and Todd are utterly incapable of making a single decision without consulting Princess Carolyn first. Her phone rings incessantly, so much so that even Sadie realises that Princess Carolyn’s career is the most important and pressing part of her life. Ironically, she ends up ‘ mothering’ those on the other end of the phone, not least of all Todd - ‘do you think Lake Eerie ever gets jealous of Lake Superior?’
Princess Carolyn may not yet be a mother, but she certainly is a caretaker of everyone around her. Whilst she is gone, Bojack ends up in a terrible accident on set filming a scene written by Diane and approved by Todd. She may not be the mother she wants to be just yet, but Princess Carolyn is sorely needed by her closest friends back in Hollywoo, and this is where she truly belongs. Which means that everything she has been through might just be worth it.
My favourite line of the episode has got to go to Cooper Senior (answering machine mogul) to young Princess Carolyn: “as long as people need answering machine tapes, you will be take care of”. No wonder the mansion looks like a squat nowadays.