Much has been made of how BoJack Horseman’s first season didn’t take off until about halfway through, when it relaxed on BoJack’s more dickish qualities and focused more on serialized stories. The second season immediately dove into the muck, stirring up BoJack’s attempts to shake off the past twenty years, Diane’s boredom, Princess Carolyn’s loneliness, and…well, Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter have been just about the same lovable dopes as ever. But the overarching stories and evolving psyches of these characters is what made BoJack Horseman so worthwhile—not to mention so rewarding when you rewatch it. “After the Party” takes the characters’ evolutions (or lack thereof), splits them open, and lays them out to dry, with varying degrees of success. The aftermath of Mr. Peanutbutter’s disastrous surprise party for Diane plays out in a trio of vignettes. On the surface, each of the segments follows a couple facing up to its problems, but they’re all so wildly different that the only common thread ends up being Prairie Home Companion (sure). So, let’s look at each one by one.
Princess Carolyn and Todd
The first chapter is slapstick with a side of Her, which would sound nonsensical in just about any show that isn’t BoJack Horseman. Princess Carolyn confronts an unfortunate truth as she tears out of the party with Todd and almost runs over a kid that looks suspiciously like her boyfriend Vincent Adultman. Instead of realizing the truth, she assumes the woman holding the kid’s hand is Vincent’s wife, which would make this his family, which would make Princess Carolyn the oblivious sidepiece. Again.
Vincent Adultman was one of the first season’s greatest gags. Princess Carolyn’s eagerness to move on from BoJack’s bullshit led her to fall for this tall mysterious man whose very existence hinges on him insisting he’s an adult when he is actually, as BoJack would constantly try to tell her, clearly three kids stacked on top of each other in a trench coat. The only thing better than bouncing Princess Carolyn’s aggressive obliviousness off BoJack’s dry side comments is Alison Brie’s congested take on the pre-pubescent boy hiding under the fedora. The longer the gag went on, the more likely it seemed that the show would never actually confront Princess Carolyn with the truth. So yes, it’s a Big Moment when the kid (“Kevin”) shows up at her door, and yes, Kevin’s frantic attempts to keep the ruse up are great, but it’s a game of diminishing returns. Vincent Adultman’s insistence that he’s an adult (“I’m not a cowboy, I’m a cowman!”) is best in sporadic bursts, and Princess Carolyn’s refusal to notice the obvious works so much better when BoJack can point out how ridiculous it is.
Having obsessed over Vincent Adultman and complained about how superfluous Todd’s storylines can be, I never would’ve guessed that Todd’s sidebar in a parked car would overshadow the incredible stackable boyfriend, but here we are. After fighting boredom by asking his phone’s Siri equivalent how many fluid ounces are in a barrel (4032), he asks the phone if it has any questions for him, and she does: “what is love?” Thus, Todd accidentally kicks off yet another series of ludicrous events, but the brief love affair between his phone and Princess Carolyn’s work phone is a weirdly touching rollercoaster of emotions. The automated voices chirp at each other as Todd gapes, and even though Aaron Paul is pretty much relegated to reacting, his confused “uhhhhhs” make him the straight man that Princess Carolyn’s plot needs. Not all of Todd’s random misadventures work, but this operating system saga is the balance of surrealism and heart that really works for dopey, openhearted character. No one will ever believe him, but boy, did he learn a valuable lesson! Todd finally bursts that it’s “too much, man” (Sarah Lynn’s signature Horsin’ Around line), but actually, the space this plot gets in this first chapter of “After the Party” is exactly right.
BoJack and Wanda
As much as Wanda moving in with BoJack inevitably meant some fallout, their conversations here…weren’t much. While “After the Party” tries to get into what makes these central relationships tick, BoJack and Wanda do have an immediate disadvantage just for being so new to the show. It’s nice to see BoJack flirt with the idea that instant gratification isn’t necessarily the best way to think about his relationships, but the roundabout way he gets there isn’t nearly as endearing as Wanda’s roundabout stories (mostly thanks to Lisa Kudrow’s delivery—I’ve listened to her joke a few times now and it’s still whatever). There are some good moments between them, and BoJack giving helpful hints to the deer who insists on wearing camouflage out on dark highway roads is another fun detail in this bizarro world, but there’s just not much in this story that tells us anything new about either BoJack or Wanda. The other plotlines would have held up just fine if they had waited to deal with these questions in a later episode.
Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter
As much as I love Todd’s sentient phone drama and Vincent Adultman, this segment is the reason to watch “After the Party.” Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s fight is not just the inciting incident for everyone to flee the party, but the emotional backbone of the episode, and it’s about time. The show devoted so much time and energy to BoJack and Diane’s dynamic last season that we never really got a good sense of why Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter got together at all. By the season’s end, the show positioned Mr. Peanutbutter as Diane’s more comfortable option versus BoJack’s brutal honesty (slash volatile self-hatred). Diane staying with Mr. Peanutbutter felt like part of her failure to move forward. In “After the Party,” though, we get to see more depth in Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s relationship than ever, and it clears up everything.
There’s a part of me that wanted Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s fallout to be the entirety of “After the Party,” but Joe Lawson does such a good job with the abbreviated time that a whole episode might have unnecessarily bloated their fight. It helps that he can skip right to the aftermath of the seemingly innocuous event that sparked the argument, which in this case is Mr. Peanutbutter not believing Diane when she says Tony Curtis is definitely dead. They argue in circles around each other, neither saying quite what they actually mean until there’s finally nowhere for the argument to go but the truth. This being BoJack Horseman, though, there are still weirdo visual touches like a goldfish go go dancer and a panda mime (get it?). Mr. Peanutbutter turns rooms into a ball pit and a fake Starbucks. They take a break from yelling to float in the pool, which Mr. Peanutbutter filled with neon green Jell-O, until Diane can’t take it anymore and bursts out that she’s just unhappy.
The kicker, though, is that all this doesn’t lead to a breakup. And it could have! The fight is so believable, especially in how it shades out the different things they want from life, that it would have been completely justified if they decided to call it quits. Paul F. Tompkins and Brie (the undisputed MVP of this episode between Diane and Vincent) sell the hell out of their characters’ worries and love for each other. Tompkins handles a particularly heartbreaking speech with Mr. Peanutbutter’s confession that he doesn’t do much of anything when Diane isn’t home—he just waits for her to come back. Mr. Peanutbutter has always been such an awesome interpretation of what a hyper dog would be like if he could talk, which is part of what makes his weariness in this episode so effective. “I’m an old dog,” he sighs, and man, my heart just breaks.
So again, the fact that “After the Party” ends with them not breaking up but getting stronger in their relationship than ever is what makes this vignette so good. Lawson manages to explain why Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter make no sense together and how they can compliment each other so well. Mr. Peanutbutter needs someone who will come home to him and love him. Diane needs someone who will encourage the fun in her life and support her unconditionally—and that’s not BoJack. For all the groundwork the show set up last season for Diane and BoJack’s dynamic, “After the Party” got me hoping that that chapter’s done.
- So by the laws of averages, this episode gets…a B+? I guess? Never believe any critic that says they at all enjoy grading, guys, it is the actual worst.
- [No spoilers in the comments, please and thank you.]
- To save you the IMDB search: yes, that was really Sir Paul McCartney’s voice (which is hilarious, since my first thought was, ‘wow this Paul McCartney impression isn’t great’”).
- One thing about Mr. Peanutbutter’s “I’m an old dog” that freaked me out, though: how old is Mr. Peanutbutter? Are dog years a thing in the BoJack universe?!
- “You weren’t too bored by ‘Women on the Wall: An Exploration of Gender in Text and Media: Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer in conversation with Helen Molesworth’?” “Are you kidding?! I loved ‘Women on the Wall: An Exploration of Gender in Text and Media: Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer in conversation with Helen Molesworth’!”
- I could watch Todd mashing the phones together with gritted teeth as a phone cries, “WE MUST DO KISSES TO EACH OTHER” on a loop for weeks.
- So many great Brie line reads to choose from, but my favorite is: “Mr. Peanutbutter, you know I think you’re a good dog, yes you are, yes you are, and I love your cute funny face, but…”
- “I went balls to the wall for this party! Literally, there are balls all the way to the wall!”
- “Finding out Frank Sinatra was dead was a real curveball! Ditto almost my entire family.”
- Today in Hollywoo signs: