BoJack Horseman Season 2 Episode 5 Review: “Chickens”

BoJack Horseman

BoJack Horseman‘s early days were filled with a lot more silly antics, episodes that subtly integrated the show’s bigger thoughts and ideas, storing them and allowing the show to blossom so beautifully towards the season’s end when those themes came to light. With that, however, came a bit of a reduction in Todd time; his adventures have become slightly more fragmented to BoJack’s, providing more comic relief than anything else, often while isolated from most of the cast in episodes (like this season, where he spent an entire episode in a car with a smartphone). His lighter stories are necessary to keep the show’s comic tone balanced, but when something like “Chickens” comes along and pushes Todd to the forefront, BoJack becomes a much less rewarding watch.

It’s certainly funny. Though the chicken puns were wearing me down by the end of the half hour, watching Todd chasing around his “new best friend,” while the rest of the world reinforced the differences between “friend” chickens and “eating” chickens at every turn, creating this Todd and Becca vs. the world story, is entertaining, if not a little one-dimensional. There are moments where this story reaches for something deeper – Todd talks about how quickly Becca became his best friend, and how disillusioned he’s become on the series of wacky adventures that have defined his presence in the last half-dozen episodes – but these moments feel thrown in after the fact, secondary to the show’s many fowl jokes and homages to cop cliches with Officer Meow Meow Fuzzyface and the rest of his precinct.

In service of these jokes, “Chickens” isn’t able to grasp on with any of its character-based stories. Kelsey’s daughter Irving is barely formed, a projection of Diane’s insecurity about her aging, and one “Chickens” seems to have no idea what to do with. She’s immediately relegated to sidekick status with Diane, never really exploring her relationship with her mother (BoJack’s director, Kelsey) in any meaningful way beyond Kelsey’s panicked comment about losing custody of her…nearly three-quarters of the way through the episode. By that time, it’s too late: Irving has been left in the car by Diane and Todd on the very gun-friendly Gentle Farms, and doesn’t really add much to the episode from there on.

Like it does with Diane and Irving, Kelsey and BoJack’s story brushes up against the edges of something meaningful, but again gets distracted by the endless well of jokes that arise from this chicken situation. When it does move towards the darker, more existential identity all BoJack Horseman‘s fans have embraced, it’s nothing more than BoJack being oddly cognizant of his own emotional shortcomings. Then he gets in a car crash (a fitting metaphor for what happens to his life when he lets that paralyzing anxiety take over) and the episode moves on. There’s nothing more in there about BoJack’s search for identity, Kelsey’s attempts to connect with her child, or really much else beyond Diane and Todd’s adventure on the chicken farm, which goes on a little too long for its own good.

Again, “Chickens” is a very funny episode, but it’s one that leans a little too heavy on animal puns and hackneyed satire of other genres to work well. Not every story needs to have the depth of character BoJack‘s best chapters have offered, but something as weightless – and honestly, pointless – as “Chickens” feels out of place given how the first four episodes of Season 2 have progressed. “Chickens,” in many ways, feels left over from Season 1 of BoJack Horseman, before marriages and relationships complicated things (Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane are never together in this episode, nor are Caroline and her boyfriend, or BoJack and Wanda) in the pre-Hollywoo world. Since then, BoJack has changed a lot, and for the better. No matter how amusing the puns in this episode may be, it can’t hold a light to the layered, eternally bleak black comedy the show’s become.

Other thoughts/observations:

– Subtle shot at Hulu ads, Netflix. Reaaaal subtle.

– “I must be Shania Twain, because that don’t impress me much.”

– “As the wise Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘you have reached the end of your free trial at benjaminfranklinquotes.com.'”

– Becca Chavez/Chickerson likes Bach, appreciates a good Bic, and once booked Bach. Okay, enough of that.

– “We’re the LAPD, ma’am. We’ll… probably do the right thing.”

– Man, that ending: seeing the “5 billion served to 6” is a wonderful, scathing finish to an episode that doesn’t really deserve it.

– Kelsey was the director of Women Who Love Women Who Love Recycling, if you’re looking to brush up on her previous works.

– Wives get the short end of the stick in this episode: Todd and Diane leave the Gentle Farms matriarch behind (“I just want to make video games and help kids learn math!”) and Tom Jumbo-Grumbo’s ex-wife Shannon gets a sad plea from her ex-husband.

[Photo via Netflix]

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