Image: Netflix

“Commence Fracking” is more evidence—if we needed it—that BoJack Horseman has ceased to be one show. If it began as a show about this complicated individual with various friends and associates operating in his orbit, it’s now grown into a full solar system where the overlap of storylines is occasional rather than routine. All five of the main characters have their own lives to live, their own stories to tell, and their own demons to fight off. They don’t need to interact with each other every episode, they only need to connect when it makes narrative sense to do so. And save one drive-by of Tesla passing cop car, none of the three stories this week wind up intersecting.

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Despite lack of narrative intersection, there is a common thread running through all three stories: the old reliable that relationships are tough. Todd’s journey to understand and accept his asexuality formed the most poignant parts of the last episode, and the theme of sex not being an easy thing to deal continues into “Commence Fracking.” In the search for intimacy, more often than not, you screw up.

The first of those narratives is focused on the sex of the past, more specifically the sex that BoJack had in 1999 with the currently unknown woman that produced Hollyhock. “Commence Fracking” is the first meeting between father and daughter, and it’s one that’s refreshingly upfront. BoJack’s recent bursts of self-awareness mean he’s not going to lie to Hollyhock about what an person he can awful person he can be, and to her credit Hollyhock’s done her homework about that awfulness. Hollyhock’s got eight dads and doesn’t need BoJack’s money or emotional support, moving immediately past the cliches of these sorts of stories. And also moves past some of the cliches of BoJack Horseman: BoJack tries to enter a flashback to 1999, and she cuts off that story immediately.

Image: Netflix

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The only thing she’s after from BoJack is the closure of knowing exactly who her biological parents are. Unfortunately, BoJack’s recollections from his post-Horsin’ Around aren’t even close to comprehensive: “One-night stands, two-night stands, nooners, spooners, hot air ballooners.” BoJack reluctantly agrees to chaperone her through a search, wading into the sea of meaningless hookups. And the first two are highlights, a deranged BoJack fan club president Marcie (Kathy Najimy) lying in order to keep BoJack around a while longer, and star of the hit show/vocational irony narrative Timedium Tilda Madison (Archie Panjabi). “She’s a medium, but she can also travel through time and she solves crimes … But the one crime she can’t solve is her husband’s murder.”

It’s a testament to BoJack that he’s willing to help out this strange girl who’s come into his life without warning. However, that doesn’t come close to making him a better person, his callous and self-destructive tendencies coming through regularly. His method of distracting Marcie is having sex with her behind the couch while she recites obscure Horsin’ Around trivia, and his verification of Tilda’s abortion leads to him telling Hollyhock maybe it would be better if she was never born. Even for an episode that began with him warning her that he couldn’t offer anything in the way of parental guidance, and her stated view that she doesn’t need another dad, it takes impressively little time for him to let her down. As Mr. Peanutbutter would say, “classic BoJack.”

But he doesn’t stop trying, which is far more than the BoJack of previous seasons would do. He’s willing to put himself in front of all these women who haven’t aged well—sorry, really hate him—to locate Hollyhock and or get some answers, and even willing to try comforting Hollyhock when she breaks down in tears. (“You are so bad at this,” she responds, but she’s laughing through her tears so he’s at least doing something right.) There’s any number of ways BoJack trying to be a dad could work, and in its first serious look at it BoJack Horseman is doing a great job. He’s actually putting in the effort, even if he’s doing so in the bad way, once again making up a story to keep someone close.

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Image: Netflix

A similarly complicated situation is coming up in the Peanutbutter/Nguyen marriage. The political heat has turned up in the wake of Todd’s good intentions in “Hooray! Todd Episode!”, Mr. Peanutbutter now forced to endorse fracking at the same time Diane is feeling the urge to get her writing to a broader audience. It’s an illustration of their differences laid bare: Mr. Peanutbutter wants to avoid taking a stand, and that’s antithetical to Diane’s desire to do the right thing. And that campaign tension is boiling over into their bedroom life, not able to get in the mood even before Katrina ignores their directive to knock because “it wastes vital seconds we’ll never get back.”

“See Mr. Peanutbutter Run” put the bulk of the campaign focus on Mr. Peanutbutter, but “Commence Fracking” is all about the choices Diane’s made. As much as Mr. Peanutbutter may genuinely believe that people liking him qualifies him to be the governor they need, he’s completely blind to how much his choice marginalizes Diane’s options. Stefani’s right that Diane needs to look out for herself in this trying time, and given an impossible choice it’s not hard to cheer for her when she posts a frack attack piece to GirlCroosh. (Not Stoopid Gurl, that’s a subsection of the main site). Nor is it hard to boo Mr. Peanutbutter installs a fracking apparatus on their front yard, caught between Tom Jumbo-Grumbo and the Frackery Will Get You Everywhere representative.

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Image: Netflix

Things build to a head when Diane finally takes charge, throwing down the ultimatum to Mr. Peanutbutter to drop out of the race, It’s a point of fury we haven’t seen in these two—Mr. Peanutbutter twisting One Trick Pony into a deliberate attack on BoJack because her feelings were hurt in particular is BoJack-level emotional abuse—and it gets more heated until suddenly it gets hot. BoJack Horseman’s animators have now brought us one step closer to seeing what happens when a dog man has sex with a human woman, and kudos to them for doing so. It’s a passion that their usually calm conversations never cracks, a sign that while they’ve managed to restore some energy to their sex lives the election storyline is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Passions are also running high as Princess Carolyn and Ralph are trying to embark on parenthood together, which is easier said than done. As predicted they make an appointment with the albino rhino gyno wino (I know), and he’s got little good news to offer: “Like an omelet bar at a mongoose convention, you are running dangerously short on eggs.” It’s still feasible but it’s not likely, a realization that spars Princess Carolyn into her more competitive/desperate side. One prompt from her iOvulate bracelet—a device voiced to terrifyingly hilarious effect by Harvey Fierstein—and she’s willing to get them both arrested by Officer Meow Meow Fuzzyface.

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Image: Netflix

It’s weird to say that a story about infertility is the lightest part of the episode, but it is—not just because of one of the greatest visual background gags ever in “THE INIMITABLE SIDE BUTT.” BoJack’s story is all about unearthing past shittiness and Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane’s story is about the difficulties in the present, Princess Carolyn’s is about the future. Her story to Ralph about their potential unborn child “Philbert” is more than a little crazy—considering she’s leaping onto a table as she tells it—but there’s real conviction in her words. BoJack may not have wanted a child, but Princess Carolyn sure as hell does, and she’s going to fight whoever she has to fight to get it. If she has to get some “Lewd, crude and partially nude” charges in the process, it’s worth it. And it’s easy to believe she may do so, because as this episode proves, trying matters a lot.

Stray observations:

  • Achievement in Voice Acting: If I didn’t give this award to Harvey Fierstein as the voice of an iOvulate, saying things like “You must fertilize that ovum now or it will disintegrate into nothingness,” I’d wonder why I even established it in the first place.
  • It took all of my resolve to not just write “THE INIMITABLE SIDE BUTT” 300 times and call it a day.
  • Credits update: BoJack’s house is now cleaned up, and Hollyhock’s making herself at home.
  • GirlCroosh chairs just keep getting more and more uncomfortable. Also, one of the GirlCroosh employees can be glimpsed playing Decapathon VII in the hot-take cool-down yoga area.
  • Another parallel between BoJack and Diane: her file photo on MSNBSea is her eating a messy sandwich, which I assume from Storkey’s.
  • Some particularly ruthless topical headlines (and one great wordplay sequence) on the MSNBSea crawl: Bipartisan committee puts forth plan to continue to ignore Flint water crisis – Congress reforms prison labor laws – Correction, Congress re-forms prison labor laws – Kathmandu cat, man, doe canoe to Timbuktu – “Speak English!” yells patriot at soy milk – Hero celebrity wears red ribbon on carpet – Bloated corpse found in White House discovered to be bloated alive person.
  • Lake Bell is deliciously evil as Katrina basks in schadenfreude. “So thank you, Diane, for that tiny sliver of mint in the smoothie of dogshit that is trying to get that popular idiot elected.” Todd’s “DAMN!” and subsequent airhorn are perfect punctuation.
  • Unlike Margot Robbie, BoJack Horseman is fully aware of who Tonya Harding is, and uses it for an easy but hilarious joke as one of BoJack’s exes. “I know we’ve had our differences, but seeing you always leaves me weak in the knees.”
  • “I become a real asshole if I don’t get seven solid hours of bed-drinking a night.”
  • “It’s all right, it’s not your fault. Food is impossible.”
  • “When I called the number you left me, it was for a sandwich shop in Temecula.”
  • “Why would they release a romantic drama called Autumn Of New York in the middle of summer?”
  • “He’s giving a stump speech on the subject of stumps. Turns out he’s pro. Great for sitting.” Perfect for someone who doesn’t want to take a stand.
  • “Now, now, talking back to Officer Meow Meow is a major no-no.”
  • “I know I just met you, but if you do have any of the old Horseman gunk bouncing around in that brain of yours, I gotta tell you right now you should give up on looking for ‘enough’ because it will never be enough.”
  • Today in Hollywoo signs:

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