Warning: Spoilers for Season 5, Episode 6 of Bojack Horseman are in play. If you aren't current with the latest season, bookmark this story and come back later when you're ready.
As funny and subversive as Netflix's Bojack Horseman can be, it's also a show that thrives in the drama of emotional catharsis. At least once a season, there's an episode which proves that point in spades, as the usual format is broken for a continuous narrative, with just the right amount of humor mixed in to make the journey palatable. Season 5 was no exception, as in the fine tradition of episodes such as "Fish Out of Water" and "Time's Arrow," "Free Churro" broke the show's usual format, as well as our hearts.
The episode is essentially two monologues: a shorter, more angry diatribe / flashback to Bojack's father Butterscotch Horseman, and the longer, episode-proper material from Bojack himself. Both runs are focused on the same subject, Beatrice Horseman, who as of this episode is recently deceased. With the meat of the episode focusing on Bojack's eulogy to his mother, things start out on a lighter, funnier note as our protagonist banters with the organist. However, the episode that follows is all in one setting, with Bojack saying goodbye to his mother as only he can.
In a mix of angry, biting humor and gentler self-introspection, Bojack, and in turn Will Arnett's performance, runs the gamut as the anti-hero with his name on the marquee says goodbye to his mother and their problematic relationship. One moment he's asking for her to knock twice on her casket if he's been an abject disappointment, the next he's parsing over her last words, "I see you." On top of the fresh wounds to his psyche, Bojack also heaps on his father's previous passing, as he dissects another statement of his mother's: "My husband is dead, and everything is worse now."
Ultimately, those two simple statements are the bedrock of the "Free Churro" emotional roller coaster. Thinking back to the problems he not only had with his parents, but also looking at the problems he has in his current life because of them, Bojack Horseman doesn't let its protagonist escape from this confrontation through the various lives of its side characters. There's still humor mixed into the episode to help the audience not totally sink into a depressed / sad state, with a particularly effective punchline at the end revealing that Bojack opened his heart to the wrong funeral. Yet, even if it was all for naught in one respect, Bojack needed to have that confrontation with himself.
Special attention also needs to be given to Will Arnett, as his performance as Bojack shines harder than ever in this episode. While a lot of his comedic and dramatic chops are on display at a regular interval, seeing it in an unflinching, consistent light is something that draws more attention to Arnett's underrated skills as a performer. His full range is on display in "Free Churro," and if anything, once Bojack Horseman wraps up, it should be remembered as one of his lynchpin roles - even above his previous turn as Gob Bluth in Arrested Development.
Placing "Free Churro" at the center of this most recent season of Bojack Horseman is an ingenious piece of timing, as creator and writer Raphael Bob Waksberg anchors this episode at a point where, much like the character, it looks back at past events while also building the bridge to the rest of the season's happenings. Most importantly, for a series that consistently slides between happiness, misery, and everything in-between, this installment proves that Bojack Horseman continues to explore all of those feelings as freshly as it did in its first season.
The thread of Bojack and Beatrice's relationship is one that has been vital to Bojack Horseman's basic makeup, and with the closure of that thread, one has to wonder if the end of the show is starting to loom in sight. After all, even Bojack himself noted that with both parents dead, he's pretty much the next in line.